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"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Norberto Barba

by Katherine Fernandez - Staff Writer
Wed, Oct 9th 2019 11:00 am

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit boasts the title of the longest running primetime series on television, having aired in 1999. Its 21st season aired last week and the first case of the season bore a striking resemblance to the infamous Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, even referencing him and the #MeToo movement by name several times during the episode. 

Young, aspiring actress Pilar Reyes (Carmen Berkeley) thinks she has landed the opportunity of a lifetime when she gets a one-on-one appointment with Sir Tobias “Toby”  Moore (Ian McShane), an influential entertainment industry mogul. Sir Toby starts his predatory advance with the small gesture of telling Pilar she is appearing too stiff and awkward on camera, pretending as though he is genuinely giving her feedback on her audition and offering her a glass of wine to ease her tension. This quickly evolved into an aggressive sexual attack on Pilar and when she arrives at the Special Victims Unit precinct and reports the assault to Lieutenant Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargiaty) and Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish), many of the details of the assault closely match those of over 90 victims that have testified against Weinstein.

The references to Weinstein throughout the episode were not coincidental and hinted at how the criminal justice system has learned to deal with these types of predators after the scandal, but also their hesitance to chase an executive that comes with a media circus. Having Weinstein and Sir Tobias exist in the same world also stressed the fact that Weinstein is not the first of his kind. Powerful men taking advantage of women and using that power to intimidate them into silence is not new, nor is this the only case where it has occurred. We as a society can only hope that all law enforcement is as tenacious and unflinching in their pursuit of justice as Lieutenant Benson and her team. 

However, fiction yet again reflects reality when Benson discovers Sir Tobias has the new Bureau Chief Vanessa Hadid (Zuleikha Robinson) and a former judge in his back pocket, helping him and his legal team cover up the abuses. He forced his victims to sign nondisclosure agreements, paid them off or gave them small roles to placate them and continue victimizing more women. In his confrontations with Benson, he cannot help but reveal his true nature when he realizes his usual charming facade will not work on her. Even after a successful sting operation proves the allegations against him are true, he does not relent and calls Benson “stupid,” laughing and asking her “do you really know who you’re dealing with?” as he is being carted away in handcuffs. 

On the day of his trial, the Supreme Court was flooded with dozens of women holding up posters, some with #MeToo written across them and others stating the year they were assaulted by Sir Tobias. The camera pans over the faces of the women and flashes back to Benson’s face, in awe of what she is seeing. This powerful cinematic moment, along with the relevance of the topic and the bravery of the female characters made this season opener a tough act to follow and a must-watch. 

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