“In the nation’s largest city, the vicious and violent members of the underworld are hunted by the detectives of the Organized Crime Control Bureau. These are their stories…”.
And so we embark on a new Dick Wolf drama, Law & Order: Organized Crime with Detective Stabler back in NYC working on a task force. Olivia Benson is around for continuity references and a tie-in to L&O:SVU fans, but she doesn’t have much of a role, just as a friend.
I watched EP1, and I was thinking about watching all of the series as it grows from day 1. I really liked the original L&O, plus Criminal Intent. I’m “so so” on SVU because there is just too much depiction of violence against the special victims, even with the so-called “justice” banner to drive the show. It’s hard to call it “dark” as the show mostly isn’t, but I feel almost like I need a shower after watching some EPs. Now that I’ve watched L&O:OC, I’m on the fence.
Let’s start with the premise
Stabler left SVU, went off to Rome with his wife and kids, they’ve been there 12y, they’re back in NYC for something, and someone car bombs his wife. Stabler is convinced it was mis-directed collateral damage for something he was working on, and he wants to stay in NYC and chase the killers. I watched the opening, and I was so confused. I thought the wife was dead years ago, and now he has a lead, or something. Nope, they’re burying her during the episode. But somehow he just snaps his fingers with his bosses and he’s working in NYC again? Huh? Not to mention there is NO consideration of the trauma of the kids losing their Mom and now suddenly moving back to NYC and losing their own social network too. Whatever.
At first, with the organized crime bent, I was thinking there might be a bit of a Wise Guy bent to it with someone going undercover, but nope, he’s just running around flailing, generally doing whatever he wants with little to no oversight. He has a couple of bosses, but he generally ignores them, and who knows why they keep him around.
The supporting cast on the police side are not big players in Ep1, so hard to say what role they’ll have going forward. There’s a nice line about them “staffing up” a new task force, and there’s a pitch by Stabler for a really good hacker that ten minutes before he didn’t even know who she really was but when he meets with her it’s like their bosom buddies, lifetime pals or something. Weird vibes.
Elliot Stabler is played by Christopher Meloni and he’s solid as Stabler after playing him for so long. The problem? He’s big on anger, not so big on the emotional range. Not a big draw for me.
What might be different
There is one element that makes me wonder if it is different for this show is that it seems unlikely they will simply do case-of-the-week busts, not for organized crime. Usually, OCB-type stories are a bit larger, it takes more to bring down the big guy. Enter Chazz Palminteri as Manfred Sinatra, the recently-paroled aged mobster. Palminteri has played a lot of Italian gangsters, and he’s always great — The Godfather of Harlem, even all the way back to Wise Guy. Spoiler alert though — he’s not the big bad guy.
The actual bad guy is played by smiling, smirking Dylan McDermott and I don’t know if he’s had some bad plastic surgery but he looks TERRIBLE in the show. Like there’s “something wrong with his face” terrible. I don’t know if it is just aging actor stuff, extra weight, but he’s a long way from The Practice. And I can’t take him seriously. He has a few lines where he basically wants to appear angry or sinister, almost menacing, and he comes across as whiny. And HE’S a bad guy? Yawn.
But as I said, it MIGHT be different from other L&O shows if they have longer story arcs.
Thoughts on the show
People who liked Stabler/Meloni are going to show up looking for “ripped from the headlines” L&O-lite. This is NOT going to be your standard “cops for part 1, lawyers for part 2” structure, and I don’t know if it will work for most watchers. It didn’t work for me. If this was back in the L&O heyday, I’d not bet against Wolf’s franchise; in 2021? I’m going for cancellation after 1 season.