Law And Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 9

Law And Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 9


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

It’s hard to argue with a franchise whose dad has been pleasing audiences for almost 20 years. And it may come as a surprise to many that Special Victims Unit notches up a decade itself this year.

Although there are now several ‘flavours’ of L&O to choose from, SVU was the first spin off out of the traps and is closest in structure – and casting - to the original. The action centres on the department of the NYPD dedicated to hunting down sexual offenders and those who commit crimes against children, and, in keeping with its darker subject matter, the feel of the series is substantially grittier and bleaker than the original L&O.

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It is also much more character-driven. Lying at its heart are Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and his partner Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) – both of whom come with sort of personal baggage and back story studiously avoided by the original series. Their boss Captain Don Cragen (Dan Florek), who L&O diehards will remember from his stint at the 27th precinct in the first two seasons of the original show, provides some nice continuation, while John Munch (Richard Belzer), who began life as a character in Homicide: Life On The Street, gets most of the lighter lines, alongside Ice-T’s gruff Odafin Tutuola.

On the Order side of the equation, stand series regulars Casey Novak (Diane Neal) and forensic psychiatrist George Huang (BD Wong).

By Season 9, there’s plenty of water under the bridge – an established antagonism between Tutuola and Stabler, which escalates through the season – plus a new kid on the block – Chester Lake (Adam Beach), who transferred to the SVU as new partner to Tutuola at the end of Season 8. This new blood on the beat provides extra scope for conflict and it is Lake who lies at the heart of the gripping Season finale Cold, although given how well-developed the existing players already are, it's hard for Beach to make much of an impact.

The strength of the series lies in the characters, but the plots are no slouch – however, there is a particularly downbeat feel to Season 9, which frequently shies away from ‘happy endings’. Stand-out episodes include Authority – the 200th episode of the show, which features Robin Williams in ‘loony’ mode as a man who masquerades as a cop to make people commit crime – and season opener Alternate – starring Sex In The City’s Cynthia Nixon as a woman with split-personality who may have hurt her daughter.

The acting is, as always top-drawer, although it’s a shame they have opted for ‘stunt’ casting such as Williams in order to build audience share. Williams is certainly good in the role, but there is still a sense that you are watching Williams, where a lesser known actor would have led to you being more absorbed by the plot.

The direction is not inventive – expositional scenes are frequently blocked in a very stagey manner so that all the main characters can chip in a line – but it is solid throughout and, unlike CSI, never takes precedence over the story. Sharp scripts and decent plot twists mean the series is well worth a watch, although the darkness of the subjects covers won’t suit everyone.

Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2009
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Law And Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 9 packshot
Ninth series of the NYC detective show.
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Director: David Platt, Peter Leto, Judith McCreary, Juan J Campanella, Jonathan Kaplan, Helen Shaver, Arthur Forney, Chris Zalla

Writer: Neal Baer, Dawn DeNoon, Paul Grellong, Chris Emposimato, Jonathan Greene, Kate Woods, Josh Singer, Kam Miller, Mick Betancourt, Amanda Green, Mark Goffman, Paul Grellong, Judith McCreary, Dawn DeNoon, Ken Storer

Starring: Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Dan Florek, Diane Neal, Richard Belzer, Ice-T, Adam Beach, BD Wong, Tamara Tunie, Cynthia Nixon, Robin Williams

Year: 2007

Runtime: 763 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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