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On 'Law & Order: SVU' one detective rises, while another stumbles

"Law & Order: SVU" airs on NBC.
"Law & Order: SVU" airs on NBC.
Michael Parmalee/NBC.

This week’s penultimate episode of “Law & Order: SVU” features another variation of the theme that’s permeated this entire season; what’s really going on here?

While that may be the central question in the case the detectives are pursuing, as mentioned in last week’s article, it’s important to also note that the addition of Lieutenant Declan Murphy has changed the dynamic in the squad room significantly in a way that makes ‘SVU’ feel even more exciting and new this deep into season - if that’s possible.

Apparently it is as this week Murphy ups his game once again, and he seems to bring the rest of the squad with him.

The official synopsis for “Thought Criminal” reads, “Taking a pro-active approach to catching sex offenders, the team targets a photographer with a secret life whose fantasies may have crossed into reality.”

Not to say that the 16th precinct detectives have been stagnant in their ways, but it’s under the guidance of Murphy that the squad employs some innovative tactics to extract the information they so desire, and ultimately need, to make their case. One of Murphy’s deeds displays his absolute commitment to the job and truly shows what he’s actually willing to do to turn a suspect. (Believe me; it will make a squirm a bit!)

But is it enough?

That’s what makes this such a rollercoaster ride of an episode. While there are no sweeping actions sequences, no ticking clock and none of our favorite detectives are in eminent danger, at the heart of this it’s the act of examining the psyche of a man who may or may not have committed a crime and the collective reaction to that that propels the tense storyline.

One bit of comfort comes in the form of Dr. Huang (BD Wong) who returns to help sort things out. His clinical assessments, while helpful, don’t exact clear up the murky mess that’s the foundation of this episode, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing given that it leaves the viewer to decide what’s acceptable and unacceptable here.

When all is said and done and it seems that the end has been reached, like many earlier episodes of ‘SVU,’ there’s one final act that’s quite disturbing. Unfortunately, this one involves one of the detectives and it’s a deed that will undoubtedly have grave consequences going forward.

(Because that’s how you set up a season finale, folks!)

While we often praise ‘SVU’s’ guest stars, it would be simply shameful to not give proper due to both Nia Vardalos or Josh Malina in this episode

Malina, in his role as the aforementioned photographer who may or may not have committed a crime, is so believable as this character that it may make viewers forget they’ve ever seen him in anything else. It’s rare to see an actor in a guest role play a character so eloquently that you can’t imagine anyone else playing that role, as guest actors often seem a bit interchangeable. That’s not the situation here. Malina is truly the only one who could bring all the complicated facets of this character to fruition and he does so extremely well.

Vardalos, as attorney Minnona Efron, has seemed to become a bit more confident in her abilities since her last exchange in the courtroom with A.D.A Barba. The two spar so well that one can only hope that they’ll get to face off again in the future.

This is entirely possible, given that the immediate future of ‘SVU’ is secure, with a 16th season on tap.

Sadly, it will be without the services of Lieutenant Murphy as the, I think we can all agree, awesome, Donal Logue will be moving to a role on the FOX series, “Gotham.”

While Murphy’s time was short, he’s clearly had an impact on everyone and hopefully the continuation of his influence, whether good or bad, will be explored, even in his absence, when new episodes begin in the fall.

Next week, as the final episode of season 15 airs, think back to everything that’s happened in the past eight months on ‘SVU.’ To say that it’s been a quite a journey for all involved seems like woefully understating the obvious. But, how else does one summarize everything that’s transpired here? There is simply no way to adequately do it, so why even try? Rather, just enjoy the time left in this portion of the story, and as it comes to a close take pleasure in knowing that it will continue.

This week's hastag = #ThoughtCriminal

"Law & Order: SVU" airs Wednesdays at 9e/8c on NBC.

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