Midseason Report Card: ‘Law & Order: SVU’ season 18 battles currents of change

Law & Order: SVU logoWe’re not particularly sure at the moment that any show on television had things quite as rough as “Law & Order: SVU” this fall in terms of scheduling. It feels almost as though the show’s been barely on thanks to multiple hiatuses due to Presidential Debates and the World Series, an episode in “Unstoppable” that was delayed multiple times due to the Election, and also ending its fall portion of the season earlier than expected because of the need to get two “Chicago PD” episodes on the air before the new year and the premiere of “Chicago Justice.”

All of this is without mentioning some of the flux that went on behind the scenes prior to the season, with Rick Eid coming in to replace outgoing showrunner Warren Leight.

Through what we did see of “SVU” so far this season, we did have a chance to look at a show that held true to its convictions, continued to produce incredible drama, and when the dust settled, gave us further relevant discussions on sad truths still plaguing society. Luckily, it also reminded us that while they may be fictional, Benson and company still provide some sort of hope that people responsible for unspeakable crimes can still find justice.

The high points – Of the episodes we’ve seen so far this season, the premiere “Terrorized” and “Rape Interrupted” — featuring an Emmy-worthy performance from Anthony Edwards as a guest-star — are personal standouts. These are episodes that of course featured a complicated investigation, but also powerful courtroom drama as Barba and Benson faced roadblocks like never before. We also has an episode in here inspired by “Making a Murder,” and exposes into the world of hip-hop culture and an Olympic hopeful who, in the process of training, ended up taking on a double life while suffering from an undiagnosed mental condition.

These stories were told with the same grace and respect that you’d hope for with “SVU,” and getting a cameo from Vice-President Joe Biden in here, while small, proved itself to be invaluable in terms of demonstrating the series’ relevancy to large-scale issues.

What we want more of – Getting more personal stories for our key characters is always welcome, though we’d say in particular we’d like further Carisi and Rollins spotlights in the weeks to come. While we did enjoy some episodes more than others (we weren’t a regular viewer of “Making a Murderer,” so “Making a Rapist” didn’t have the impact on us that it may have on others), to us the biggest culprit in any struggles so far through season 18 is NBC. Good television series often need momentum. While many of the hiatuses were understandable, at the same time the intermittent viewing patterns likely will mean that it will be harder to remember these individual episodes or create a deeper emotional through-line with them down the road.

Overall – A very solid start to the season; Eid stepped in as a worthy showrunner, the performances were outstanding, and we had some incredibly powerful cases. We just wish we had more of a run to discuss here. Midseason Grade: B+.

(Photo: NBC.)

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