The original Law & Order has succeeded for years on end with a revolving door cast. Sure, there have been names and faces that we came to know and love (we still miss you, Jerry Orbach), but even their leaving the show has caused little more than a ripple. The cast is interchangeable – pull one A.D.A. and pop in a new one, pull one detective and pop in a new one. No mess, no fuss, and the audience simply accepts it and moves on. While the characters have had some of their personal stories told, those tend to be few and far between; the exception, not the rule.
Well, for one character that’s become less and less true. But, that’s kind of understandable, after all; the thought of the show losing Jack McCoy is almost too much to take. I know, “rotating cast,” but Sam Waterston leaving the show would not be cool. Consequently, ever since his promotion to interim D.A. – a role that got about 30 seconds of screen time in the past – they’ve been finding more for him to do, more stuff for him to stick his nose into, including politics, which is a place where – till now – he has deftly avoided venturing.
Over the course of this season we’ve gotten to see Jack ever so slowly get sucked into the art of the possible, most notably with his deciding to seek out the D.A. position on a permanent basis (or at least until the next election). That decision has managed to alter some of the ways he’s ordered his underlings to act in prosecuting cases. It hasn’t affected all of his decisions, but it’s certainly begun to creep in around the edges. But, somehow, he’s managed to still be the same character underneath it all. There’s always the sense that he’s doing what he’s doing so that he can regain the moral high ground later (I’m not saying he’s right, I’m just saying he’s doing it).