Law & Order: SVU Season 24 Episode 11 Review: Soldier Up

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No one has a bigger heart than Olivia Benson.

She’s come a long way since her first day as an SVU detective when she had to learn that she can’t “pick the vic.” Nowadays, she cares about every victim, no matter their background.

On Law & Order: SVU Season 24 Episode 11, she even managed to care about the kid who was forced to try to kill her to stop the gang from raping his mom. Duarte and Carisi thought she was going way too far, but was she?

This case highlighted the complexity of dealing with the gang problem. BX9 targeted kids who had escaped Central America, and if they weren’t grateful enough for their new “family” to join up, the gang used rape to force the issue.

This was a horrible situation that frightened teenagers had no idea how to deal with. Benson rightly understood that despite his violence toward her, Albert was a victim and, as usual, was unwilling to allow other cops to retraumatize him in the name of justice.

The story left me with the burning question that nobody asked: how on Earth could anyone break up this gang when they had this type of power over vulnerable kids?

Arresting Papa is a start, but BX9 isn’t going to go away because its leader is in jail. Someone else will take his place, and that person might continue using rape to force kids into the gang.

There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. Papa wasn’t wrong when he said that the dysfunction at the Bronx SVU contributed to the situation, so correcting that will hopefully help.

Immigration reform is probably also part of the solution, even though that wasn’t mentioned. Many of these kids were probably undocumented, which gave the gang additional power because the kids lived in fear of deportation.

The Bronx SVU reform piece was primarily off-screen. Fin was supposed to vet new detectives in Benson’s absence, but we weren’t privy to any of that.

While we didn’t need scene after scene of Fin interviewing people, a genuine subplot involving this would have been compelling. Why mention it only for new detectives to magically appear at the end of the hour?

It also seemed odd that nobody asked the Organized Crime Unit for help with this one. That appears to be coming now that Papa is in jail, but it should have happened earlier.

The Organized Crime Unit’s mission is to bring down leaders of gangs and mobs. Oscar Papa was precisely the kind of person that unit has expertise in beating at his own game.

Instead, Duarte wanted to do things his way because he heads the gang unit.

Duarte’s stubborn resistance to seeing the rapes as important provided drama, and it was logical the gang unit would be involved with a gang case. Still, Stabler’s department could and should have lent expertise to the search for Papa.

It also would have made sense for Stabler to jump in when he learned the gang went after Benson.

That will still happen in the third part of this trilogy of episodes on January 26. Better late than never, but still.

This case didn’t feel like an SVU case. Tying a gang leader to a large number of rapes is what Benson does, yet this didn’t feel like what she was doing.

Benson wanted to protect the kids who were being forced into BX9 and get justice for rape victims, but this was a gang case despite her insistence that they do things her way.

Papa’s meeting with Benson and Duarte was one of the more bizarre elements of this story. What did he hope to gain by calling them to a restaurant and claiming he didn’t condone rape?

There were no veiled threats in what he said unless you count his stupid comment about Benson needing ice for her eye. He more or less was daring the cops to tie him to the rapes.

All he accomplished was making Benson more determined to get him. Was he acting out of pure ego, or was there a point to him tricking them into meeting him at the restaurant?

Benson knew anyone who testified against BX9 had a target on their back; she should have been more worried about Albert’s safety once he turned on “Maestro.” (As an aside, Benson has always been fluent in several languages, including Spanish, so why was she suddenly unfamiliar with a basic Spanish word?)

I was sure he would be killed before they could get back to work on the case. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but why was Benson so insistent on waiting until tomorrow to get his testimony when she knew what the risks were?

It felt like there were too many contradictions of previous history in this story, which contributed to my sense that it didn’t belong on SVU.

What did you think, SVU fanatics? Was I the only one who felt this story was out of place?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know! And don’t forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online.

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9 PM EST / PST. The next new episode airs on January 26, 2023.

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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