Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 3 Episode 9

Happy Family

0
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Nov 23, 2003 on USA
8.1
out of 10
User Rating
57 votes
3

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Happy Family
AIRED:
The bludgeoning of a rich family patriarch has the detectives investigating several suspects, each with their own motives: his estranged wife whom he was about to divorce, a male friend of hers who was a parolee, their children's nanny, the victim's brother-in-law who is a doctor, even the oldest son. Goren and Carver call the family of suspects together to sort it all out… in family court.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Quality episode but not for me!

    7.8
    This particular episode worked well in the plot stakes. I did feel however that it lacked true intensity and there was really no action except the confrontation at the very end. Even that was somewhat subdued.



    The subject matter just didnt appeal to me in any way. I did feel some empathy regarding the plight of the twins and the nanny was convincing. Yet, it didnt really get past 1st gear - at least in terms of this show!



    I therefore found dialogue to be dull if adequate. Locations werent interesting in the least, but together the show's quality and Goren's role are the only things that made the episode interesting.moreless
  • A wealthy dad is bludgeoned and signs point to his estranged wife as the executor of that most final of divorce decrees. But familial relations are so acrimonious, any one of a number of suspects could be guilty. The one who actually is will surprise you.moreless

    8.3
    Leo Tolstoy began his masterpiece Anna Karenina with words that soon became proverbial: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". The family in this episode was certainly uniquely unhappy...murderously so.



    This is also an epi that is 'pure' Goren (double meaning intended). Of all the charming traits D'Onofrio has brought to the Goren role, (and of course, there are enough who find those charactristics "annoying") none are more touching, imo, than the tenderness he demonstates for young people. Never condescending when questoning them, careful with tone and word, but firm.



    One wouldn't expect a detective to rage at a child or teen in any circumstance, but what you usually find in movie/tv cops' interaction with kid culprits (or witnesses)is patronizing talk-downs, phony concern masking expediency, and the usual thinly disguised dismissive regard.



    The way grownups 'most ALWAYS talk at kids, whether acting or in 'real life'.



    Not so with Goren. For a bachelor, childless detective, his communication with youngsters features refreshing and natural interaction, always compassionate, but never cloying. He invariably confirms the sanctity of childhood, and what was once popularly referenced as his own 'inner child'. Yet there is an underlying no-nonsense philosophy that both mentors accountability and models it. Those whose fathers were capable of the same quality of communication will appreciate it at once, and with nostalgia.



    So, the soon-to-be-divorced father is brutally murdered, and a whodunit storyline focuses on his witchy but ill wife, over-involved nanny, and assortment of interloping in-laws. All in their way are morally culpable, none legally. The quilty party is the victim's child.



    That a boy so young, and one so unfamiliar with delinquent behavior, could be responsible for the death of his adoptive parent borders on fantasy, not just fiction. But the storyline here was plausible - the degree of trauma, the feelings of helplessness, the terror of the future, and the one perceivable avenue for relief - all combined to narrow a corridor of possible behavior until it constricted to the fatal choice.



    This is just a televison show, and doesn't pretentiously seek to be more. But occasionally an episode inflames a collective nerve - the portrayal of the emotional brutalization of children did so in this one.



    Very much worth a second viewing, especially for the nuance of VD'O's performance - the degrees of weariness that accelerate toward the acceptance of the truth, which even the inevitable stock pulled-confession scene can't overwhelm.moreless
  • Thie episode reveals how powerful words can be and the horrific results that can occur when one does not think about how those words sound in context.

    9.4
    Watching this episode, it is appalling to see how oblivious the mother was in what she said to her children during a vicious divorce fight. Her two young boys were adopted from a Bolvarian (?) orphanage a number of years back, and the mother blithely made comments about how their father was trying to hurt them, and how their father was going to send the boys back to the orphanage if he retained custody. The orphanage was, in reality, a torture chamber where the children were beaten, left without heat or food, and resembled a POW camp more than anything else.



    After the father is killed, different members of the family come to realize who beat him to death, and each one, in his or her own way, tries to shield the killer from the police. However, when Goren and Eames gather the entire family together (in true Hercules Poirot fashion) the answer becomes clearer and clearer. And the final discussion between Goren and the older son is painful to watch as all answers are revealed.moreless
Anna Katarina

Anna Katarina

Helen Reynolds

Guest Star

Reiley McClendon

Reiley McClendon

Jason Connors

Guest Star

Josh Pais

Josh Pais

Dr. Ralph Friedman

Guest Star

Samantha Buck

Samantha Buck

Det. G. Lynn Bishop

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (0)

  • NOTES (2)

  • ALLUSIONS (1)

    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the Ted Ammon case. Ammon was a multimillionaire who was bludgeoned to death in his Long Island home in October 2001. His wife, Generosa, and her lover, Danny Pelosi, were both suspected in his death. Generosa married Pelosi three months after her husband's death, then died later from cancer, leaving her and Ted's adopted children, Gregory and Alexa, to her caretaker, Kay Mayne. In December of 2004, Pelosi was convicted of Ammon's murder. The Ammon case also served as the germ for the "Mammon" episode of Law & Order.

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