Byron Marks. That is the name of the villain at the heart of the Law & Order: SVU season 19 premiere, and a rather despicable one to go along with that. This is a rapist who has gotten away with far too much over the course of the years, and as the episode went along, we started to wonder whether or not this was going to happen again.
The first problem that awaited the SVU team was how Marks just so happened to be brought in. He was “discovered” in Cuba by Fin, who was on a fishing trip that coincidentally just so happened to lead him over to him. That’s a huge problem, mostly because of the return of Randy Dworkin. It’s been a while, but the more we see flagship Law & Order characters on the show, the happier that we’re going to be at the end of the day. Dworkin is tough and pretty smart, and it didn’t take too long for the accusations to start flying that Dworkin was “kidnapped” — therefore, he didn’t have any choice at all to come back and face the music.
Dworkin took his claims to the court, and made it clear that so many different things were at stake here — whether it be semantics or whether or not Fin “tortured” the guy. Probably the best line of the whole episode was Fin saying that he didn’t tell Benson about his plans because he “didn’t think it was legal” — had he been more above-board, maybe he and the team wouldn’t be in this predicament at all right now.
When Dworkin took to the stand, he made his argument very clear: He was supposedly blindsided by Fin and he kept him in a hot car for four hours. Fin didn’t deny that, but he did make it clear that he checked in on him every now and then. Barba was able to keep the case from getting thrown out over the torture claims, but the problem is that the Cuban Government showed up with demands of their own over some of Fin’s actions. That’s one problem, and another one being that Marks has his current wife there testifying and Barba can only get one of the accusers up on the stand.
It became pretty clear at about the 40-minute mark that unless something changed, SVU could lose this case and Marks could go free once again. Almost immediately after that learned that Rollins and Carisi were assigned to detail him, but that still didn’t matter as he still forged a plan to escape at a diner.
The diner situation
This is where things changed, as the case suddenly went from being about a simple court case to a matter of survival. He apparently thought it was a good idea to convince one of his accusers in Carla to not testify against him, and what this led to was a standoff at gunpoint. She wanted to murder Marks unless she gave into some of her demands, which included her wanting to find a way to get her power back.
This was gut-wrenching television, but it’s still what SVU does back: Capturing pain and fear, and expressing what drives people who are in the midst of suffering. Benson was able to defuse the situation, but it was far from easy. It also led to some other important questions, including why she decided to have Carla point the gun at her to try to calm the situation down. She’s a parent, and this led to a heartfelt conversation between her and Barba as to if she was doing the right thing.
The turning point was when Benson got Carla to testify in front of Marks’ new wife, and she suddenly decided that she did not want to go through with her support of him. She and her daughter were free.
Benson and Noah’s problem
We knew going into the season that we were going to see Mariska Hargitay’s character go through hell, but we never expected in a billion years that it would be this hellish. Benson found herself accused of hurting Noah after he was seen with bruises, and how his school even talked with Noah, who in turn claimed that Benson was responsible for hurting him. This was terrible. Why would Noah say this? Our first thought was that he enjoyed spending time with his nanny so much that he wanted her to become his permanent mother figure; no matter the reason, this put Olivia in a brutal, devastating place. Rollins gave her a pep talk, and while that may have helped in the moment, it didn’t stop the problem.
Olivia and Noah had a conversation that night about what happened, and it was in that moment she realized that she actually did cause the bruise — but it was an accident, and she needed him to tell the full story to keep her out of trouble.
In the closing minutes, we did see the return of Cassidy. It’s been a long time, but Dean Winters’ character may be coming back to New York as an investigator for the D.A.’s office. That was the good news. The bad news was that he was investigating her over whether or not she was abusing her son.
Our CarterMatt Verdict
A painful premiere, but also a worthy one and a powerful debut for new SVU showrunner Michael Chernuchin. Justice was achieved in the end, but is their closure on Byron Marks? Time will tell, but for now the writers deserve all the praise in the world for continuing to make this story so strong.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to huddle up in a corner waiting until next week. What a heartbreaking ending.
What did you think about the SVU season 19 premiere?
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