Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 12 Review: Tommy Baker’s Hardest Fight

Spoilers

Wow! For the second time in as many weeks, SVU ended with pro-LGBTQ+ messaging.

Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 12 was far more explicit about it, featuring a fighter who was married to his female best friend while dating a man.

It was a strong story with a ton of twists and turns, though it didn’t leave viewers with much of a pre-hiatus cliffhanger.

Connecting Tommy to Rollins was brilliant.

Rollins grew up watching him fight in her neighborhood and was thrilled that he had gotten as far as he had. That not only allowed her to be a treasure trove of info about Tommy’s past but raised the stakes considerably for her.

Velasco: You don’t think he’s actually good for this? I mean, he’s Tommy’s father.
Benson: Velasco, one thing you’ll learn on this job is you never know what anyone’s capable of.

She wanted to get to the bottom of it so that her one-time hero could get justice and someday fight again.

In some ways, she knew too much. Her awareness of Duke’s reputation, for example, led her to question him when he had nothing to do with what happened to Tommy.

It wasn’t a waste of time, though, because she got valuable information even if the case didn’t go the way she’d expected.

Listen to me. Tommy’s all I got left and I’m going to use these last breaths to show my son how damn proud I am of him.

Duke

Learning that Duke had cancer and little time to live ruled him out as a suspect, and he gave her the lead about the phone call Tommy had made.

Things got a bit convoluted after that. Tommy’s financial problems led the team to discover that Chrissy was sleeping with Ricky on the side and using Tommy’s money to pay him off.

That screamed guilt on Ricky’s part, but it turned out he was involved in some sort of plot with Tommy’s boyfriend.

Phil’s involvement in the scheme made little sense, and I’m still not exactly sure what happened. He said he tried to apologize to Tommy for stealing from him while Ricky ambushed Tommy.

So, was Phil’s apology sincere, or was he in on the plan to punish Tommy? And if it was the latter, why would he be in on a plan to hurt the man he claimed to love?

It seemed more likely that he panicked after Ricky hit Tommy and agreed to let Ricky hide the body, but it also seemed like his involvement was way more serious than that.

Tommy was trying to make it easier for people to come out. You made it harder.

Benson

This whole mess allowed Benson to give one of her best lines, but there had to have been another way to get there.

The confusing ending was a weakness in an otherwise compelling story, though. The twists and turns kept me guessing, and I was thrilled with the pro-gay messaging.

It felt like SVU set out to dismantle several stereotypes with this story, and for the most part, they succeeded.

I love when television features traditionally masculine people who happen to be gay or bi. It was brilliant back in the 1970s when All in the Family did it, and it was equally compelling now.

People often think that gay men are all effeminate, which is simply not true. There’s room for all types of men on the gay spectrum, and there’s o better way to demonstrate that than through television shows featuring men who defy stereotypes.

Bonus points to SVU for avoiding stereotypes about people from the South, too.

It’s so easy to assume that all Southerners are rednecks who hate gay people, and even Rollins fell into that trap despite having grown up there.

Of course, in her case, it was more because she knew the people involved and assumed that because Duke had a reputation for being tough on his son and macho in general, he was anti-gay.

What a pleasant surprise when it turned out that Duke knew his son was gay and no longer cared. Sadly, he was dying, but at least he wanted to make amends.

And as Tommy said, none of this happened because he was gay — it was just a lot of stupidity based on jealousy and greed. So that turned the too-often-used trope of someone beating up a gay man on its head.

The Tommy situation held some interesting parallels to what was going on with McGrath, too.

Like Duke, McGrath is a father with a bad temper who is currently butting heads with his daughter. He’d even had a run-in with local cops, which he managed to use his position to cover up.

A lesser person than Benson would have gloated about this and then used it against McGrath. In fact, Fin wanted her to engage in some blackmail for the good of the department.

But despite McGrath’s general obnoxiousness, Benson wasn’t interested in lording it over him. That was unsurprising since that’s not who she is, but will her decision someday come back to bite her?

McGrath is one of those love-to-hate characters, but this storyline humanized him. He’s a man with an anger problem, and Benson made an attempt to get through to him.

It felt like a rerun of conversations she’s had with Stabler, but it also was the beginning of the ice between her and McGrath thawing.

Benson just needs to be careful. Her tendency to want to save everyone could get her in trouble with an unsaveable McGrath if she’s not careful,

Your turn, SVU fanatics. Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know what you thought of the final episode before the Olympics hiatus.

If you missed the episode, just watch Law & Order: SVU online right here on TV Fanatic.

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9 PM EST/PST. The next new episode will air on February 24, 2022.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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