Just a quick (lol jk) overview of S18, now that it’s finally over, and some wishes for S19. I just had to put this post together, to properly leave S18 behind.
Character Progression in Season 18
She started off the season in a happy relationship, freshly back from a Paris vacation. She ended the season single af. Nothing else changed. Her professional life is exactly the same, and her personal life consists of Lucy practically living in her house.
He started off the season doing nothing. He ended the season also doing nothing. The only thing that changed was a suspension on his record, for something that happened decades ago, and the further deterioration of his career. The promising storyline of his death threats was dropped, and we still know absolutely nothing about his personal life.
He started off the season as a recently licenced attorney who was doing job interviews for ADA positions. That was never mentioned again, same as his law degree and career aspirations. He ended the season as just another cop. He is the only character with a positive development in his personal life, as he was briefly revealed to be dating someone who’s a 34B.
She started off the season living with baby Jesse and Frannie, she got a (temporary?) houseguest in the form of her sister Kim, and now I guess she’s Kim-less again (which is her loss). Absolutely nothing else happened in her life, personal or professional.
He started off the season wanting to become a Sergeant. He is the only character with a positive development in his professional life, as he passed the Sergeant’s exam. He did not, however, end the season as a Sergeant. He’s still a detective, badge and all, and he has not yet been “appointed” a Sergeant. The promising storyline of his son having a baby was dropped, so no Grandpa Fin for us.
To summarize: Liv is single, Sonny is not single, and Fin is almost a Sergeant. That’s all.
Now let’s compare that to, say, Season 17.
Character Progression in Season 17
She started off that season alone, and she ended it in a happy relationship with Tucker. That relationship was tested, and it also put a delicious strain on her friendship with Barba, though both of those problems were thankfully resolved. She had to assert herself with Mike Dodds, who was the Chief’s son-slash-plant, as well as a Sergeant who was hellbent on proving his worth, sometimes even undercutting her authority. She showed Mike who was boss, he fully accepted her as his superior, and then he died, leaving her to deal with his loss and the blame, which she thought fell on. Liv was tested as a leader, as a friend, as a romantic partner, and as a mother, and she came out wounded, but on top.
He started off the season doing nothing (lol), but he then tackled several politically charged cases and he stuck to his guns, every time. He fought for his beliefs, even when he disagreed with the squad. Barba had to deal with politicians and community leaders and union reps and and media attention. He was under pressure from his bosses (something acknowledged by other characters, like Liv and Sonny) and we got to see him as part of a relatively fully-formed political universe, which, in turn, allowed us to see what he was made of. We got to witness his stress, but also his backbone. Near the end of the season, we learned he had been receiving death threats, which again allowed him to show how fearless he is. When the season ended, we left him in protective custody, still in danger, but “not worried, not in here.”
He started off the season as a recent law school graduate, studying to pass the bar and considering his professional options. We got to see him shadowing Barba to advance his legal knowledge, we got to see him thanking Barba for the help, we got to see him celebrating his success (passing the bar exam) with the squad, excited hugs and all, and we also got to see Barba suggesting an ADA spot in Brooklyn, as a possible career option for him. Sonny had a very cordial relationship with Mike Dodds, who wasn’t accepted very warmly by the rest of the squad. That showed Sonny’s supportive and friendly side. When the season ended, we got to see Sonny’s renewed desire to stay with SVU, after Mike’s death, because career aspirations are one thing, but Sonny’s work family is another. And Sonny wanted to be there for them. Still, the door was left open for Sonny to eventually pursue a different career path.
She started off the season unexpectedly pregnant, and she made the decision to have the baby. She managed to overcome her struggles with addiction, for the sake of her child. She tried to reach out to her family for help (which, gurl!) and she was betrayed by them yet again. She found herself alone, or so she thought. In truth, Amanda found another family, in her team mates. Her relationship with Fin, which used to be more heavily featured, was strengthened and showcased after many years, and she also learned to rely on Sonny, as a good friend and an even better babysitter. Her relationship with Liv was also strengthened, and they were there for each other as mothers, as women supporting other women, even when they had professional disagreements. Amanda also had a very tense relationship with Mike Dodds, which enriched her character. It allowed her to keep her trademark sass/spunk while also showing her more human side, as she came to appreciate Mike, the more she got to know him.
He started off the season regretting the fact he wouldn’t step up and take the Sergeant’s exam. He resented Mike for that, even though it wasn’t Mike’s fault, and we got some interesting scenes between him and Liv, discussing just that. Discussing their lives, their careers (especially at their respective ages) and their future. Their responsibilities as the (de facto) leaders of the squad. Fin also got to be there for Amanda, as I mentioned above. At the end of the season, we also learned that his son was in the process of having a child, and Fin was an excited grandpa-to-be.
He didn’t get the character development he deserved until later into the season, but he did function as a catalyst, allowing us to see different sides in all the other squad members. That’s why a new character always brings something to the show. New dynamics are created. Again, the writing did not do Mike justice, and his death was rather senseless, but we did get to know him, in the end. He started off the season as a somewhat detached and aloof character, but he ended it as a member of the team. One we were all sad to lose.
So yeah. Draw your own conclusions :D
Season 19 Suggestions
- Bring in a new squad member.
That will breathe life into the show (like Sonny did, when he arrived) and it will flesh out the rest of the characters, as they try to navigate a new presence in the (practically empty) squad room.
- Map out individual character arcs.
Take each character and say, “They will start the season HERE, and they will end it THERE.” It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate (especially for the characters who aren’t Liv). But it has to be something. Personal or professional. Some type of progress. Some forward movement. They can’t all end the season right where they started.
- Rediscover the sense of a squad.
The characters are people. Colleagues. Friends. Family. They need to interact more heavily, in ways which showcase their dynamics. Similarities and differences alike. Since there are no actual “partners”, utilize that by mixing up the duos working each case. Don’t isolate characters. Integrate them.
- Expand the types of cases being investigated.
Don’t just show “rich white people” crime, and exclusively focus on he said/she said rapes. Don’t show the same crime fifteen times. Variety is key.
- Showcase Barba in the trial portion of the show.
Don’t waste time arguing physical evidence, when the legal arguments are much more interesting. Don’t spend twenty minutes on the defense attorney victim-blaming. Show Barba being cunning. Being smarter. Don’t allow him to be swayed by the non-lawyers (like Liv) or even the lawyers (like Sonny). Barba is the ADA, he makes the decisions. Show that. Give him back his strength and his big brass balls. Have him win, personally, and fail, personally.
- Remember who the characters are.
And what they would do. Or what they wouldn’t do. Don’t sacrifice that for the sake of a twist, unless it’s a very good twist. Also, remember who the characters are to each other. Strengthen their bonds, show some friction, but let them be who they are. They’ve all existed for years, and they now transcend the week-to-week writing. Listen to the cast, and let the characters be true to themselves.