Welcome back!! Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 1 tackled police brutality from an unusual angle.
After Fin left a Cuban suspect in a vehicle for several hours before crossing the border, he was accused of kidnapping that suspect.
Rollins and Fin both seemed to feel that Byron Marks' heinous crimes justified his behavior.
Carisi thought it was wrong and promptly got told to think like a cop instead of a lawyer.
Barba found case law stating that whether or not an arrest was legal was irrelevant to whether the case could be tried.
And Olivia insisted that her officers follow the rules, but it wasn't clear if it was because of ethics or because she didn't want the department she runs to get a bad reputation.
SVU has never shied away from ethical questions, but "Gone Fishin'" wasn't about that.
To me, it was obvious that Fin's behavior was inappropriate, but the story showed how easy it is for cops to get jaded when they see horrific things day in and day out.
Fin: Come on, Liv. This is Byron Marx. I can live with a little mud on my face.
Benson: Well, I can't. As long as I'm in the big office, we do things the right way.
Fin and Rollins both took the stance that since this guy Marks had got away with rape for six years, unsanctioned behavior such as leaving him in a hot car for hours was perfectly fine.
The problem with that is that there's little difference between a guilty suspect and one who the cops just believe is guilty, which is why there's supposed to be limits on police power and accused people are supposed to have rights in the first place.
Olivia disapproved of Fin's behavior on the grounds that she has to answer for the department if a cop does something wrong.
But considering how much guilt she's suffered over the years after discovering that she put away suspects who were innocent, sometimes after coercing confessions from them, I'm surprised she didn't point that out.
It was disturbing enough that Fin seemed to have legal precedent on his side. Rollins' comment to Carisi that he had to think like a cop instead of a lawyer because he didn't approve of police brutality was very disturbing.
Anti-brutality advocates often argue that police culture encourages violence against citizens. I'm not sure whether that's true, but Rollins' comment sure made it sound like being a cop is about doing whatever it takes to get an arrest, suspects' rights be damned.
I really, really hate when SVU goes the route of anything goes in the name of justice. They don't do it nearly as often as their sister show Chicago PD, and in fact, Olivia has got on Hank Voight for that kind of attitude, but once in a while they do, and it's a really bad look.
It's possible to be disgusted by a serial rapist yet understand that violating his rights means that all anyone has to do is convince a cop that I'm a rapist too, and my rights will be equally violated.
SVU doesn't need to perpetuate myths about cops always being right and suspects always being guilty. When they do, it poisons an otherwise solid show that has done a lot to advocate for rape survivors.
Noah: I don't wanna go!
Olivia: School is fun! You've got your teddy, you've got your lunchbox...
Noah: I wish Lucy was my Mommy! She wouldn't make me go!
Olivia: What'd you just say?
Noah: I said, I wish Lucy was my Mommy.
Olivia: Well, kiddo, looks like you're stuck with me.
I was more interested in the Olivia/Noah story, which is probably a good thing because it looks like we're in for a full season arc here.
While Fin was going on about how Marks' presumed guilt justified bad behavior, Olivia was getting caught up in a nightmare because of a misunderstanding.
The bruises on Noah's arm came from her saving his life and the suspicion she now faces came from a kindergartner not understanding the implication of saying that his mom gave him those bruises.
The adults in the situation are also at fault because they didn't, as far as I can tell, ask any follow-up questions to find out how Noah got the bruises, what he meant, or whether Mommy gives him bruises regularly.
Instead, the school administrator or teacher or whoever she was seemed to assume that Olivia was an overly stressed mother in denial about having hurt her son on purpose.
Olivia had better hope that there are no Fin types out there who think that because they believe she's guilty of abusing her son, she shouldn't have any rights.
I told her to point a loaded gun at me. I have a kid, Rafael. What was I thinking?Benson
Of course, we've been down this road with Olivia before. A few years ago, Noah had bruises given to him at a previous foster home, and Olivia nearly was denied the right to adopt him because of it.
You'd think that she wouldn't be cleared of abuse charges only to suddenly be suspected of actually abusing him a few years later, but I guess the Administration of Child Services is a lot more thorough and a lot less backlogged in SVU-land than in real life.
Even if ACS did open an investigation based on this misunderstanding, it should be easily cleared up.
Noah is grateful that his mom saved his life and would probably tell the full story if anyone bothered to ask him, and there are no other signs of abuse other than these bruises and the fact that he enjoys his nanny's company.
I'm enjoying this storyline so far, though, and it should be interesting to see Olivia deal with being accused of the type of crime that she investigates on a daily basis.
Olivia has a history full of circumstantial evidence that can be used against her, like her excessive force against William Lewis after she finally got free of him, and I'm curious as to how this will play out. I'm pretty sure she'll be vindicated in the end, but it is sure to be a bumpy ride.
Having the bruises come from the near accident was a nice twist. Since Noah was reluctant to go to school, I was sure he was being abused there and blaming his mom for the bruises because he was scared of the real abuser and angry that Olivia made him go to school.
I'm not sure how I feel about Cassidy being involved in the investigation, though. Cassidy is one of those characters who keeps reappearing for no apparent reason. I was never a fan of him, and he and Olivia were almost as badly mismatched as Olivia and Tucker when they went the romance route.
So if he has to reappear, I'm glad he's not trying to rekindle the romance. Investigating his ex-girlfriend should yield some strong drama, too, even though in real life he'd probably have to recuse himself due to their former relationship.
I'd much rather it be Stabler forced to investigate his old partner and friend. I know that's a pipe dream, but still.
Fin: I thought we were on the same team.
Barba: You know how many six year old cases dry up, turn to dust and blow to the four corners of the Earth in the hands of a competent defense attorney?
I wasn't a big fan of the whole Karla subplot, but I loved the scenes of the detectives trying to get Marks' victims to testify.
These scenes were emotional and brought up an aspect of rape cases that isn't discussed in the media very often.
When a case goes cold, that leaves survivors without closure, and the desire to just move on and forget it instead of testifying once the rapist finally resurfaced seemed authentic.
I especially liked Rollins' conversation with Keesha. I wondered if Keesha's son was a product of her rape, but we didn't get to find out.
Instead, we were introduced to Karla, who appeared to be in some sort of abusive relationship. But that wasn't really developed because we never saw Frank again after he disapproved of her testifying.
She showed up out of nowhere all upset that the Cuba thing might mean she wouldn't get to testify after she had said she wasn't going to. And then she tried to kill her rapist.
Issues such as abuse victims killing their abuser are important and deserve full storylines.
I felt like Karla's storyline was a mishmash of different problems that were all slapped together so that Benson could risk her life to stop her from shooting Marks and then realize she would have left Noah behind had she been killed.
It came off as unnecessary melodrama. And just like Fin shouldn't have been allowed to do whatever he wanted consequence-free to catch Marks, Karla shouldn't have got away with attempted murder, even if Marks was a rapist who had tormented her.
It would have been much better for her to be charged with some sort of crime and gotten mercy from the court. That might have stopped this episode of SVU from turning into a pro-vigilante mess.
I'm excited about Olivia being accused of abusing Noah. And I'm glad to see Ice-T have more of a role again since he was noticeably absent in Season 18.
But I hope SVU regains its moral compass and that we don't have a season full of cops doing whatever they want and being applauded for it while in real life people are suffering because of police brutality.
What are your thoughts on the season premiere? Weigh in below, and don't forget that if you missed anything you can always watch Law & Order: SVU online.
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.
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