Law and order: SVU "Info Wars" (S19E12)

***spoilers ahead***

Last night’s SVU was hard to watch. It was tough in an unusual way for this show, generally, I’d say that about an episode which showed a lot of violence, or dealt with children. This was all about politics, and the increasing invasion of extreme points of view into everyday life.

We’re introduced to Martha Cobb (an obvious Ann Coulter or Tami Laren stand-in) a conservative media figure who generates publicity by giving extremely charged speeches. In this case, she’s speaking at Hudson U (the most crime-ridden campus ever LOL) about the desire for the left to pull down statues and, as she puts it, “endanger free speech.” This rally is attended by 2 groups – one there to listen to her speak, one there to protest her speech. The rally degenerates into violence, with the two sides clashing together and Martha making an exit to the back. After the police clear away the fighting protesters, they find Martha in a back alley, passed out and injured.

Our detectives arrive on scene to meet Martha (my biggest issue here is how had the ambulance not already taken her away – in NY traffic they’re able to get there first?) Martha is very out of it, she’s taken a blow to the head and seems to be in and out of consciousness. The creators of the show wanted us to hate her – the push/pull of wanting justice for someone you despise – wanting to convict someone you hate – is a theme throughout the show. We see a glimpse of this right off the bat as she’s making weirdly distrusting glances and comments to Benson.

Martha is very resistant to help – she wants justice but seems suspicious of Benson and her team right from the start. There are a lot of comments like “Do you people ever stop with the empathy?” and snide remarks about the left. I was frankly surprised and not super keen on Benson’s attitude towards Martha for much of this episode. She may have despicable politics – but for Benson to so actively distrust this woman at every turn was strange. She’s usually the “believe the victim at all times” go-to. I think it proves again the idea that we can let our preconceptions color our responses in everyday situations.

Martha identifies (with some hesitation) a protester who was involved with ANTIFA. This guy is reprehensible from the start. He mouths off to the Detectives, claims that by starting a fight with the right wingers he was protecting people (not sound logic) and then actually exclaims “cool” when told of Martha’s rape. Disgusting. And I’m glad that the writers decided to show that there are terrible people involved no matter what side of the aisle you land on.

The ANTIFA guy’s lawyer makes this case political from the get-go – claiming that Martha only ID’d him because of his political affiliation. Which is hypocrisy at best if this guy wants to defend far people on the left – women don’t fake getting raped or ID people for fun.

Benson is still doubtful of Martha, hung up on her hesitation during the lineup to ID her assailant and Barba encourages her to dig deeper into the case. Through tracking down the rally supporters (wearing super subtle MAGA hats) she’s able to locate a far-right blogger who may play into the case. This guy – Randy – is the worst of the worst, the video blog they play literally made me feel sick. He is initially happy to be interviewed, making a comment about loving to help the police, but after being questioned decides that this police force is a “stinking cesspool.” My absolute favorite moment of the episode, the one that made me quite literally laugh out loud, was during his interview. Carisi is asking about the right-wing group that Randy is involved with – Randy corrects him. “I founded the group, I’m the Grand Wizard.” Carisi’s response, “Grand Wizard, that’s some kind of Harry Potter thing right?” was amazing!

We all want Randy to be the guilty one, especially after he literally points out to the jury who he thinks should be deported (every PoC and one guy he’s “not sure if you’re Jewish or gay but would need to be investigated). But there is truly no evidence of this, although his responses would clearly make the jury hate him. Then after some pushing from Benson, Martha admits that although she believes ANTIFA guy is the one who raped her, she actually isn’t clear of anything after she got hit on the head. At this point Barba has to make a choice – continue with a trial that he knows is casting all kinds of political aspersions into the actual decision, or dismiss the case. He makes the nearly impossible decision to dismiss the case.

I love how much we’re seeing this season of Barba really torn up about doing the legally correct thing, and the just thing. I have a feeling that’s going to get him in trouble though. Previews for next episode have Jack McCoy (yay!) back to reprimand him over some case. And we are getting the introduction of Peter Stone (played by Philip Winchester) who is being brought over from the canceled Chicago Justice to be Barba’s new boss. I’m seriously stoked about this, Philip Winchester is phenomenal and I can’t wait to see him on screen with Raul Esparza!