Ok. So right after I watched this episode last night, I was in a bit of a dazed state. I was confused, hurt, felt just a bit violated, and had only insults and horrible things to say and those wouldn't really be informative or helpful to anyone.
But now, with a little more distance from the episode and with my sheer indignance having subsided a bit, I think I'm in a better position to articulate exactly why this was one of the worst episodes I have ever seen, of any television show, let alone one of a pedigree as high as a member of the Law and Order franchise.
I haven't been watching new episodes at all recently, but I've been a fan of the whole franchise for quite a while, and I just caught a bunch of episodes of SVU and CI when TNT or TBS or whatever it was ran a marathon over Thanksgiving break, so some clear examples of the typical quality of a Law and Order episode were fresh in my mind.
But the entire time I was watching the episode, I just had this overwhelming impression that the whole thing was just utterly devoid of a fundamental sense of believability or intelligence. It's kind of like when you watch a D-grade action movie ("On Deadly Ground", a Steven Segal production from the early-90's is my perennial personal favorite example) and the actors are trying to sell this really poor dialogue and carry themselves with dignity and intensity through a ridiculous plot, and there's this level of forced and completely unconvincing seriousness that just causes you to burst out into laughter. That's the impression I got from this entire episode.
I was in shock for the first twenty minutes or so, but when I realized it wasn't going to end, I just went with the sheer camp ridiculousness of it all and was able to enjoy myself (albeit for all the wrong reasons). It really was entertaining for a while, but by the end I began to feel not a little sad. After all, it's one thing to see this level of quality in a Segal picture, but to see it on a show like SVU was truly wince-worthy. It was like these characters, so familiar and reliable, had become puppets, trapped in a parody of an SVU episode, conceived, written and executed by eighth graders. I mean, this wasn't just an unintentionally funny line or a cheesy one-liner embedded in a decent episode. There were whole scenes that would pile on ridiculous moments in bunches, amplifying them with these quick cuts, like they had been re-edited for some Youtube comedy clip or a Conan sketch. Come to think of it, the best comparison I can think of right now to what I witnessed in this episode are those Walker: Texas Ranger clips Conan likes to show. Imagine an episode composed entirely of those clips and presented to you with a completely straight face under the guise of a Law and Order: SVU episode, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Just don't expect to fully enjoy it. It's one thing to see someone parody a show you like, but to see it unintentionally parody itself was shocking and frankly, a little sad.
Like I mentioned earlier, I have not seen a new episode in a long time, so I'm hoping this was simply a one-time lapse into lunacy and not what all new SVU episodes are like. I'm also willing to concede that if I see it a second time, it may not be quite as bad as I remember it. But I assure you that I didn't go into this episode looking to tear it to shreds. I was expecting what you always expect from Law and Order, and what it has always delivered in the past, and it was only after twenty minutes of exposure to this deplorable dud and after I overcame my stunned silence that I began to laugh in astonishment.
After all, if anything, the Law and Order franchise is built on consistency, the consistent application of a winning formula, and while there is inevitably some variation in quality from episode to episode, this one just totally blew the bottom off the barrel. It was utterly astounding. But, hey, after all the other episodes and their legitimate and engaging drama, at least now we'll always have this black sheep on hand when we're in need of a good giggle. Get all your comedy and drama in one place with Law and Order: the first truly full-service TV franchise. That is of course, assuming that this isn't SVU's modus operandi these days, in which case, I won't be tuning in any more, at least not unless I'm particularly in need of some serious belly laughs. I wish you could take this one back, guys.
(P.S. TV.com is somehow not letting me rate this episode a zero, so I'll say that the one point is for the unintentional comedy, and what joy I got out of that.)