‘Law & Order’ Returns, With New Energy and a Considered Approach: TV Review
Publié par Daniel D'Addario dans Variety
|There is surely enough “Law & Order” content in existence to program an entire network, seven nights a week, with reruns. Spinoff “Special Victims Unit” has run continuously since 1999; the flagship series aired from 1990 to 2010. There are obvious market reasons to bring back the original — the perceived likelihood of a known quantity outperforming a replacement-level new series, the decades’ worth of audience familiarity with the format. But artistically, the only justification for reviving “Law & Order” is finding within it something to say about a world that’s come a long way since Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy was last onscreen.|
In its first episode, “Law & Order” 2.0 manages that. The show is the show is the show — fans will be soothed by its dogged commitment to its structure, while detractors will once again note, for instance, the fairly ludicrous departure from real-life courtroom protocol. But “Law & Order’s” new look comes in on the margins, in a procedural that seems at the very least concerned with framing its subjects with something other than reflexive sympathy for law enforcement, and for the prosecution.
To wit: A new character played by Jeffrey Donovan is notably volatile, and, in the investigation of a high-profile murder of an accused serial rapist, treats Black youth with instant suspicion and derision. What ensues is a conversation between Donovan’s character Det. Frank Cosgrove and his partner Det. Kevin Bernard (a somewhat tamped-down Anthony Anderson, making his return from the late period of the first “Law & Order”) that pushes edgily close to outright sparring, with Cosgrove complaining about the presence of cell phones and Bernard, strikingly, saying that the omnipresence of cameras ensures cop accountability. Cosgrove unsubtly announces “I speak my mind, probably about things I shouldn’t speak my mind about, but it’s just how I’m wired,” making clear that the pair’s relationship is to be characterized by disagreement and open debate.
Is Cosgrove’s announcing his outspokenness subtle or deft writing? Well, no. This franchise continues to expend its energy on the spinning of narrative rather than on delicate shading of characters. But the scene sets forth a challenge for the show going forward: To find ways, within the “Law & Order” framework, to depict a cop as foolhardy, as brash — as, well, wrong. Elsewhere in the episode, Cosgrove’s tactics to elicit a confession would seem, at least to this viewer, to stomp well past the bounds of ethics; the gray area in which the evidence he’s solicited exists creates a conundrum for A.D.A. Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) and for his boss Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston, returning from the series’ original run).
The second half of the episode, focused on Price’s attempt to untangle what seemed to be an open-and-shut case: These scenes, swirling with reversals, eventually come to be largely about themselves, and about the series’ ability to generate surprise. This is not nothing! “Law & Order” is as clever as ever. But this narrative ingenuity can, at times, make certain of the show’s attempts to speak to issues feel hamhanded and clumsy: The murder of a Harvey Weinstein-like figure doesn’t just kick off a trial full of wild turns, but also some discourse over what might have motivated such a crime, and whether it might be justifiable.
It’s not that this is such a strange debate to have, but it’s not the one on “Law & Order” 2.0 that this viewer found most engaging. The show could spend much time discussing what it is that makes killers kill and the proper way to punish them. But what is most novel about “Law & Order” 2.0 — the element that makes it clearest that we’re not simply picking up where we left off — is in its ability to turn the gaze towards how its cops operate.
In Anderson’s character, the show presents a sort of practically naive optimism about the way a cop might be — respectful, ethical, looking for ways to be more accountable. It would be intolerably sunny if it weren’t counterbalanced by Donovan’s rogue detective, forcing everyone in his wake to clean up after him. In depicting both his tactics and their aftermath, the show arrives at something chewy and more interesting than much else on network TV at the moment. It’s a worthy continuation of a show that always had a way with a twist but that’s re-entering the landscape at a moment when thoughtfulness about policing is paramount, too.
“Law & Order” premieres Thursday, February 24 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Article issu de Variety et
initialement publié le 22/02/22.