Tuesday, May 25, 2010

End of the LAW

And now for the finale I did see.

When "Rubber Room," the final episode of Law & Order's 20th season was filmed last month, I doubt it occurred to anyone in the cast or crew after they broke for the year that the veteran show wouldn't be back in the fall just like it has been every year since 1990.  And so last night, as they've done 455 times before, the detectives of New York's 27th Precinct investigated a crime and, as they have 455 times before, the NYC District Attorney's office picked up the threads to prosecute it.

That it brought the curtain down on not only the current season but the series' entire twenty-year run may have come as a shock to all concerned, but even if it had been planned, I doubt things could (or would) have concluded any differently.  This was, after all, a show that brandished its storytelling economy and minimal character development like an NYPD police badge. 

However, with this episode marking the departure of actress S. Epatha Merkerson (who gave her notice prior to the cancellation) after seventeen years playing the two-seven's Lt. Anita Van Buren, there was some measure of closure, at least.  The conclusion of a yearlong subplot -- a Law & Order rarity -- involving Van Buren's struggle with cancer allowed both she and the show to exit on a note that was surprisingly emotional and also appropriately sedate. 

In addition to Merkerson's spotlight turn, the episode's "A"-plot involving the hunt for a potential Columbine-style killer allowed the entire cast to shine, with the usual good work from detectives Jeremy Sisto & Anthony Anderson and ADAs Linus Roache and Alana De La Garza.  We also got to see Sam Waterston (who, with sixteen years under his belt as crusading DA Jack McCoy, is second only to Merkerson in the longevity of his Law tenure) show he's still a bad ass even after all these years:

With word coming from TNT today that seems to quash any hopes of the show continuing in its present form, Law & Order leaves the ranks of first-run television with its boots on.  Other shows taking their final bows this year may have been getting the lion's share of media pomp, and most of the circumstance as well, but like the workaday cops and prosecutors it depicted, Law & Order was never about just the accolades, it was about doing the job well.  And for twenty years, that's what it did.


Ian Sokoliwski said...

I have been a massive fan of this show ever since it first started airing. Except that I haven't been following it for the past couple of years.
It tends to get rerun so often, however, that I doubt a month goes by that I don't catch at least one episode here or there.
That isn't a knock against the show at all - I've caught plenty of episodes in the past couple of years, but just not on a regular basis or when they are first broadcast. Just when they get rerun. It's always been one of the most consistently high-quality shows out there.
It's a real shame that it's gone, but twenty years is an amazing run for any show, and to go out in top form like this still says something.

Zaki said...

Yeah, I agree. It's a legacy that will remain unmatched for a long time to come.