‘Law & Order: SVU’ season 18, episode 12 review: Duty, justice, and the heart of ‘No Surrender’

Law & Order: SVU logoEvery episode of “Law & Order: SVU” pushes Olivia Benson and the rest of her team into some unique challenges, and the episode tonight entitled “No Surrender” was no exception to the rule. This was a story about a hero in Captain Williams, the first woman to go through a rigorous Army Ranger program. This was a case that was painful to go through, but incredibly important when it comes to both exposing sexual assault for military veterans in the front lines and also on duty.

The problem here is that after Williams was assaulted, she was not altogether open to sharing much information. She at one point identified the wrong man as the assailant, and she was desperate to get out of the hospital and be home with her mother. Was she trying to evade questioning? We don’t think that this was anywhere near this simple. This was someone who had went through some terrible trauma, but she was in a line of work that told her at times to compartmentalize her trauma and stay prioritized on the mission at hand. For her, that meant returning to duty the moment that the call first came in.

In addition to the tension that was there between Williams and the SVU, there was also tension between her and her commanding officers, who claimed to know what was best for her in the moment. In turn, you were left to ask if it was best for her or best for them, since the last thing they need is a story to come out that could dissuade future men or women from wanting to enlist.

Resolving the case – Eventually, the team was able to track down a significant lead, as it turned out that Williams’ fiance was not where he supposedly was the night of the assault. Also it turned out that he wasn’t even her fiance anymore after she called off the engagement. Her fiance had the motive, and it turns out that he was the one responsible for the crime. Benson and company found Williams getting her own measure of revenge against him, and kept her from taking her act so far that she couldn’t come back from it.

Benson eventually made it clear to Williams that while she understood the desire for revenge, what she did wasn’t right, either. She wanted her to cooperate in order to put her fiance away for a long time. Specifically, she wanted WIlliams to testify, and she was afraid to do that. It separated her from the life and the identity she knew, but Benson made it clear that her act of coming forward could be one of the greatest acts of heroism she could offer.

Overall – This was a strong, powerful episode of the show that was about personal strife versus military duty versus what was or was not the right idea of justice. What was right for Williams was not necessarily right for the SVU. This is not a show that tends to ever tie up in the neatest bow possible, so we appreciated both the complexities and the dilemmas at the heart of this case for all parties involved. Grade: B+.

(Photo: NBC.)

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