Season 19 Renewal
As Season 18 went on, and I kept getting disappointed, all I could think was, “do the old writers and the cast also think the quality of the show is declining, or do they think everything is fine?”
Guess we have our answer.
The fact Rick Eid is leaving after just one season tells me that we were right all along. He was a bad fit for this show. Forget the scheduling mess, partly caused by the inability to produce episodes on time. He tried to turn SVU into a generic cop show, which is actually why I think he might be a good fit for Chicago PD. SVU was never generic. It’s an institution, and it was always about the characters, as much as it was about the cases, as well as teaching the audience some sorely needed lessons.
Season 18 and its Struggles
In Season 18, the show lost track of that message. It’s not enough for Liv to sprout platitudes and give us Hallmark moments every week. A certain sensitivity and nuance is required, if you want to tackle SVU cases. Rick Eid lacked that sensitivity (if some episodes displayed it, it was because of the old SVU writers, in my opinion), and he couldn’t find that nuance. That’s why he effectively rewrote the same episode so many times. Rich white powerful man assaults rich white pretty lady. She is unreliable (or a liar, or a criminal, or it’s somehow her fault), and he is troubled. That’s it. We watched a variation of that, literally 13 times this season (I counted).
The T*rump episode alone perfectly demonstrates why Eid was a bad choice for SVU. The casual way in which Ice-T said it wasn’t one of their best, even though the (then) current showrunner had written it, that said it all. Showing women as liars is not what SVU is about, for me. Nor is it about showing rapists as sympathetic, or troubled figures, or innocent. Both can (and should) be done in moderation, in an individual episode or two, for the sake of a twist (or even realism, sometimes), but not all the time.
Problem is, Rick Eid clearly didn’t know what else to do. What else to write. He didn’t know how to expand into non-rape cases, he didn’t know how to send the right message (and sometimes he’d even send the wrong message entirely), and (most curious of all) he didn’t know how to properly work the courtroom angle, despite the fact he’s apparently a lawyer, and the trial scenes increased tremendously in screentime. This season, despite its faults, could have given us a strong, take-charge Barba. If nothing else. Instead, he turned Barba into an afterthought who wouldn’t prosecute a single perp unless Liv told him to.
Season 18 and the Characters
This entire season, it felt like neither Rick Eid nor the other new writers ever watched the previous seasons. They totally misused Carisi, Rollins and Barba. They altered long-established portrayals. They changed these characters into generic cardboard cutouts, eliminating everything that made them unique (yet again, that’s another sight Eid might have better luck with Chicago PD). I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve written about this many times, most recently (and extensively) here.
I mean, I remain baffled by that one interview, when Eid kept saying “the Carisi character” and “the Barba character,” like he had never watched his own show and he had zero emotional connection to his “own” characters. Which was obviously true, as it turns out. He never connected to any of them, except maybe Liv.
Season 18 and Liv
Which brings me to this. To me, it’s clear that another showrunner change would have to be okayed by Mariska (if not demanded by her). This season had some very strong Olivia moments, but overall it was not the best for her, in my view. The focus was on Liv, but what she was actually doing, it wasn’t always something I could root for. I didn’t like that feeling.
It’s one thing if she does something that’s supposed to be questionable (like Season 17’s Black Lives Matter episode, and the way she instinctively wanted to stand by her fellow cops at first) or “flawed,” but it’s another thing to have her badgering witnesses and victims alike into testifying, for an entire season. Or telling Barba how to prosecute his own cases. Or thinking she can’t have a personal life and a child at the same time.
That’s not who Liv is, to me. I hope we can find that Liv again. And I’d like to think Mariska agrees. The fact she wanted (or at least she agreed to) a new showrunner despite the fact this season was “all about her” is a good sign. She’s the star, and she’s the reason most people watch, but she is also self-aware, and she must have known how Liv was coming off, at times. She must still want the best for Liv, like we all do, and I’m happy to know that.
Season 18 and Sonny
Lastly, when it comes to Sonny, I just hope we can find the old Sonny too. The one with the personality, and the whole bunch of sisters, and the niece who drools on him. The Sonny who is fantastic undercover, and has great instincts, and uses his affability to nail perps during interrogations, and thinks outside the box to solve a case (actually that last part is still there, even in S18, thank God). The Sonny who is empathetic and hilarious and quirky and interested in medicine and photography and Möbius strips. The Sonny who came into his own, and turned into a confident and experienced and badass detective. The Sonny who has some darkness inside him, but doesn’t let it turn him into yet another violent cop. The Sonny who is real, and has real relationships with his friends and colleagues, and isn’t just “Cop Number 1”, only there to deliver exposition.
Peter deserves better, much like all the actors. It’s a shame to have this great cast, and this rich history, and fail to utilize either of them properly.
I’ve said it many times. SVU has had terrible seasons before, but it has always bounced back. So I hope we can all just all pretend Season 18 never happened, even though that may not be eas…
Wait, that’s very easy, actually, because literally not a single thing happened in season 18. All the characters are pretty much where they were at the end of S17, except Fin, who is an almost-Sergeant, and has an offscreen twitter-grandchild.
So let’s just start over, huh?