Law & Order: SVU: Gotta Love Those Guest Stars

If there’s one thing Law & Order: SVU always does well, it’s guest stars. (OK, Christine Lahti’s misguided storyline aside.) Over the course of its 11 seasons, the series has been able to attract some impressive talent. Just last week, it was announced that Sharon Stone would be making a four-episode appearance this year. And the most recent episode gave us two gifts that keep on giving: Sarah Paulson and Naveen Andrews.

You might not know Sarah Paulson by name, but there’s a good chance you’d recognize her. She was a regular on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Cupid, and she’s guest-starred on countless other shows, including Deadwood and Nip/Tuck. Pretty diverse resume, but that figures: Paulson’s got a pretty diverse range. That helped on SVU last night when she was forced to transition from grieving daughter to spoiled socialite to deadly psychopath. Despite the grisly murder scene that opened the episode, she made the show a pleasure to watch.

Paulson played Anne, heiress to a $200 million fortune and expert embezzler. I loved watching her transform as we learned more about her. At first, she just seemed greedy, but the more insight into her sociopathic persona that Dr. Huang offered, the more she began to seriously creep me out. Her threat to Detective Stabler was understated but chilling: “If you really believe I could do something like that to someone I love, what do you think I could do to someone you love?” By the end, she was screaming the now-cliche, “I’ll kill you all!” But hey, it was earned.

And Paulson wasn’t the only show-stealing guest. Lost’s Naveen Andrews made an appearance as Special Fraud Unit detective Ashok Ramsey. He was investigating Anne after she stole funds from the Prestwick Foundation charity but ended up involved in the murder investigation. Andrews gave this likely one-shot character plenty of depth—with help from the writers, of course. His scenes with Anne were the episode’s most compelling. (Keep in mind that at one point Olivia pulled a total dominatrix act. That’s stiff competition.) Is it too much to hope that Andrews gets the lead in another Law & Order spin-off? Maybe: Law & Order: Special Fraud Unit. That’s kind of catchy, right?

Not to worry—our beloved detectives were also in fine form. There was Olivia’s aforementioned BDSM routine: She made the crooked Mr. Prestwick lick her boot, then told Ashok he’d need to get her a new pair. Elliott went into overprotective dad mode as soon as Anne threatened his family. (I can’t decide if he’d be the best father to have or the worst.) And Ice-T nailed it in his scene pretending to be a hitman—no one does undercover like Fin. With so many performances, I barely even missed Detective Munch and ADA Cabot. (Still missed them a little. Be back next week, OK?)

The episode may not have been all that creative, but it’s a testament to SVU’s star-drawing power that it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Ideally, I’d like to see more dynamic cases—who wouldn’t? I’m just saying I’ll settle as long as guest stars like Paulson and Andrews continue to deliver.

What did you think of the episode? Which guest star gave the most memorable performance?

Follow writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom

Comments (3)
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I don't have to love the guest stars. I'm allowed to think they are a distraction that tries to mask the poor plots, writing, editing, and phoned-in acting.
Only caught a few glimpses but from what I saw it was somewhat interesting
I have a theory! Did anyone else notice that Naveen Andrews is available to shop around for new shows as of next season. Did anyone else think they offered up a lot more back story for a "guest star" than usual. Given the debate as to whether the two major players in the show were even coming back this season. I wonder if we are seeing the introduction of a new character coming onto the canvas in the 2010-2011 season?

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