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Law & Order: SVU review: ‘Shattered’

I used to be a huge Law & Order fan. Years ago, I used to watch every episode of all the L&O incarnations. Gradually, though, I had to give them all up. There’s just no point in me watching episodic police procedurals in this day and age when said procedurals have no interest whatsoever in character development or story arcs. They are disposable, and meant to be disposable, so why waste my time?

So, it’s a genre I’ve abandoned. Still, I always liked L&O, especially the mothership, and I took note that the mothership was canceled last week just one year shy of breaking the all-time prime-time drama record for consecutive years on the air, having tied at 20 with Gunsmoke.

I also used to have a lot of respect for L&O: SVU, which in its earlier years was a surprisingly dark and uncompromising show for network TV — before it became too popular and instead started catering to a more middle-of-the road level of crime-drama bleakness.

But I still check in from time to time (maybe once or twice a season) to see who has been rotated in and out of the cast, if nothing else.

I just watched the season finale of SVU, “Shattered” (mostly because I needed something to have on while assembling a Shop-Vac). If indicative of the series at large (which I kind of doubt, or at least truly hope not to be the case) then, my, how the series has fallen.

This was one of the most overwrought, overwritten, overacted, cliched, messy, haphazard, contrived, godawful pieces of garbage I have ever seen from a L&O show — okay, excepting most of Criminal Intent‘s episodes, a series I had to abandon many, many years ago after its weekly absurdity of allowing every episode to be an exercise in Vincent D’Onofrio getting all the bad guys to turn on each other and confess in highly contrived and unlikely fashion.

The SVU finale featured a hostage situation created by a woman so insufferably crazy (and acted with ham-handed awfulness by an actress I’m not even going to bother looking up the name of) that I was rooting for her to be shot for the entire interminable 15 minutes that the hostage sequence was allowed to go on.

Meanwhile, we have M.E. Warner bleeding out on the floor, Benson draining blood from her chest cavity with a tube, Stabler crawling around air ducts like he’s Bruce Willis in Die Hard, and Sharon Stone as an ADA who must try to connect with the crazy lady by telling a sad tale about the depression she went through after having a life-changing mastectomy that left her abandoned by her lover. Yes.

SVU used to be a reliable, substantive police procedural. This pathetic excuse for a season finale was utter cliched garbage, horribly constructed and executed. Just jaw-dropping.

Rating: 1/2


23 Comments
  1. Evie Marlin - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 1:17 am

    All I need to say is to reiterate the last paragraph above.
    SVU used to be a reliable, substantive police procedural. This PATHETIC excuse for a season finale was total utter cliched GARBAGE, horribly constructed and executed. Mind numbingly awful. What a crying shame……

  2. AR - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 2:56 am

    I actually thought the episode was good…right up until Sophie grabbed the gun. ALL downhill from there. The scenes with Warner directing Liv on how to put a tube in her to drain the blood from her lung were literally (for me) laughable. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was getting a Die Hard vibe from Stabler in the ducts. “I lost my breast and my partner didn’t love me anymore so I can totally relate to the pain of LOSING YOUR CHILD!?!” WTF? And when Stone picked up that child’s corpse and said “No! your son needs you” my jaw hit the floor and I smacked my forehead in disbelief. This is SVU?

    Also, maybe I’m sexist, or too cynical about child custody stories, or maybe I’ve seen way too many “twists” over the years, but I knew from the beginning they were going to turn things so that the father was the one who hired the kidnapper, so at least the episode lived up (down?) to THAT expectation :(

    After a shaky start to the year (they were relying on the Shocking Ending [TM] a bit too much), I thought it was pretty good the rest of the season, so I’ll watch it next season, like a good little sheep. But after “Shattered”, I’m very worried.

  3. R.D. - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 8:50 am

    Law & Order: SVU??

    LAW & ORDER: SVU?!?!

    Instead of “Redemption II?” ;-)

    SHENANIGANS!!

  4. Jammer - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 9:49 am

    To R.D. — and everyone who doesn’t quite understand how my process works.

    This blog posting was a posting of opportunity. It wasn’t planned, and if I hadn’t posted it, I would’ve posted nothing, not a review for “Redemption II.”

    The suggestion (even if jokingly) that my time spent slamming out this blog post in 20 minutes would have translated automatically into TNG reviews had I not written it is just flat-out false and not how my process works.

    When I get back to TNG, it will be in a concerted effort, because I will need to pull out the DVDs and start watching them, one at a time, in an effort of building momentum. That’s not the same thing as watching an hour of SVU while putting together a Shop-Vac, and then being so motivated by an awful hour of television to slam out a blog post in 20 minutes.

