TV Recap: Law & Order: SVU Season 17 Premiere

LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- Pictured: "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)
LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT — Pictured: “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” Key Art — (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

Law & Order SVU Season 17 Premiere Plot Summary:

In the two-hour season premiere, serial killer Gregory Yates (Dallas Roberts of The Walking Dead fame) turns into a Hannibal Lecter-esque figure when Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) turns to him to help figure out who is responsible for a slew of dead bodies they’re discovering. Dead bodies which follow the M.O. of Yates’ murders, but the victims are much different. Turns out the killer is actually someone much closer to SVU than they ever expected.

On Wednesday night Law & Order: Special Victims Unit premiered for its 17th season. It hasn’t been an easy run for the series in the post-Stabler era. And we’re being nice. At times, it has been downright abysmal. Too much focus on the personal woes of the detectives, and way too often the criminal would get the upper-hand on the detectives, making everyone (including the woefully misused Raul Esparza’s DA Barba) look completely idiotic. However, last season we saw a distinct turnaround. Stories went back to casework, a number of ‘ripped from the headlines’ stories worked extremely well, and the addition of Peter Scanavino as Detective Sonny Carisi really improved a wounded, and rudderless series.

The two-hour premiere ‘Devil’s Dissections’ and ‘Criminal Pathology’ was, to this reviewer, a pivotal premiere. Would the series be able to capitalize on last season’s improvements? Or would they revert to bad habits rather quickly? Here’s some thoughts on some of the bigger points from the premiere.

Photo by: Jason Bell/NBC
Photo by: Jason Bell/NBC

Nick Amaro, sad to see you go…or is it?

Was it me, or did it seem like business as usual without Nick Amaro (Danny Pino)? Amaro’s role seriously dwindled down last season to the point where he was absent from numerous episodes. Tonight, was the first season in quite a few years without Danny Pino in the opening credits, and frankly his absence had zero impact on the show. Maybe this was because he was cut back so much last season (remember how he was barely involved in the last SVU/Chicago PD crossover?), or maybe it was just too much Amaro these past few years. We’ve seen his entire life on display — his divorce, the discovery of his illegitimate son, him assaulting various people, that time the Lindsay Lohan-esque actress accused him of making advances, and of course him getting shot. Way too much happened to this character. Danny Pino is a fine actor, and definitely deserves a shot at leading man status on NBC (or any network for that matter) in another series. His run as Amaro is thankfully up, and the series will move on fine if his role can be filled with larger doses of Fin and Carisi.

Robert Durst As Your Headline

This was an excellent case to rip from the headlines. Just the wild, and weird twists and turns the Robert Durst case took, and then the entire episode with his strange “admission” of guilt on the HBO series that followed, makes this rich SVU fodder. But that’s not the reason I’m happy they went this route with the episode. I’m happy because in the first minutes of the two-hour premiere you knew EXACTLY who the murderer was. It was so painfully obvious that the M.E. doing the first autopsy on the episode was the guy who did it. All he needed was a rubber stamp across his forehead that read ‘Yeah, It Was Me’ – it was that obvious. So, to spin it and turn into the Durst case — where money got him out of a lot of trouble, then he goes on the run, made the episode extremely less paint-by-numbers than one would’ve originally expected.

Photo Credit: Jason Bell/NBC
Photo Credit: Jason Bell/NBC

Gregory Yates as Hannibal Lecter

I guess someone in the SVU writers room was a fan of NBC’s ill-fated, but utterly brilliant cult series, Hannibal. Taking lasts season’s Chicago Fire/Chicago PD/SVU crossover ‘big bad’ Gregory Yates, and turning him into a Hannibal Lecter-esque character could’ve been super cheesy. However, Dallas Roberts, the longtime character actor (and a great cast member of The Walking Dead a few years back), really knocks it out of the park. There’s nothing too campy about the character — he has enough humanity in him that makes him easy to watch on screen, but there’s always this subtle (and sometimes not-so subtle) air of menace that keeps you creeped out the entire time. Kelli Giddish has a great chemistry with Roberts, and if she becomes the Clarice Starling to Roberts’ Lecter, I’m totally okay with that.

My only hope for this entire storyline, if it’s kept going, is that Yates escapes prison and abducts the now-pregnant Rollins. Hopefully that’ll atone for the abysmal Olivia abduction storyline for years ago.

In Closing

Do I have high hopes for the new season of Law & Order: SVU. Yes. In fact, hopes are higher than they have been the past few years. The series needs to continue to focus on interesting, well-crafted cases, and only highlight them with personal drama. The Rollins pregnancy thing hopefully won’t be too melodramatic, although everything with Rollins has been too melodramatic. So, if the series sticks to what brought them to the dance, which they basically started doing last season, then we’re in for a good year.

Rating: 8 out of 10
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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be seven years old in 2016 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He currently works as a project manager in the telecom world, and is a freelance writer for NJ.com. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites