Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Season 1 Episode 1

Payback

18
Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Sep 20, 1999 on NBC
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (27)

8.9
out of 10
Average
248 votes
  • Revenge is the start of a series.

    8.0
    The first episode of SVU begins when Benson and Stabler investigate the murder and castration of a cabbie named Victor Spicer. But, the duo discover that Victor is actually locked up at Rikers Island, where he admitted he sold the phony hack license to the victim for $100. Further investigation revealed that the cabbie was a Serbian soldier who was indicted of ethnic cleansing a few years back, and some of the women he raped are in the city. Benson, who is a product of rape talks to one of the victims who felt she's not sorry that the soldier's dead. An autopsy reveals that two people killed the guy. Benson and Stabler talk to a second victim and she's glad he's gone. With a witness and sloppy work, Stabler instincts believe that both women killed him as an act for revenge. One is arrested and gets help while the other kills herself to avoid arrest.



    It was a good episode. The courtroom scenes were limited because it focuses mainly on the unit and their personal lives. The funny parts are Munch and the guy wiggling his rod in the courtroom. It's a start of a good series. Sometimes what a person did in the past catches up with you.
  • One of the best Series Openers EVER!

    9.0
    This was definitely one of the best pilots that I've ever seen, even way back when I first saw it. They did a good job firmly establishing Olivia Benson-who is the product of her mother's rape-and Elliot Stabler-a devoted cop and family man-and their back-stories without overburdening us with info. The one thing I would say that they didn't do well enough was make clear how long each had been on the job. It also had just the right about of humor to entertain without being distasteful for the tone of the show. As for the Captain, Munch, Jeffries and Cassidy, they were also very well written characters and served as nice foil for the show leads. As for the opening case, they wasted no time making sure to give us a grisly murder-although it the end it was somewhat justifiable-that was sure to shock and awe without being garish. I thought the killer was much less obvious than usual in shows like this, although once they had interviewed the killer it was clear who it was. That being said, in the end, I was happy with the minimal time that the woman received after having been viciously raped by an obvious psycho. Great Episode! Fell in love with all characters immediately!
  • Great Beginning to a Great Show

    10
    Now I must admit I have not been an avid fan of Law and Order: SVU for a long time. I simply started by watching reruns. However, it is always important to start with the beginning, just to see how the characters have evolved. Most pilots tend to be average if that, but "Payback" is one of the best episodes I have seen of SVU.



    This episode brings in a lot of moral questions. Does a victim stop being a victim because of their past? What about because of their actions in the present? Is it right to take matters into your own hands when the law has failed you? And is the law pliable or should it be? These questions came into my mind as I watched this episode. The story is not complex and it is simple enough to be understood. There are no fancy gimmicks, no crazy crimes. It is the simple story of revenge.



    But as we all know, revenge is never simple. In this episode, we see Olivia and Elliot struggle with what they believe is right and they have to deal with their own personal issues. I felt that in this particular episode, the chemistry was there and it work because the detectives bounced off each other.



    The ending, in my opinion, is sad and quite tragic. Eventually, the search leads to the two killers both which had their lives destroyed by the victim. This leads to another question of punishment: is it right to punish those that have already been tortured in ways unimaginable? The story kept me at the edge of my seat and the ending was the cherry on top. It honestly left me sad, something that TV does not do for me.



    This episode deals with ethical and moral dilemmas. For the first episode, it was brilliantly done. I enjoy it more than the recent episode. It dealt with a difficult question that could be best sum up with what Cragen says: "we don't pick the vic."





  • Powerhouse launch of the series

    9.5
    For a spinoff of a great show, this is one of the rare dramatic spinoffs that's had more ups than downs (though it's certainly had the latter, but any show lasting 10+ seasons will).

    Rather than a simple and comfortable intro to the characters and milieu, this one starts with a big double bang: a castrated cabbie with a repugnant past, and a major revelation about Det. Benson's heritage. Then we get re-introduced to long MIA Capt. Donald Cragen, who was a noticeable absence from the original L&O after season 2 (with all due respect to Lt. Van Buren). He's still the same hard-bitten veteran cop, but the Costco-sized tub of licorice on his desk and a bit of relevant (and revealing) humor with an unusual prop for detective shows immediately makes viewers feel at home with him once again.

    From there, the four lead detectives investigate and examine their own feelings about the notion of a so-called "public service" murder. And no tiptoeing around what "Special Victims Unit" means – this one screams "viewer discretion advised" for the series to come, making it clear that they'll be dealing with cruel, brutal and sometimes unthinkable sex crimes and crimes against children.

    This series had a lot to live up to as the first spinoff of the longest-lasting and one of the best loved cop shows of the 90s, but from the word "go," Dick Wolf & Co. acquit themselves admirably. "Payback" offers a compelling story, sympathetic characters and a hell of a lot to start thinking about as viewers are plunged into all manner of sex crimes, and some questionable police and legal ethics, in the decade that follows.
  • Good stuff.

