Making stuff as a founder of Avocado. Former music-maker. Tuna melt advocate. Started Google Reader. (But smarter people made it great.)

After-Aftershock, Law and Order

Wrote a post a little while ago about good fictional televsion moments which I feel compelled to update to include a surprisingly moving Law and Order episode.

I'm a sucker for slice of life narratives and scenes moving through a single day in characters' lives make a nice patchwork for Aftershock which abandons Law and Order's usual crime drama formula for something that's meatier and yet meditative. (The link has spoilers but think it's well worth reading as it includes a summary and I can't yet legally point to a place to download the episode. Hmph.)

Summary: The normal crew of lawyers and enforcers begin one morning as witnesses to an execution. The episode follows them throughout the rest of their day. Notable moments?

1. Lennie Briscoe's entire day is heartbreaking first in a quiet, wonderful way and then, later, in a horrible way.

2. A young Jennifer Garner playing a strong flirty co-ed against Ben Bratt's momentarily stunned character as he gets led and led and led.

3. Everything, everything that Jack McCoy says or does that day. His character is a complicated mess and Sam W. is expert at delivering that impression via normal, routine scenarios (i.e. the lunch date, pre-trial bargaining, small talk with a stranger). Also great is his desperate, perhaps facetious camaraderie with the working-class men at the bar. And his big hands fixation. Jeez, he's great in this.

4. Adults having unexpected days off from work are not often captured in stories and that rarity makes the quiet moments for some of the characters seem novel and more watchable.

5. The title. Sure it's obvious but it's slightly less obvious than the normal TV episode title isn't it? It nicely references lethal electrocution (the felon is actually executed by injection) while suggesting the moment of each character's viewing the execution itself was a jolt with repercussions. 'Course, I'm an easy mark for thinking this is cool since I think just naming blog posts is difficult.

6. Lt. Van Buren has a home life? "You want to lie to your own mother?" Oh, wow.

7. The shitty, childish conversation between Claire and the Professor.

8. It's Claire's last day. Actually, this is the only misstep for me.

9. Did you know that Claire Kincaid and Jack McCoy had an affair? Or that it's rumored that the directors of L&O only told that backstory to one of the actors? It's implied in this episode but this knowledge makes the drive home and bar scenes much more interesting.

But the best thing for me is their capturing the juxtaposition of each character's wrestling with mortal issues while at the same time dealing with their everyday lives. Ever had some jarring, personal event occur and have to still go to the DMV that day? Unexpected (and perhaps underserved) resonance can be found in the number they gave you while waiting in line. The narrative, the filming, all of it was rich, I kinda feel I'm better for having watched it.

And while writing this iTunes reminds about our song about the mixed love/hate of TV: TV Heart (a vaguely-related mp3 from Dealership) "A television tube replaced my heart." Sure. And, yeah, I listen to the songs of the bands I'm in. Suck it, hatas.
posted at February 11, 2006, 2:45 PM


  • At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just as a point of (hopefully accurate) information, it was my impression (supported by posters on other Law and Order websites I've read) that the law school professor whose class Claire K. sits in on, and subsequently converses with, is also Claire's mother's current or past partner (which would make him Claire's father or stepfather, although the fact that she calls him by his first name suggests maybe stepfather, even though some kids do call their parents by their first names.) This theory is gleaned from the fact that, at the end of their conversation, the professor says something to the effect that, "your mother would like you to come by more often," and it's said in a way that implies a strong connection between the mother and the professor.

    You might already have come to the same conclusion, but it sounded from your post, above, where you mention this segment of the program, that maybe you didn't, although I could be wrong about this, too (even though, as mentioned above, I've seen the same point on other Law and Order websites.)

    In any case, I enjoyed reading your take on the episode.


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