I'm liking the leaner, meaner Law & Order: SVU
Something was amiss during the last three seasons of Law & Order: SVU. With Mariska Hargitay's pregnancy leave, changes in Christopher Meloni's character, the introduction and departure of some cast members, and the demotion of Detective Munch to a desk, the show seemed to have lost its way. It was tough to watch as more melodrama seeped into the show and pushed away the criminal procedurals that have made this Law & Order franchise so popular.
However, change may be on the horizon. With the first two episodes of the tenth season now under their belt, there's a feeling of normalcy that has returned to the show. A sense that the producers may be done tinkering with the program for the time being, despite the introduction of Michaela McManus as new A.D.A Kim Greylek. Some melodrama is still there - they are human beings after all - but the cases are first and foremost for the show.
What's making the show run more smoothly is the return of the four-detective precinct. Last season, the dichotomy of the SVU teams were disrupted by the introduction of Charles Lake (Adam Beach) as Fin's new partner. This made Munch a literal fifth-wheel to the group. With Lake now gone Fin has reunited with Munch. And, with Munch back on the beat the show has taken on the feeling that it had before Hargitay's pregnancy.
Munch has always been a good counter balance for the rest of the detectives. In an environment dripping with pain and tension, Munch has been the bright spotlight that has broken the darkness...be it his smart-alecky quips or his conspiracy theories. A good example of this took place during the season premiere. After a long dry spell, Munch brought up the subject of the bar that he used to own in Baltimore. This became a running joke throughout the episode. At one point, when A.D.A. Greylek said they should celebrate the closing of a case, Much said that they could if they owned a bar.
The other item that is making the show work is the elimination, right now, of the drawn-out court scenes. For many seasons SVU resembled the original Law & Order where the case would be investigated by the detectives in the first half, then move to the courtroom for the last half of the program. Sometimes, a courtroom confession would result in a return to the police department. Usually, though, an episode would end with a courtroom verdict. While the trial was interesting it should have only been a small part of the program rather than taking up half of the program.
Whether this will remain the status quo for the rest of the season remains to be seen. Until then, if you were a bit disappointed about the last few season, enjoy the leaner, meaner SVU.