Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Criminal Intent Stirs Things Up

Goren and Eames in Happier Times
I wrote a recap and review of the recent episode on Law & Order Criminal Intent – “Purgatory” - on one of my Law & Order blogs (here). But now, after thinking about this episode for a few more days, I think I like it even more and have a lot more to say about it.

First, to bring people up to speed who haven’t seen the episode – or haven’t read my blog – Detective Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) goes undercover in order to catch a drug dealer. Goren, on a 6-month suspension for going undercover without approval, hopes that his work in the new case will get him reinstated. It does, but it costs him his relationship with his work partner Eames (Kathryn Erbe) and makes him personae non grata with possibly others at One Police Plaza.

Earlier this season (season 7), and part of last season (6), the show has slowly been making Goren seem more unhinged and unbalanced. His personal life, which was always mysterious and hidden in the Law & Order universe, began to rear its ugly head. His mother Frances (Rita Moreno), who had mental problems of her own and with whom he seemed to have a somewhat pained relationship, passed away. Making matters worse, Goren discovers that imprisoned serial killer Mark Ford Brady (Roy Scheider) is likely his biological father. His brother Frank (Tony Goldwyn) is a drug addict and all out loser, and he lays the guilt on Goren to the point where Goren undertakes the unsanctioned undercover job to help Frank’s son. It is this undercover operation (in the Emmy-worthy episode "Untethered” that gets Goren suspended.

Long time viewers of Criminal Intent know the series began with the image of Goren as a quirky, intense genius who has an uncanny way of solving crimes, both by finding evidence and with psychological trickery. Now, the cocoon protecting Goren’s inner person is opening, and we are seeing a Robert Goren who takes dangerous risks, who is detaching himself from others close to him, and who seems to put his job above all else. Will this make him a better detective? Will it help him focus back on himself and HIS life, and begin to wipe away the problems with his mother, brother, and parentage?

While I’d like to have the Goren persona that we saw in the earlier years of the show, things could get a lot more interesting since his partner Eames has put him on notice. In “Purgatory,” all the aggravation she’s had with Goren – and all the hurt – boiled to the top and she let lose a verbal smackdown. It was a long time coming, but now, what will it mean to them going forward? I’m very interested to see how the dynamic with these two will play out, and my only hope is that they don’t just let them do the proverbial “kiss and make up” too quickly. Eames was burned just too deeply this time, and just like a physical bad burn, mental bad burns take a long time to heal and often leave scars. Those two may never be the same again. This could be one of the best things that happened to the show – even a slight ripple in the Goren/Eames space-time continuum could add a huge spark to the show.

Of course, the scene with the dead rat in Goren’s desk opens up another can of worms for Goren. Who will be working against him? Will paranoia get the better of him? Is Eames friend or foe? Will Goren crack under the pressure?

All these questions about the show and the characters mean only one thing – that a spark has ignited with Law & Order Criminal Intent, and the show could be on fire as this season 7 finishes and season 8 begins. Let’s hope the writers can keep up the pace, and keep up expectations. Not to do so would be…criminal.

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Sara said...

Good episode. I especially enjoyed Dean Winters' performance. The rat in the drawer was very unexpected in fact, how does one graciously remove such a thing without making a stink (pardon the pun) about it. More importantly, who put it in there? That's not Kathryn Erbe's style. Should we spend the summer asking "Who Put the Rat in Goren's Drawer?"

Music Wench said...

Not happy with the angsty, depressed Goren. I don't really care if he's depressed but I am not happy at his being...sluggish and not brilliant. If they can combine depressed but still brilliant, bring it on. Like last season's The War At Home, Brother's Keeper and Endgame. Each sending Goren to the depths but doing so marvelously.

Unfortunately, it seems they're not going to address the differences between the two - or they're apparently going to do it in just one short scene because in photos from Betrayed, it looks like Goren and Eames are sitting together all chummy on her desk. You'd think if there was a rift there still they wouldn't be doing that. They didn't do that when they were getting along well.

I have mixed feelings about this. I'd like them to be brilliant together but it's going to be so unrealistic to have them all chummy again with no explanation. And like you, I think she's angry and has enough emotional scars going on her to - realistically anyway - have her be rather distant to Goren for a while longer than just a couple of weeks. I mean she was really pissed!

Ah well, enjoying this blog as well as your All Things Law & Order. :) Oh and btw, there are scenes from Betrayed posted at YouTube by TXCANY - just like the Purgatory ones, and photos of Betrayed are circulating the web. I have two of them posted on my blog and I know you can find them at The Reel.