Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 4 Episode 7


Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Nov 07, 2004 on USA

Episode Fan Reviews (8)

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out of 10
94 votes
  • One of the best CI episodes.

    (spoilers ahead!)

    I don't know what it is about this episode that, in my opinion, makes it one of the best. The nature of the crime is absolutely horrific and was, quite obviously, ripped from the headlines of the Andrea Yates trial. A mother believes that she will be a better parent to her children in heaven - however, her plan doesn't quite work and herself and her oldest child both survive a horrific car bomb explosion.

    The acting in this episode was simply superb. There is a different quality to everyone's voices - perhaps it was the nature of the story itself that caused this, but the emotions portrayed by the actors were deeper and added another dimension to this story. Goren and Eames are first led to the home of a Middle Eastern man due to his presence at the gas station - CI was able to highlight the tendency to still jump to the terrorist conclusion first. While it was indeed a very valid lead, you could see the regret on Goren and Eames' faces when they realized that the man was a musician and had brought the message of "we are one world" to his niece's school.

    Goren and Eames quickly turn their attention to the father. However, a discussion with the surviving child leads Goren and Eames to the conclusion that it was the mother who had orchestrated the plot due to the life that her husband had constructed for her and her untreated depression. In my opinion, this is one of the more emotional scenes of the entire episode - Goren and Eames can hardly believe this at first and don't know what to say to each other after they finish talking to the child. They are able to get the mother to admit what happened and why, but it is the interrogation of the father and the inability to have him legally accept responsibility for what happened that is also disturbing. He doesn't feel that he has done anything wrong and that all of the blame falls on his wife's shoulders - that, and he displays no emotion (a fact that both Goren and Eames realize and question him about - one of the best delivered lines was Goren's "See? Now that - that's affect!") until he is interrogated.

    In the end, Goren's concern for the child leads to him introducing the child's grandmother to a friend of his - a child's rights attorney. If the father cannot legally be held responsible for his involvement, Goren can at least make sure that the child will not be subjected to his father's indifference.

    In my opinion, this is one of the best acted (by all) and emotionally powerful episodes of the entire series.
  • A great episode.

    This episode really held me from the beginning. the main story was that a woman tried to murder all four of her kids and herself. After closer inspection we find out that the husband drove her to it. With his control that he constantly needs to have. It was pretty clear from the beginning that that the mother did it, but i can't belive that the father got away with it. Even after he cleaned up the evidence that she was trying to kill the children. So overall i think this is a fantastic episode which i really enjoyed from beginning to end.
  • Had me on the edge of my seat throughout episode! Brilliant!

    This episode is exactly why I watch this series - it had a intriguing, interesting and awesome start that drew me in from the first scene, and it had me on the edge of my seat until the very end. This episode was the ultimate criminal intent mystery with lots of twists and turns and surprises throughout the show as more and more of the plot was revealed. When the husband wanted his wife to sleep in the dead childrens' room, my stomach just sank and my heart went out to that poor woman. He was so evil to her. That's what made the ending so sad for me. The ending was NOT what I thought it was going to be, and I felt the wrong person got punished in the end. Still, this is one of the best episodes of CI I've seen in a while and the characters were perfectly cast and played. Brilliant!
  • The absolute best the series has to offer. A powerful storyline and brilliant acting come together in a tender and tragic examination of human suffering. The result is transcendent.

    (Warning: spoilers ahead)

    This episode hits all the marks for what makes a good episode of Criminal Intent, but is more than just a good episode.

    The acting is superb; Erbe and D'Onofrio were in top form for this episode, capturing a range of emotions from the subtle to the dramatic with urgent and heartfelt realism. Series regulars Vance and Sheridan also hit all the right notes, giving their characters more life and nuance than usual. Yet perhaps the best acting in this episode is by Carrie Preston, the guest actress who vividly and poignantly brings the desperate suffering of beleaguered and isolated mother Doreen Whitlock to life. Guest star Sam Robards also performs brilliantly, creating perhaps one of the most despicable characters to grace the show (which is saying a lot). Even the child actors are all convincing.

    I think a big part of why there were so many inspired performances in this episode was the sheer power of the story. Method actor D'Onofrio focuses his acting work on locating genuine emotional responses in his "affective memory" to bring to the screen so that what the viewer sees is "real"--in the sense that the emotions the viewer sees expressed are not only what the character is feeling, but what the actor is feeling as well. This is probably a large part of why D'Onofrio is such a powerful and charismatic presence on screen, impossible to overlook or ignore even in some of his weakest moments as an actor. And with a story as powerful and painful as this one to work with, it is not hard to see how D'Onofrio and the other actors could access genuine and intense emotions to bring to the screen. Both D'Onofrio and Erbe vividly capture the emotions this story evokes: disgust, hatred, sympathy, great sorrow for a deeply wounded individual, and anguish at the senselessness of a crime that could have been prevented, should someone have cared for Doreen enough to stand up for her against her controlling husband.