    9.7
    I only recently started watching Law & Order SVU, and when I saw the pilot, I was relieved, because the plot was easy to understand and you were introduced to the main characters right away. It was funny from the beginning, and as I watch the later episodes I've noticed that everyone stays true to their original character, which is nice. Too many shows change people drastically and make them unlikeable, and that's irritating. They combine the seriousness of the situation with the humor the detectives, which results in a great show that can raise real issues while still entertaining its audience. If you haven't seen any SVU episodes, I highly recommend it! :)
  • A pilot episode that seems like anything but - this episode seems like a selection from the middle of an established series!

    10
    The pilot episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is, without a doubt, one of the strongest pilots of any television series. The characters are introduced in a way that doesn't seem forced, with a strong amount of subtle (but powerful) characterization. The entire episode seems as if it's from a TV show that's been on the air for years – both the writers and the actors understood exactly who the characters were right from the opening scene. Of course, the characters developed as the series progressed, but there was no wishy-washy second guessing of the original decisions. It was also one of the impressive storylines from the first season – the murdered war criminal and his affected victims. Again, I find this to be not just one of the best episodes of SVU, but of any selection from TV show pilots.
  • this was a good ep

    9.0
    in this ep of the show law and order svu it was the pilot ep and it began with them going to the scene were a cab driver had his gentiles cut off and when they did more investgating they found out the man was not who it said it was . the guy that was murder was a well know rapist who raped over 67 girls. and thing is his partner had a hard time dealing with that fact. and so they went and visted the people that were raped in the past by him that lived in new york and turns out a restrunt owner and another women killed him in the cab. and the women that owned the restrunt killed herself before she was arrested. this was a good ep to begin a really good show
  • Great way to kick off a Great series

    10
    It is crazy how good this show started off with.
    The first episode really captures the heart of the drama as well as putting subtle humor into the show in ways that most tv programs fail at. Stabler and Benson are probably the two best characters on the Law and Orders series, and I mean in all the law and orders. Munch is close behind them, but he didn't originate on Law and Order sadly (Homicide: Life on the Streets.)

    The show had such a strong plot for the first episode. It was the tale of a Serbian war criminal who was found castrated, and minutes into it you see his victims and you hear their stories. This is by far one of the best "Episode 1's." of a series. A great way to begin.
  • the start

    10
    The beginning to my favorite episode of all time! Well, I was of course 6 when it premiered so I watched it a few years later but....it was a great episode. It did a good job of telling us who the characters were and what they were like but didn't make it too obvious. I liked that aspect a lot. I think this was a great way to open the show. It was a good twist that the victim was also a perp. It kind of shed new light on the fact that bad things can happen to anyone and are still bad no matter who the victim was.
  • How it started.

    10
    This was how Law and Order: Special Victims Unit started. This show has changed over the years. This showed the beginning. It introduced the characters, everyone working together joking, and the lighting was good. The episode itself was excellent. It had a great plot and the ending was a big twist that wasn't expected, but that is what SVU is about, twists. It was very emotional for Olivia Benson to find out the perp was a rapist. The perp himself was very hard to find because the detectives kept thinking it was another person and clues helped find it was a different person. The original season of SVU was better, funnier, and more lighter than the present seasons(not that I'm hating it.)

    Overall, this was an excellent pilot episode.
  • A fantastic pilot.

    10
    This was the first episode of Law and Order Special Victims unit, and how great it was. SVU deal with sexual crimes like rape. In this episode a cab driver is found murdered. But his penus has been cut off so the team believe that someone obviously was making him pay. So after some tracking down they find out that this man was a rapist and that he raped 67 women. Two of the women he raped go into the cab, and remembered him and killed him. So overall i thought this was a great episode. It was a very daring thing to do but i think it paided off. I am really looking forward to the next episode.
  • How it started ... and how it changed.

    8.0
    Watching the pilot of a show after you have seen many episodes of the series, tells you something about the original intent of the show. What has remained? What have they changed?

    Apparently the original title was Sex Crimes, a phrase that some characters use when they answer the phone. The detectives from this section seem to have some public relations problems. People accuse them of being obsessed with sex if they want to work for the unit. (Munch and Stabler get this accusation thrown in their face.) Having Benson's difficult background (her father was a rapist) central to the plot somehow lends credence to this criticism. It also takes the episode down a soap opera path.

    I think it's good that they eventually toned down the 'personal lives of detectives' a bit, but feel that they lost an interesting element when they dropped the general public's suspicious attitude towards SVU.
  • An amazing pilot episode!

