Law & Order

Season 3 Episode 8

Prince of Darkness

1
Aired Monday 10:00 PM Nov 18, 1992 on NBC
9.0
out of 10
User Rating
48 votes
2

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

EDIT
Cerreta poses as a weapons dealer to help Stone build a case against a Colombian hit man, but the deal takes an unexpected turn, resulting in bloodshed.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • The story of the episode is well-written and original, and Phil Cerreta's gun sale gone wrong is one of the better ways the show has removed a character.

    9.6
    Most of the character exits on Law & Order could have been done better. These episodes, minus the character exit itself, also could have done better, meaning the story wasn't that good whether or not anyone left. This episode, however, is one of the best in both of those veins.



    Start with the plot. Everyone knows from one source or another about the Colombian drug cartel. That's the main point of the episode. A Colombian immigrant and his wife are murdered in a restaurant, in front of their daughter, on the wife's birthday. Detectives Cerreta and Logan are on the case.



    It turns out that the husband was a travel agent, all of whose clients were Colombian drug smugglers. Also, the detectives learn that this same man killed a fellow Colombian just as he was getting off his plane. I believe that man was a drug smuggler, but feel free to correct me.



    In order to find out exactly where the gun used in the restaurant shooting came from, Phil poses as a gun buyer and meets the salesman in a hotel room, while Mike waits in the closet. The gun salesman is a little, shall we say, unstable: he is fidgety, he talks rapidly and repeats himself, and claims he wanted more money than he initially asked for, in exchange for the gun. As Phil is testing the gun's mechanics, the salesman pulls a gun out and shoots Phil in the chest. Mike immediately busts out of the closet, tackles the salesman, and a phalanx of cops run in to remove Mike, cuff the salesman, and call for medical help.



    The irony in this is Phil himself never had occasion to use his own weapon in 23 years on the force, which he stated in the episode just before this one, "Self Defense", on the witness stand.



    In the hospital, Ben tells Phil that in order to convict Paolo/Javier, he must offer the gun salesman a deal. Mike tells Phil not to take it. Phil, always the one to take the high road, tells Ben to make the deal and convict Paolo/Javier (I will henceforth call him "Javier" because that is what his real name is supposed to be).



    The twists, however, do not end with the attempted murder of Det. Sgt. Phil Cerreta.



    Javier is eventually convicted. As he is leaving the courthouse, the distraught father of a man Javier killed pumps Javier full of lead. He pleads to first-degree manslaughter, and his counsel asks the court for two days prior to sentencing to get his life in order before going to jail. The court grants this. A scene or two later, we learn the man fled the country.



    Not over yet.



    The gun salesman had his throat cut in the yard of Rikers, and another man, Señor Buenaventura, was strangled in the kitchen at Dannemora. The mother of Manuel Ortega, the man murdered in the restaurant, fell out her window (presumably with help). As for the daughter, she was picked up from school by her uncle.



    The final line of the episode is Ben to Adam: "She doesn't have an uncle."



    This is one of the few episodes that ended on a cliffhanger. I, for one, would have very much liked to know what happened to the little girl, and where Javier's murder went and what happened to him. But that's what makes this show so good. It leaves you wanting more. You always want to know what happens next, even after the case is wrapped up. I for one feel all of those verbs need to be in the past tense, but maybe some of you feel it applies to the present and recent episodes.



    And then there's still Phil. He makes it, unlike his predecessor, Max Greevey. In the following episode, "Point of View", Phil tells Mike that he is moving to the 110th Precinct for a desk job. If I ranked the senior cops 1 to 4, 1 being the best, Phil is 2, and he'd be fairer competition for Lennie's #1 spot if I didn't adore Jerry Orbach so much. I personally am glad that Paul Sorvino returned to inform everyone of his plans himself, and I am also glad that Phil was not killed off. I do wish that maybe he'd come back a couple times, like Dann Florek, but it was not to be. I admired the way Phil took the change and I certainly admired the way he handled Ben wanting to plead out the gun dealer.moreless
  • Colombian cartel carnage. Welcome to one of Law & Order's bleakest episodes (contains SPOILERS).

    9.6
    The aptly titled “Prince of Darkness” is one of the darkest episodes in the annals of this long-running dramatic series. When you sum it all up, one would be hard-pressed to find among the early seasons a comparable episode in terms of unpredictable plot twists, violent body count, and an unrelentingly grim vision of humanity.