    One of the running themes of Goren's character is his fierce anger at those who exploit the weak without regard for their suffering. D'Onofrio plays this angle brilliantly in this episode, showing the self-restraint Goren has to tap into when confronted by the actions of those selfish, cruel, and exploitative individuals he calls "evil." (Watch Goren's reaction when he and Eames are turned away by Paul Whitlock at his door after Paul has taken Doreen home. One can practically see Goren swallowing down his anger.) This is most evident in the interrogation room; interrogation scenes often feature some of the series' best acting, as they are scenes in which many deep areas of the soul and psyche are unearthed. And the interrogation scene in this episode may just be the best of the series. Goren's anger is so powerful and vivid, and yet it seems the viewer is only seeing the tip of the iceberg; one can see the struggle in which Goren must engage to restrain himself from acting out violently against Whitlock.

    This episode somehow managed to mine the most deeply personal of storylines and motives while also exploring political and social issues in a nuanced manner. An early lead puts the detectives on the trail of a group of Middle Eastern men they suspect of terrorism. When the detectives are finally confronted with the fact that they have unintentionally traumatized the family of a man who was doing nothing more criminal than getting lost and frustrated on his way to perform in a musical concert at his child's school--to celebrate the message "We Are One World," no less--the look of shame and regret on their faces is subtle but poignant. Again, the actors bring the story to life, and the story brings the actors to life. This story also touches on notes of feminism, of the suffering women experience when they are objectified by being valued only in terms of the services they can provide, not as individuals in their own right, and when they are expected to take care of everyone but themselves. The viewer experiences Doreen's anguish on both the personal and political levels.

    No other episode of Criminal Intent that I have seen thus far has the emotional impact of this episode. Watching Doreen stumble on her words, fighting so hard to keep it together to live up to her husband's impossible standards of perfection, and ingratiating herself to everyone around her with no regard for herself whatsoever, is painful to watch. Discovering the extent of her isolation as the story unfolds, and the extent to which her husband is indifferent to her suffering, is heartbreaking. Doreen did embody the selflessness of Mother Mary, but it was warped by the unbelievable stress and emotional neglect she faced every day, with her ultimately sublimating her wish for the release of death into a story about how she could redeem herself after death and succeed where she failed in life, by bringing others the happiness she felt she couldn't bring them in life.

    You can see the heartbreak on the face of Goren, Eames, Carver, and Deakins in this episode. I believe this is because the heartbreak is real, felt by the actors as well as their characters. The story is so powerful that its impact is very direct and personal, cutting right through one's defenses as a viewer and going straight to the heart. One of the running themes of Criminal Intent that sets it apart from other shows in the genre is of focusing on the pain and trauma that drives the criminals into their fateful actions and letting the viewer see this through the eyes of a detective who is not just another tough, clever cop, but a person whose capacity to do his job well is directly linked to his ability to experience compassion. D'Onofrio is riveting in this episode, depicting Goren at his most compassionate and heartbroken, and Preston is equally riveting depicting a woman so forlorn that she is extremely sympathetic even in the wake of the commission of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. This episode pulls no punches in its examination of both the personal and political aspects of one of the most disturbing sorts of crimes, and the result is transcendent.
  • The best episode of the series; some of the best acting of D'Onofrio's career.

    "Magnificat" is an unconventional and devastatingly sad episode -- perhaps the best L&O:CI of all. The scene when Goren and Eames interrogate Paul Whitlock is unforgettable. Whitlock tells the detectives that he knew that his wife Doreen was planning to kill herself. "So what?" he says. "I didn't kill our kids! I didn't build a bomb!" Goren and Eames are incensed, but the DA Ronald Carver tells them there is no chargeable offense. This incredibly intense and emotionally-charged scene is one of the best of the entire series, with brilliant acting from Vincent D'Onofrio and Sam Robards.
  • If there was any episode of Criminal Intent to show a first time viewer, this is the one... (spoilers)

    The idea behind Law and Order: Criminal Intent is just that; to discover the criminal intent of the people involved with the case, often through interrogation or intelligent questioning. Though we aren't sure right away as to who's responsible for the murder of three children, Goran soon finds out what an imperfect family the victims were a part of, and that maybe the suspect could be found within that family. Superb acting from Vincent gives us one of the best interrogation scenes from Criminal Intent's history, despite the fact that the man being interrogated had not technically commited any crime. Though not illegal, his actions did cause the murders and his wife's behaviour and Goren knew that. He just wanted to break him and get him to show some "affect". The ending was perfect, and you just know that Goren will be up on the witness stand in the custody hearing to make sure that the boy who survived would not have his life ruined again by his father.

