Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4 Offered The Compelling Conflict That's Been Missing Lately

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Helping survivors has always been personal for Benson.

She's been the cop real-life survivors sometimes wish they crossed paths with: compassionate, caring, and more of a social worker than a police officer.

Lately, it's felt like the long-running series has drifted away from that, sometimes making huge missteps that upset survivors. But on Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4, the series returned to basics, offering a compelling conflict that perfectly blended personal and professional concerns.

McGrath Is Out for Blood - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

The introduction to the case was the only weak spot. I didn't think it was either believable or ethical for Benson's therapist to tell her about another client who needed help with a sexual assault.

Benson claimed there was a duty to report, but that's not entirely accurate. Under New York law, there is a duty to report only if a teenager says someone they live with assaulted them.

Amy Carlson Guest Stars - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

SVU usually gets it right, and mistakes like this can be problematic because real-life survivors may be afraid to tell a therapist for fear they'll report the assault to the police.

Storywise, this wasn't great either -- Olivia Benson's therapy should be separate from her work, not there mostly to propel her into the case of the hour.

Still, this story was compelling enough to overcome the weak beginning. As a bonus, the cold open got to the crime quickly rather than spending so much time setting it up that it felt like a pilot to a different show!

Benson's butted heads with Chief McGrath before, but his daughter being victimized took their conflict to a new level.

The McGraths Stick Together - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

Although McGrath was as bombastic and annoying as ever, his family situation humanized him. He wasn't making stupid decisions to score points with 1PP or make the department look good; he was a father trying to protect his daughter, and that was more understandable.

McGrath wasn't much different than Stabler was when he thought they had Kathy's killer in custody; in both cases, Benson had to quickly regain control of the squad room before the case got destroyed by an overzealous family member who also happened to be a cop.

Fin: You sorry you took this case yet?
Benson: No. I'm not.

Fin's attitude annoyed me. He kept asking Benson if she was sure she wanted to take this on as if politics should trump protecting a fifteen-year-old who was raped at a party.

But the men in the room doubting the victim while Benson took her side was classic SVU. Shea didn't help herself by saying the math tutor did it when he was innocent, which made it look like she had something to hide.

Bruno Helps Catch a Rapist - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

One of the hour's themes was that teenagers don't make the best decisions.

Shea lied because she didn't want to hurt Chief McGrath's friendship with Mickey Dowling or get in trouble for the wild party she threw, and Saagar neglected to tell the cops about the bodycam in his helmet that proved his innocence because they thought he was guilty.

Saagar's decision made no sense whatsoever. Why not offer proof that clears his name? But at least he gave them the footage eventually.

IAB's inclusion in this story was also strange. Benson reporting McGrath's behavior should have triggered an investigation, not Captain Curry acting as an extra SVU cop to ensure McGrath stayed in his lane.

A Case Close to Home - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

McGrath deserved to get in trouble, though it does beg the question of why nothing ever happens to Elliot Stabler when he loses his temper, gets in suspects' faces, and does what he wants without regard for proper protocol.

At least Stabler hasn't pulled a gun on an unarmed civilian recently. Even if IAB could look the other way at him yelling at the suspect, they couldn't ignore that.

Although McGrath should be removed from his position for such behavior, it was surprisingly difficult not to feel sorry for him. His world turned upside down when he learned his friend's son had raped his daughter, and Dowling turned quickly from friend to enemy when his son was arrested.

But McGrath did exactly what survivors need their parents to refrain from: he got violent instead of supporting his daughter. That didn't help anything, and he only lost his job.

Fin Questions a Suspect - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

Former Blue Bloods star Amy Carlson was the perfect choice to play McGrath's wife.

Katie McGrath was similar to Linda Reagan in that she was the calm, steady counterpart to a hotheaded cop, but different enough that after the first few minutes, I stopped thinking of her as Linda 2.0.

I couldn't believe she thought Benson wanted McGrath's job, though. Benson is the least likely person to stab someone in the back so she can get ahead, ever.

Katie was emotional and upset, but threatening not to let Shea testify didn't help anything. Did she expect SVU to close the case without making any arrests because she didn't want her daughter to cooperate?

Will McGrath Go Vigilante? - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

I was surprised that this seemed to be Chief McGrath's swan song. He's been a thorn in Benson's side for a long time, and as annoyed as I often was with his behavior, I enjoyed Benson butting heads with him.

Now, she and Captain Curry intend to change the department since there's no one watching them. I would have preferred Law & Order: Season 24's Churlish to remain with the unit. But since she's gone, Curry might be an exciting replacement.

Fin and Bruno probably won't trust her, and eventually, a new chief will want SVU to be run a certain way. But for now, this is a compelling addition.

Was it just me, or was there some serious chemistry between Benson and Curry? As far as I know, Benson's always been straight, but I half expected Curry to ask her out on a date and Benson to say yes!

Demanding Justice - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

I'm not sure how I felt about Dowling turning out to be abusing his wife.

His son learned inappropriate behaviors from him, saying that his dad said his mom slapped him the first time he kissed her. That's not an excuse for Liam's actions, though, so I'm glad he had to do some time anyway.

It never occurred to me that Dowling could be hitting his wife, though his slut-shaming attitude reeked of male entitlement and he and McGrath's issing contest almost turned deadly .

It felt like the abuse was tacked on to make a point, though it was foreshadowed by Mrs. Dowling saying her husband broke his wrist falling off a ladder.

McGrath Gets Bad News - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4

Your turn, Law & Order: SVU fanatics.

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and tell us what you think of this story!

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9/8c.

New episodes drop on Peacock the day after they air.

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Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.

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Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 4 Quotes

Shea: If you tell my parents I had a party, they'll be super pissed.
Benson: I don't care about the party. I'm here for one reason and one reason only. I want to make sure you're okay.

Benson: Am I even doing this right?
Therapist: Just follow my fingers and tell me how it feels.
Benson: It's... dizzying.