    The opening teaser perfectly sets the mood of this episode. We are introduced to a wife, husband, and their daughter enjoying a cozy dinner at an upscale restaurant to celebrate the mother’s birthday. The scene is portrait-perfect, like the stuff of fairy tales: the mother wearing a shiny pearl necklace, the little girl in a laced dress, and it seems like the only disagreement the couple can muster is whether or not they should travel to a certain exotic location for vacation. Then, in a neat little montage that seems like a directorial nod to Lawrence of Arabia, the mother makes a wish and blows out the small candle on her birthday cupcake. This jump-cuts to a pan erupting in a blaze of fire in the kitchen of the restaurant, where we are whisked away to a distracting conversation between two restaurant waiters. The waiters’ banter is shattered by the sound of automatic gunfire and screaming from the dining room. We cut back to the dining room of the restaurant and to the table of the family. The mother now lies dead in her seat, eyes wide open, chest and part of her face covered in blood. The father is slumped forward on the table, not moving, face also covered in blood. The little girl, now helpless and alone, screams over and over: “Mommy, Noooo! Mommy Daddy.....” The visual of the innocuous cupcake candle unexpectedly exploding into the fiery pan...could there be a better metaphor for this episode? It’s going to be a bumpy ride...



    Detectives Logan and Cerreta arrive on the murder scene and the other restaurant diners are fearful from the shooting, unwilling to get involved or give testimony about the assailant. The detectives uncover that the husband, Manual Ortega, though ostensibly an esteemed travel businessman, amassed his wealth through dealings with cartels; thus the ‘exotic vacation’ the couple had been discussing was actually Ortega's 'business' in Colombia. The detectives are left with the task to identify, locate, and arrest their killer, a hitman named Javier Gaitan who is simply nicknamed the 'Prince of Darkness.' Gaitan was sent from Colombia specifically to eliminate Ortega in a retaliatory gesture. The clock is ticking, and Logan and Cerreta must catch Gaitan before he is able to evade their capture and slip back on a plane to freedom.



    The episode keeps the adrenaline pumping and the viewer on edge throughout with some key scenes. In one, the cops get a lead on Gaitan and set up shop at the Park Avenue hotel where he is staying to arrest him. With six, count ‘em six, SWAT teams summoned and Cragen himself on hand to oversee the take-down, we simply don’t know what is going to happen. In another, in order to get more info on the gun that was used in the restaurant killing, Phil Cerreta goes undercover to buy from a gun dealer. The gun dealer enters, amped up on drugs from his agitation and heightened paranoia at Phil. All of a sudden, without any warning to the viewers whatsoever, the dealer shoots Phil at close range multiple times, and all erupts into mayhem. Logan, concealed adjacently to arrest the dealer, bursts out, less than half a trigger away from blowing the dealer’s brains out and screaming at him to get off Phil. Obviously, the ghost of Max Greevey is still with him. Cragen is harried and calls for assistance (“Man down!”) and Phil lies on the floor, shaking violently from his gunshot wounds and fading fast. Yet another tense, visceral scene arrives later, when Gaitan is shot outside the court building, following his conviction, by a vengeful family member of one of his prior victims...or is it?



    And then there’s the infamous end scene in Schiff’s office, with the final story twist, one that is best experienced rather than read about here or anywhere else. But Stone’s reveal followed by Adam’s shocked reaction, is one of THE classic endings of a television show that is already littered with classic endings. What’s interesting is that up to the ending, we had witnessed all sorts of physical mayhem and gunfire, yet it is Stone and Schiff’s purely verbal exchange—delivered with the understated skill that consummate pros Michael Moriarty and Steven Hill brought to the show— that fills us with the greatest horror.



    “Prince of Darkness” is also memorable for being the final, full episode of Sgt. Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino), though he would appear briefly in the next episode for one last cameo in order to debrief Mike Logan that he would not be returning to the streets with him. Cerreta was a conservative, family man like Greevey, though more formal in style and a better dresser. In contrast to his successor Lenny Briscoe’s wisecracking charm, Cerreta generally maintained a certain quietude and respectfulness towards others, no matter how shady the interviewee appeared to everyone else. With this episode, Cerreta exits the show with a typical sense of dignity and honor, authorizing Stone over Logan’s protests to plead down the man who shot him, in order for the chance to convict Gaitan.



    With its theme of an evil criminal underworld force that is omnipresent, anonymous, and completely ruthless ...a theme that preceded Keyser Söze and "The Usual Suspects" by several years, by the way... “Prince of Darkness” is a jewel in the crown of the early Law & Order seasons, and is rightly considered as one of the series’ all-time finest.moreless
Dann Florek

Dann Florek

Capt. Don Cragen

Richard Brooks

Richard Brooks

A.D.A. Paul Robinette

Michael Moriarty

Michael Moriarty

Exec. A.D.A. Ben Stone

Steven Hill

Steven Hill

D.A. Adam Schiff

Paul Sorvino

Paul Sorvino

Det. Sgt. Phil Cerreta

Chris Noth

Chris Noth

Det. Mike Logan

Rosanna DeSoto

Rosanna DeSoto

Mrs. Ortega

Guest Star

Saundra Santiago

Saundra Santiago

Sandra Alvaro

Guest Star

Mark Margolis

Mark Margolis

George Lobrano

Guest Star

Joe Lisi

Joe Lisi

Chris Minetti

Recurring Role

Bernie McInerney

Bernie McInerney

Judge Michael Callahan

Recurring Role

Christine Farrell

Christine Farrell

Arlene Shrier

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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