    10
    This was an awesome pilot episode. The actors and the writing definitely make SVU a dynamic successful show. The development of all the characters were great, and you really got to see how their jobs as an SVU detective effected them. Olivia Benson showed how the cases she handles effects her, but yet she is still able to be strong and push through the obstacles of handling SVU cases. Stabler as well as Munch, Cragen and the other characters work great together. The episode was interesting and had a lot of twists and turns. Overall, Law & Order: SVU is a great show that always grabs your attention.
  • Beginning of a Wonderful Series!

    10
    All I can say is WOW! Such an amazing and wonderful episode! It is a great starting episode for a great show, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU). I love how Detective Olivia Benson, in the beginning, it showed her emotions and how all the victims really did effect her in a serious way. I mean she got sick and threw up and she still kept pushing through. I love how the show immediatly gets you involved with all the shows characters, Stabler, Benson, Cragen, Munch. They are a great team. It is a wonderful episode, one of my favorites.
  • The beginning of Law and Order Special Victims Unit!

    9.5
    I saw this episode after I had been watching Law and Order Special Vicitms Unit for a while. The whole time I expected it to be fresh from the start. I imagined that when the episode opened, that you would see Elliot Stabler sitting in the station house and in walks Olivia Benson looking for a job. I was under the impression that this would be their first meeting and their first case together. I was completely wrong when I finally saw this episode. I knew exactly what was going on because of watching other episodes and I wondered that if I had started watching from the beginning, would I have been confused as to who the characters were and how they knew each other. And I probably would have been fine, because when my mother started to watch SVU, I made her watch the first episode and then told her to ask me if she didn't understand something. She had some questions, but not as many as I had originally thought. She even picked up on the fact that Olivia's mother had been raped, and that Olivia was the product of it.

    Overall, I think that this was a great way to start a series off. It has proven to be a attention catcher, seeing as the show has been on for eight seasons so far, and is showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
  • A cab driver was recognized as a forien soldier who raped many women in his country while the woman were being held as prisoners,by two women who had been held prisoners. They gave him what he deserved by cutting off his genitals and stabbing him.

    10
    Introducing SVU with this show was perfect. It shows exactly what SVU is for. The actos are perfect for the charactors in the show. This episode is very important in the manner that revenge will get you only one place and that's jail. It may make you feel better to know that your rapist is dead but you will end up in jail or dead, you have that option not to do it at all and let the police deal with it properly. This show should teach people not to tske the law in their own hands. It was a great srow.
  • A good pilot, great development of the characters.

    9.5
    For a pilot this episode was not bad. We get to see Olivia throwing up from being so overwhelmed which is something that we would probably never expect to see in the current season. Which shows us how much Detective Benson has grown over the years. This episode had a compelling storyline and it caught my attention as it was meant to. The show started off by jumping right into the graphic stuff, the series wasn't going to be a show for the kiddies and they put their point clear across in this pilot. I loved how it showed how it affected the characters, particularly Detective Benson. This episode was a success!
  • See: Fuente Ovejuna

    9.2
    Interesting - this episode has the same plot as a play called \\\"Fuente Ovejuna.\\\" It was an alright episode, but I had hoped the pilot would be much more hard hitting. Dean Winters sucks balls. Sucks balls hardcore. He makes want to lie down and stab myself in the eyes multiple times with rusty spatulas and stick red-hot pokers in his eyes. It\\\'s bad. At least Olivia has the nice long hair in this season. The second season\\\'s short butch look is terrible for her look. The longer hair is hot as heck. Well, I think I just about reached 100.
  • Had me hooked straight away - a great cast, a great storyline and a great episode.

    10
    Although I like Law & Order, the original, I much prefer the spin-offs, because they rely less on the courtroom part and more on really catching the perpetrators.

    This is a terrific show, even though it deals with some very disturbing subjects. In this pilot episode we're introduced to the main players as they have to deal with the stabbing death of a cabbie whose genitals were cut off too.

    The initial identification of the victim leads us to Rikers Island where the 'victim' is alive and well (and blowing kisses at Stabler!) The actual victim was using his name and he is soon discovered to be an illegal immigrant and war criminal, wanted for the brutal rapes and murders of many people back in the ex Yugoslavia.

    It's very sensitively handled and compelling viewing. We learn that Olivia is having a problem with the idea of this brutal rapist, for very personal reasons. We learn that Stabler is the married guy with a family who has problems with the case for different reasons.

    It also asks some difficult questions: is it right to kill someone because of the atrocities they performed on you? Do they not deserve the right to the legal process? Just how inhuman can people be to each other?

    In the end nobody really wins. The case is solved, but few are truly happy with the outcome.

    The actors are terrific by the way - they obviously work well off each other.

