Law & Order Season 22 Episode 12 Review: Almost FamousJack Ori at .
Social media often gets a bad rap.
Cyberbullying and dangerous trends harm kids, and predators sometimes target the most vulnerable: those who are lonely, friendless, and desperate for attention.
Law & Order Season 19 Episode 12 featured one such predator, but he wasn't a pedophile; he was a greedy business owner who wanted to manipulate kids into doing dangerous stunts to line his pockets. It was different, but was it realistic?
At least one part of this story was true to life. Teenagers have suffered severe injuries or even died doing "challenges" on social media, such as eating Tide Pods or putting pennies in electrical sockets.
Price: I've done the legal analysis. Max Brewer is responsible for the death of Eli Baron.
Maroun: I agree. But so is Jason Wheeler.
Price: In what way?
Maroun: Max's parents live in Florida. They've handed their teen over to this social media manager who exerts tremendous influence over him.
Price: Sounds like bad parenting. Doesn't make any of them liable for homicide.
This story capitalized on that headline by creating a predatory social media manager who did what some parents or managers of child stars have always done: took most of the earnings while doing none of the work. In Wheeler's case, the kids had to perform dangerous stunts to live in the "content house."
That seemed farfetched. Supposedly, the kids all came from bad situations, which is why it was so easy to prey on them. But it seemed unlikely that all of these children's parents would be as negligent as Max's mother and stepfather.
It would have made more sense if many of the kids had emancipated themselves. Wheeler could have even manipulated them into doing it.
The basic idea was solid, even if it could have used some tweaking.
There are predators in Social Media Land, and they prey on vulnerable kids. So Wheeler might have convinced kids to sign contracts that they didn't know were invalid and threatened to sue them if they didn't do what he wanted.
It seemed like the DA's office could have charged Wheeler with an awful lot other than manslaughter. If he's the legal guardian of all these kids, he was an abusive and neglectful one.
And didn't Eli die because Wheeler and Max convinced him to commit a felony? Influencing a child to commit crimes is against the law too.
Ironically, Eli's last act before the one that got him killed was to practice a scene from Catcher in the Rye because Wheeler was a modern-day Fagin and the children in his care were like Oliver Twist and the other orphans-turned-pickpockets!
The police side of things was solid for once. The cops led a straightforward investigation and uncovered the truth fairly quickly.
The trial side was a mess and an annoying one at that!
The judge kept taking the unscrupulous defense attorney's side without an actual legal basis to do so -- did Wheeler also pay her off?
The attorney's claim that Max was an "agent of the government" and that he didn't have the right to turn over a video on his phone because Wheeler bought him the phone was a stretch, and the video shouldn't have been excluded.
As for the bribery and related problems, even if the defense attorney was correct that there was no bribe, there was still the fact that she told Max's parents that Max did not have to comply with a subpoena and they should take him out of state. That's witness tampering, period.
Price should have been prepared for this possibility. Wheeler's attorney had no morals whatsoever, and Wheeler had already manipulated Max into committing the crime in the first place, so why wouldn't he try to influence Max out of testifying?
Price's decision to dismiss and then un-dismiss the charges against Max made him look like a flip-flopper, which will hurt any case against Max.
Now that Wheeler's doing ten years for manslaughter, it doesn't matter as much. Still, this was a bad move on Price's part, and McCoy should have raked him over the coals for it.
In addition, how did the DA's office not know Virgil had a prior relationship with Eli before the defense attorney brought it up?
The judge shouldn't have allowed this specious and prejudicial argument, but the DA's office should have prepared better for it. At the very least, they should have researched what the defense attorney was likely to ask on the stand and prepared accordingly.
The hardest part of this case shouldn't have been finding witnesses to how Wheeler treated the kids in his care. All the prosecution needed to do was show the types of stunts Wheeler's kids regularly did and the news reports about other kids following the trend.
The only legitimate argument the defense had was that Eli freely chose to kick in that door.
Fourteen is old enough to know that you don't play that kind of prank, and the defense might have got away with the argument that Wheeler was being blamed for a stupid decision made by a boy who did not live in the content house.
Plus, Eli could have avoided the tragic result if he had told Virgil, who he had a relationship with, that he was going to do this prank so that Virgil played along instead of thinking he was getting robbed and shooting Eli.
That doesn't mean Wheeler wasn't culpable for forcing the kids in his care to do dangerous things, but the defense MIGHT have had a case that Eli's fatal mistake had nothing to do with Wheeler since he wasn't one of those kids.
This could have led to a compelling question: who is responsible for the death of a kid in this kind of situation, and does the child himself share any of the blame? But instead, Law & Order went in a different direction with this story, so that question didn't get asked.
What did you think, Law & Order fanatics? Did the DA's office make its case?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts! And don't forget you can watch Law & Order online if you want to see the episode again.
Law & Order airs on NBC on Thursdays at 8 PM EST / PST.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.