    I just feel like I need to put to rest this notion that anything I write that’s not a TNG review is somehow taking away from time that would’ve been spent on TNG reviews. Because it wouldn’t have been. It would’ve been spent cleaning my garage, weeding my landscaping, drinking beer, or who knows what else.

  5. Jeff - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 6:16 pm

    I also was once a huge fan of LAW AND ORDER. Before I truly discovered STAR TREK in all its incarnations back in ’02 or whenever Season 1 of TOS was released, LAW AND ORDER (the original) and NYPD BLUE were my favorite shows.

    I thought the writing of the L&O: TOS was brilliant in its early seasons, but too many cast changes and the departure of Jerry Orbach at the end of season 14 finally did me in. Every now and then I’d tune in, but what was once a thrilling and suspenseful show (for me anyways) became very predictable. It just wasn’t the shame show anymore. Too many different faces and too many similar cases.

    I did watch SVU regularly in its first season, but the constant serial murder/rapist/molester stories just turned me cold. I understand that it was the point of that particular series, but it just got too over the top and disgusting for me. Every now and then I’d tune in (I don’t get cable so my TV choices are limited), and I would just be surprised (as you mentioned in this review) at how poorly written, acted and plotted SVU was and is.

    The last SVU episode I watched was called “Zebras”, the finale for season 10. I picked the murderer right away (never a good thing for a cop show) and I certainly didn’t feel as if I was watching true to life NYPD officers. It’s sad to see any show decline to such a degree, but franchises are popular and I guess the viewership is still there.

    I’m not sorry to hear that L&O TOS is canceled. 20 years is a fantastic run for any series and personally, I felt the show should have ended quite some time ago. But when it was great (I’d be willing to say the first half of its run) it was truly something special. Dick Wolf should be very proud.

    As for the TNG reviews, yes I am one of many waiting to read them. But I can only imagine the time it takes to invest in watching all those hours of TV and then writing them. Your full length reviews of the other TREK series are impressive and I would imagine it took you a while to get each one done. I just want to say that I’ve been a big fan of your site for years. I’ve recently begun watching BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. I heard great things about it and I am truly enjoying it. Get to the TNG reviews when you can. All of us fans will still be here to read them once you’re finished.

  6. alex99a - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 6:49 pm

    I did a double-take when I saw the SVU post as well. I wouldn’t presume to think you can’t bust out a blog post on your own site on whatever moves you. Just not a show I would have expected. Perhaps something more worthy of your time and attention would not elict such a response. For instance, “V” was a disappointment, but I’m enjoying “Justified” right now.

  7. Occuprice - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 7:32 pm

    SVU really took a nose-dive a few years ago. But the last two seasons have been decent. Still crap episodes, but also some good ones. I haven’t seen this finale, but it doesn’t surprise me that it’s horrible. I think SVU fails pretty hard lately whenever it tries to do something more than just a routine episode- any time it TRIES. Like with finales, when it needs to be “extra-dramatic.”

    On the whole, I don’t think SVU is worth consistently watching anymore… but I get enough enjoyment out of it when I do catch it on. That may be a far cry from its early seasons, but a huge improvement from a few years ago.

  8. Jammer - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 11:01 pm

    alex99a:

    I watched the first three episodes of “Justified.” I really enjoyed the pilot. But I thought the second and third episodes were utterly forgettable. The fourth episode I recorded on my DVR, and then with everything else I had on my DVR that I wanted to get through, the idea of watching episode 4 of “Justified” felt like a chore rather than something I actually wanted to do. So I said fuck it, and hit “delete,” and that was the end of “Justified” for me. Because, let’s face it: If it feels like a chore, why am I watching it?

    Arbitrary? Yes. And it very well may have gotten way better after that. But I felt relieved in not having the time commitment. It’s a case of a show that just didn’t grab me enough for me to keep watching.

  9. Jammer - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 11:06 pm

    As a followup to the above, I can’t in good conscience explain why I’m still watching “V,” which is just really, really not good. Maybe I felt an obligation to retain some sci-fi in my schedule, even if “V” is a piss-poor example of said genre.

  10. JackBauer - Friday, May 21, 2010 - 12:57 am

    Hey Jammer. Have you ever watched Greys Anatomy? If not, dont. Its pure garbage.

  11. Sxottlan - Friday, May 21, 2010 - 3:40 am

    I too used to be a fan of SVU, but it felt like I saw too many overly melodramatic episodes in a row some years back and just gave up. Too much self-righteousness and pandering to the fear-based demographic.

    It also used to be back in the day, they had episodes where the suspect was found not guilty and we’re left with an empty feeling. But hey that’s how the justice system works sometimes.

    After awhile though, they seemed to have too many episodes that then end up with the suspect murdered anyway after the trial. A little too nicely wrapped up.