    Just one little quibble: if the killers hadn't cut off the guy's equipment, this would probably not have even been billed as a sex crime and they'd have got away with it. Since the implication is that they premeditated the act (despite what is actually said in the interview) they might have thought about this. A very minor quibble actually, because it's a great story and I really liked it.
  • good okay but good

    7.4
    i tought that this epsosde was good and okay but they shoudl have changed somethings they really should have changed somethings but heres the review:

    the review:

    After cab driver Victor Spicer is found stabbed and his genitals cut off, Benson and Stabler investigate his murder only to learn that Spicer is an inmate at Rikers Island and the dead man left behind a wife and child. Further investigation reveals that the dead man was a Serbian soldier who had been indicted on charges of ethnic cleansing. Benson has trouble separating herself from the case after realising that the victim was a rapist, because she herself is a child of rape, and Stabler tries to keep her from crossing the line in her attempts to protect suspects she feels were justified in their actions.
  • This first episode that was shown on law and order svu, was very interesting. I couldnt believe that the man in the car had to be murdered with his private parts cut off. I bet it took guts for the detectives to find who would do kill the man.

    9.1
    In my opinion, I thought that the episode was above average. In the beginning of the episode was the striking part when the man got his private parts cut off and killed him also. Then, later on in the episode it took guts for the detectives to find the killer who would kill the man.
  • Cab driver was found in cab with genitals cut off. He was in Serbian army, where he raped many woman. Two of the woman he raped came to New York to find him and kill him.

    8.7
    The pilot episode to one of the best shows in history! You knew the character played by Mili Avital was involved from the first time they talked to her, but overall it had a couple nice twists. This is also the first time we dive into the mind of Detective Benson. A great start to a great series!
  • Laying the Groundwork...

    7.9
    This episode was reran last night (10/23/05) on the USA network. I could tell it was the pilot episode from some of the ham fisted explanations regarding back stories and the overly histrionic depictions of the lead characters natural tendencies. This is best exemplified by Mariska Hargitay's character Benson's discussion with her mother about her natural father, a rapist, and her reactions toward being put on a case that involved several rape victims, as well as the other cast members opinions on how wise a choice her involvement was with the case and with the Special victim's Unit as a whole. Christopher Meloni's Stabler character is already in full-force; hard-nosed, emotional, intimidating. As an actor, he brings so much to what could have been a very two-dimentional TV cop role, but Meloni's wide range is evident in his various roles from Oz to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and especially to Wet Hot American Summer. A good start for a show that would only get better.
  • What a great way to start a series.

    10
    I love this episode. It was a great way to introduce the characters and show how the cases they work will affect them. The scene when Benson sees the little boy and realizes he too is the child of rape, this case was very personal to her. I liked the scene where she was talking to her mother about the case, her mother asks if she would have wanted her to kill the man that raped her (Olivia's father), she says yes. Serena asks is she would have been better off if she had. I liked the way her mother also reminded Olivia if she wasn't raped, Olivia wouldn't be here. Again one of the reasons I really liked the first season was the personal lives of the detectives. This was a strong case and a hard one to sort out, of course we all would want to see the rapist pay, and we really feel sorry for the two women, but they did break the law by killing him. Can't blame the detectives for how they handled it. This is why this is a great show.
  • Off to a strong start.

    10
    This was easily one of the best episodes ever done by SVU. It had all the elements that make SVU unique from all other crime shows. It was the perfect mix of humor, drama, and angst. I truly enjoyed the moments of character development. For example my favorite scene was one between Olivia and her mother Serena talking about Olivia's job and Serena's rape. This leads Benson to really struggle with this case as it was two rape victims getting back at their rapist. It was moving to see Olivia's judgement clouded, only to get told off by Cragen. I also loved the peek into Elliot's personal life when he was at a parent teacher conference, only to get interrupted by his work. Basically this was a strong start to a very strong series.
  • series first episode

    8.5
    This is the first SVU episode. Cragen is the head of SVU after a stint on Law and Order. I always felt this show had a connection to the HBO show "OZ", as many of the actors played in both shows.
    This episode, in retrospect. doesnt seem like a first as character development begins immediatly as we learn of Olivia's struggle with being a child of rape. Hints of a relationship with Cassidy are flirted with, but that really didnt develop into anything.
    Some efforts at humor are in this episode, but the humor left this series quickly as the topics left no room for jokes.
    All in all a good debut for a show that seemed to know it was in for the long haul
  • great pilot series opener.

    10
    When cab driver Victor Spicer is found stabbed with his genitals cut off, Benson and Stabler investigate his murder only to learn that Spicer is an inmate at Rikers Island and the dead man left behind a wife and child. Further investigation reveals that the dead man was a Serbian soldier who had been indicted on charges of ethnic cleansing. Benson has trouble separating herself from the case after realising that the victim was a rapist because she herself is a child of rape, and Stabler tries to keep her from crossing the line in her attempts to protect suspects she feels were justified in their actions .
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