Law and Order and sexuality

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February 20, 2009

1:58 AM

“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” is at its best when confronting contemporary social issues, which, thanks to the nature of the show, are generally issues related to sexuality.

If we’re lucky, the writers don’t let the plot become too heavy handed. This season hasn’t been too lucky. Was an entire episode refuting people who claim AIDS is fake necessary? No. But NBC aired it anyway.

Fortunately, this week’s theme, accepting the transgendered, made its point without pounding it into our heads.

When a repo man (Frank Grillo) is found badly beaten outside a strip club, Detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Melonia) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) look into the usual suspects, a parade of strippers and people whose stuff he’s repossessed.

The trail, however, eventually leads to his 13-year-old son Henry — or rather, his daughter, Hailey (Bridger Zadina). She is transgendered, which has driven a rift into her parents’ marriage, as her mother wants to support her but her father clings desperately to the son he no longer has.

The episode’s conclusion is somewhat predictable — “Some cases have no right answer,” Benson opines — but it does nicely bring together the theme without making it overbearing.

This episode also witnessed the slow march of death that is the characters of Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer), Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) and Assistant District Attorney Kim Greylek (Michaela McManus).

McManus has reason to celebrate, however; not only did she appear in this episode, but she actually got to speak. NBC is definitely planning on bumping her after this season, especially with Alex Cabot (Stephanie March), the ADA from SVU’s early seasons, to guest star in six of the remaining eight episodes this season.

One other questionable element: Alex Kingston, of “ER” fame, guest starred as the defense attorney. Why? This wasn’t a law-intensive episode. Kingston’s considerable talent should have been used for a more appropriate legal battle. She would have made a formidable adversary for Cabot.

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