Dick Wolf’s award-winning Law & Order franchise hit a huge home run with the SVU spinoff, and fans everywhere can finally get the second year on DVD.
The idea of following one case from crime to courtroom was perfected in the Law & Order series. Law & Order, the original series, is still one of the best dramas on television. Law & Order: SVU carries the torch beautifully.
Set in New York City like its predecessor, the detectives of the Special Victims Unit deal with some of the worst criminals in the city: rapists, child molestors, and other sex crimes. Christopher Meloni (from the HBO series Oz) is Detective Elliot Stabler, a former Marine with a wife and four adolescent children. Stabler is a true hardliner when it comes to criminals. Perhaps the most disturbing part of his job is dealing with predators who victimize children; in his department he sees it constantly, which makes his home life strained as he tries to protect his family from the filth and crime he sees daily. Stabler is a good man and even better cop, but he’s not above breaking rules now and then to get the job done. He’s not a renegade, just a realist, and he believes in getting the criminals off the streets.
Stabler’s partner is Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Benson shines as an example of a detective trying to balance her emotions with her duties. The product of a rape herself, Benson has a hard time with some cases. Often her sympathy for the victim can cloud her judgment and Stabler needs to steer her back on course. At times, however, her way of being able to emotionally connect with the victim can get results when Stabler’s no-nonsense approach hits a brick wall.
Other detectives include John Munch (Richard Belzer, “Homicide: Life on the Streets”) and Fin Tutuola (Ice T). Munch took his 20-year pension from the Baltimore PD and moved to New York City, where he joined the Special Victims Unit. Fin Tutuola came from the Gang Unit and Narcotics Division, and his street-smarts and in-your-face demeanor are a perfect compliment to Munch’s conspiracy theories and sarcastic, razor-sharp wit.
The series tackles real issues, and not the type of cases that can become cliche. The cases are often pulled from the headlines, with a plot twist or surprise ending that L&O is famous for. Their endings are near impossible to guess, and viewers are almost never taken where they thought they’d go. I think this is one of the reasons why L&O – and now SVU – has become so popular and stayed that way: Episodes are fresh and they become an advanced type of “whodunit”, as viewers try to guess the plot twists and surprises.
The second season of SVU sees the characters really fitting into their roles in the department and on the street. Benson seems to come to terms with her emotions, learning to use them instead of them hindering her duties. Stabler, a seasoned veteran, entrenches himself even more in the world of sex crimes and gets the job done. The season also goes home with him, showing Stabler to be a devoted (and sometimes paranoid) family man. Munch and Fin are often welcome comic relief, even though their intelligence and investigation skills are top-notch and a welcome addition to the department. The show is often heartbreaking or angering or even sickening, but the writers manage to get a well-placed bit of humor in the right places. The end of the episode sometimes leaves the viewer hanging as well, and it makes for good conversation later.
The season has several notable guest appearances from Chad Lowe, Margot Kidder, and many others. The DVD has many special features too, like interviews with the cast, a section on sex crimes, and more.
All in all, Law & Order SVU: The Second Year is well worth it. For fans of the franchise it’s a must have. If you’re a newcomer, it’ll make you a fan.