Tonight on NBC there is a new episode of Law & Order: SVU coming on the air entitled “Flight Risk,” and all signs point to this somehow being an even more important episode than most. Why is that? Well, much of it simply has to do with a matter of timing.
Over the course of the past three or so months, there has been an unprecedented movement to end sexual assault and misconduct in the workplace. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund spawned out of the Me Too movement, which really kickstarted in turn due to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. To date, many SVU episodes were written prior to many of these movements coming to fruition. While SVU often can boast that it is ripped from the headlines, many of these headlines have to be at least a few months old before there is anything that the show can do with them. While they may be able to make changes to a script during filming, that’s still happening several weeks before an episode goes on the air and they can’t re-write an entire episode at filming just because of breaking news.
“Flight Risk” tonight is one of the first real chances that the show has to commentate on Weinstein in a way where you can draw a clear parallel. The idea of the episode — investigating sexual assault through the airline industry — was actually conceived before the scandal first broke. Yet, there was enough time to incorporate some of the themes and headlines related to Weinstein into the story. For example, a sneak peek for the episode shows that the show’s fictional airline, much like Weinstein’s film empire, tries to find a way to coerce sexual assault victims into silence in exchange for supposed career benefits that often do not come. There are also powerful men in both who think they can get away with anything.
“Flight Risk” is a watershed episode for SVU in that in some ways it represents the breaking of the dam. After this point we imagine that the installments are going to get even more important and timely as we see the Special Victims Unit investigate different, prescient cases around New York City. We also could see stories showing many brave women coming forward with accusations against powerful men. SVU can be a beacon of hope for many; it has an opportunity to directly address these issues and encourage victims to have a voice. These are traits that it’s always had, but in the Me Too era they can be echoed and reverberated more than ever.
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