Law & Order: SVU season 18 finale review: Benson at a crossroads

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How far would Lt. Olivia Benson go in order to assure that justice was served? This was the central dilemma at the heart of the second hour of the Law & Order: SVU season 18 finale. This is a story that brought justice, although it was buried underneath a series of reminders that despite how much we all may want it, we’re not there yet. We’re not at the point where discrimination and hate crimes are gone as subjects of conversation. They are still prevalent, and they are still heartbreaking and painful.

Even when the SVU win, they lose. The remainder of that came in the final moments of the episode when Dodds told Barba and Benson that following their conviction, a firebomb killed five people at a mosque.

In backtracking, the second half of the finale did not provide an update on Yousef, the valuable witness who was deported after ICE picked him up in the first hour. Instead, it focused more on Benson and the team determining how to find justice for Maya and her family following the rape – murder case using other means. This included Benson doing something that she had never done before: Threaten to call ICE as leverage to convince someone to sing like a canary. She pulled this move on Soledad, wife of the recent suspect Hector, to get her to confirm that he was involved in the incident. After being told of her children potentially going to foster care if she did not cooperate, she eventually went along and told the truth regarding where he was. Hector then came around, and sold out the two men in Mitchell and Steven who were behind the most gruesome acts in the episode.

The Mitchell and Steven characters were about as despicable as they come — they had no remorse seemingly for anything once the truth started to come out, and somehow, they didn’t even have the brainpower to realize that it’s probably a bad idea to use racist language and act misogynistic to members of a police unit with women and minorities employed. Real toolbags. Still, it took Benson managing to convince the wife of one of the new suspects to testify before the case was secure. Before that, Benson was put in a position where she was encouraged to intentionally perjure herself after Maya lied on the stand about a conversation that she had with her.

The verdict

Another powerful, socially-relevant, and in the end heartbreaking case to cap off the season. “Sanctuary” did a great job picking up the loose ends of the episode before. It is easy to be frustrated at SVU at times for what they don’t do, but their restraint is almost remarkable in some ways. Do they at times aggrandize behavior patters to separate the villains from the heroes? Possibly, but it’s effective and there are these sort of toolbags (to use this sort of word again) out there. The restraint comes more in how they don’t show you what happened to Youself, or don’t show Benson going for drinks with Barba despite the presence of a pretty vocal ‘shipper army out there wanting it to happen. It’s worth applauding the writers and producers for know what their show is to just an extent that they don’t want to change it.

SVU is a story about, effectively, stories. Sometimes, they end on bittersweet notes. This one was wonderfully told, but it was bittersweet topped with more bitterness. Think in terms of a chocolate chip doused in two-day old coffee. It’s still technically chocolate, but what you have to do in order to taste it will leave a bad taste in your mouth. The justice Benson achieved was worth fighting for, but in the process she lost Hector, and the frenzy of the case led to the deaths at the mosque after the fact. Sometimes, you cannot control the extracurricular, and you just focus on the job. This is such a time. Grade: A-.

(Photo: NBC.)

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