    Nothing beats the L&O: TOS season finale where they broke format to get the characters’ reactions to a state execution. They never topped that episode.

    Although SVU did have the episode where it was more about the ambiguity and starred the Outrageous Okana. The episode pointedly ended before we could hear a verdict.

  12. Eduardo - Friday, May 21, 2010 - 3:48 pm

    A few years back, one of SVU’s long time writers was Patrick Harbinson, who was also a producer and writer during this last season on 24.

  13. JackBauer - Friday, May 21, 2010 - 4:54 pm

    Oh yeah and im waiting that Redemption II review too.

  14. Guy - Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 10:24 pm

    The dumbest thing about that episode is that in real life, she took actions that would have resulted in her getting shot in the head about half a dozen times. Police always try to talk first. Yes. But the second your lift that gun up, you’re dead. She shot randomly. Waved the thing around. Shot the ME. Even pressed the gun right into her husbands head for gods sake?! WTH!!!! She would have been shot dead long before even half that scene took place. Utterly ridiculous.

  15. DeeDee - Monday, May 24, 2010 - 12:09 am

    Don’t normally do this, but have to say that after watching the last recorded SVU, the one where Sharon Stone equates the loss of her lover because he didn’t like her breast reconstruction with the loss of a child? Only Hollyweird could understand that one. Clue to Hollyweird: normal mothers think of something other than how their breasts appear to their lovers when a child is murdered. Just saying.

  16. CuperMacLeod - Monday, May 24, 2010 - 9:46 am

    Can’t agree more about SVU. I found it riveting around, say, Seasons 2-4. The last few years it has become a kind of police soap opera. I bailed on it a couple of seasons ago.

    However, I am very depressed about the cancelation of the original L&O. The last couple of seasons (with the introduction of Cutter, Lupo, and Bernard) have been some of the best episodes since the glory days of Briscoe and Logan. I respectfully disagree about the characterizations. The main thrust of the story is and always has been the procedural aspect of the show, but the characters have always felt three-dimensional. Despite the fact that personal details were revealed slowly in drips and drabs, it was always clear that the backgrounds and motivations for each player were completely worked out behind the scenes.

    By the way, although it would not have been very obvious if you haven’t been watching many episodes, but there have been over-arcing stories in the past couple of years: like Jack McCoy butting heads with and eventually taking down a corrupt governor, and this year’s Lt. Van Buren cancer storyline.

    I would gladly have given up SVU to keep the original series. I’m a little wary of the upcoming L&O: Los Angeles that is supposed to replace it. New York City is such a vital element of all the shows in the franchise. L&O:LA sounds suspiciously like the Dick Wolf remake of Dragnet from a few years ago. It was none too successful.

  17. jeff - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - 2:36 pm

    Well, don’t keep us hanging, Jammer… how did that Shop-Vac assembly work out for ya? I recommend a rating of 0-4 stars, with 4 stars being “greatest Shop-Vac construction project ever”.

  18. rich - Friday, June 4, 2010 - 3:58 am

    That episode (and the last few) was so so so bad I signed online just to make sure someone else was as disgusted as I was, thank you

  19. Andy - Saturday, June 12, 2010 - 10:52 pm

    Law and Order (any brand) works when they stick to the formula. Otherwise, it’s a debacle.

  20. Jammer - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - 1:07 am

    ^ I’m not sure I agree. At the very least, there are major exceptions. “Aftershock” (L&O: TOS season 6 finale, which might be the most purely character-driven episode of L&O ever made, with no plot) is one of the most memorable format-breaking episodes I can think of for any series. It aired in 1996 and I still remember that episode like it was last year.

  21. kringey - Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 6:25 am

    I still like this show, there was a lull in the middle (8,9) – they had Adam Beach come in needlessley, for example. The Season Finale for 10 was abysmal and I haven’t even seen “Shattered” yet.

    The problem with SVU is that the creators think the show is all about Olivia and Elliot.

    Tamara Tunie and B.D Wong episodes are amazing, when they are allowed to shine.

    Alex Cabot (2-5) and Casey Novak (5-9) were the centrepiece of the show, really. They had that awful Michaela McManus, Cabot back for two minutes and then Sharon Stone.

    Remember the good old days where they had Angela Lansbury, Robin Williams and Cynthia Nixon come in and deliver knockout performances?

  22. Odin - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - 8:29 am

    Aftershock was so real, it brought L&O to a new level. Too bad they never stayed with what happened apart from the brief mention here and there. NBC canceled a tent pole for the new LA show? My god.

  23. kringey - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 10:07 pm

    OK Now I have seen “Shattered” some time ago, it was atrocious. However, I am really enjoying the new season even without Stabler or Huang.

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