"Deadly Ambition" is one of those insider intimate family trouble episodes the Law&Order franchise occasionally tries its teeth on. Fin and Olivia have had their share of trouble with their own family, or alleged family as the case might be. The main difference is that somehow all those episodes had one thing in common that made them a healthy change from main criminal or legal issues. There was some mystery. All SVU fans were obviously convinced Fin and Olivia were actually innocent, to a lesser extent we also were happy to believe Elliot was actually not guilty even in a moral way. The mystery, even if streched kept those episodes alive The trouble with "Deadly Ambition" is that we are told almost immediately that Amanda is innocent. We actually see the shooting, and her sister Kim is ridiculously suspicious from the start.
Had we had a two part episode where the system would have simply fallen on Amanda, then the story could have been saved. The drama would have been provided by everybody's desperate efforts to save her and seemingly fail to do it till a a possible last second miracle. Even better, had Kelli Giddish decided for whatever reason to leave the show, it would have been a devastating episode of an innocent woman actually losing her job and her hopes because of the stupidity of her own sister. I do not suggest Amanda should leave SVU, I think her stories are actually good, and her gambling troubles deserve some sort of a conclusion, I am simply pointing out that the story in this particular episode would have been much better.
As things are,excluding Internal Affairs, we all know Amanda will be saved. She does play the part as well as she can, she is herself fairly believable, but we certainly have here, one of those rare cases in the history of SVU where all actors are actually better than the story itself. Even Olivia's minor doubt is great, were it not for the fact that we all know there is not true reason for doubting Amanda. A mystery story where the cat is out of the bag so early is nearly impossible to succeed. Hitchcock did it more than a fifty years ago in Vertigo, very few have even tried it ever since, and with good reason.
Let us hope we get back to the higher quality stories SVU has given us over a decade and a half. This is one is, sadly, probably best to be forgotten.