    A fantastic episode and a fine example of Criminal Intent.
  • A woman attempts to kill herself and her four young boys by strapping a bomb beneath her car. But an open window softens the explosion enough so that she and one son survive. The detectives seek to learn the reasons behind the unfathomable crime.

    I gave this epi an 'exactly why I watch this series' ratings because this storyline so effectively gave the sole reason I watch this series (D'Onofrio), an opportunity to passionately emote.

    It was based on a 'ripped from the headlines' case, that of convicted child murderer Andrea Yates, and chose to focus on the moral culpability of the callous husband over the more publicized legal responsibility of the wife. There is no fathoming, or forgiving, even in light of post-partum psychosis, the murder of five children, but for those who were incensed that the Yates father walked away a 'victim' in the eyes of much of the public, this epi at least offered some vicarious 'consolation'.

    Whereas the father in the actual case was a religious fanatic who overlooked his wife's diagnosed psychosis, and continued to impregnate her, the CI version was a control-freak failure at work, denying his spouse the consolation of faith. He deliberately secluded his wife and like the real father, insisted on home schooling his children which isolated his wife even more.

    Another difference was that Yates drowned her children, one-by-one, in the family bathtub, but the tv character was intent on murder-suicide. The suicidal aspect effectively set up the husband as crown prince of callousness, as he knew of at least one prior attempt.

    The story quickly evolves after one false lead (and hats off to the Wolf crew for once again illustrating how any Arabic speaking person in the vicinity of a crime is going to set off the full range of law enforcement alarms), the detectives deduce it's the mother - and get a confession relatively early on.

    The real show is the Goren reaction to the controlling father, who was willing to let his wife end her own life, but caught unawares by the reality that she was capable of hurting her own children. Goren is frustrated by the emotional torture that has helped enable the wife's collapse, and the level of control that has denied her even the money for much needed therapy, and by the fact these evils do not result in a chargeable offense. He agitatedly beseeches "Mr. Carver" to find in his law tomes some violation for which the father can be charged. But once again, the moral code does not fully reflect the legal, and this frustrating but necessary dichotomy is what inflames the detective's sense of justice.

    After seeing over half of the CI episodes featuring the Goren character, I have not been overly impressed with what the CI creators and writers have given D'Onofrio to work with. The Goren quirkiness and mannerisms have been all V D'O, from the original 'lean' to the more subtle manifestations of a fragile psyche. I think Vincent has done a fine job of balancing a top detective's acumen with almost preternatural insight and the BG idiosyncracies. Especially considering that altho he is the undisputed 'star' of the series, he still works within an ensemble cast.

    But the character development needed to truly understand a personality comes via reaction to events and instigation of them, and imo the writers haven't given Goren enough to work with in that area. Viewers have easily been able to detect the detective's moral code through his hierarchy of disdain - certain criminals,(or non-chargeable monsters like the father in this epi), bring out his often thwarted sense of justice more than others. But a full expression of his dilemma (how to reconcile his objective work as a homicide detective with his personal code of ethics) has been insufficiently plumbed.

    Again, time limitations, the primacy of plot over character development in a series featuring a Sherlock Homes approach to crime solving, and the always threatening 'soapiness' are valid obstacles to overdoing the inner workings of the Goren character. No one who has followed Mr. D'Onofrio's work wants to see over arching melodrama (or scenery-chewing from which there is no coming back). But when the writers give him the emotional range this script did, (the kind the SVU leads apparently get on a weekly basis) you get the kind of riveting and balanced V D'O performance we got with this one.

    Thumbs up to D'Onofrio, whose extremely drawn appearance indicates this epi was filmed not too long before his exhaustion became evident.
  • goren is the best,the smarest and his partner is great.they keep you on the edge of your seat,But you need to mak the case a little harder he's smart sexie,don't you think you need to get him a women.please get him a country girl like me they make great w

    my review of the show is all ways a 100 .Goren need to dress down a lot more.His partner is cool.The boss need to loosen his tie my man and his partner all ways get's the job done.the boss need's to relax and have fath in his team too ok.
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