Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Season 1 Episode 1

Payback

22
Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Sep 20, 1999 on NBC
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (27)

8.9
out of 10
Average
248 votes
  • 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.
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