S. Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston,
Jill Hennessey, Steven Hill
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
lthough “Law & Order” has had its ups and downs in recent years, the series – currently the longest running drama on television – has recaptured its former glory, thanks to a cast which now includes Linus Roache, Jeremy Sisto, and Anthony Anderson. But even having offered that compliment to the show’s 19th season, there’s still nothing quite like watching an old episode of “L&O” from the Lennie Briscoe era.
Season Six of “Law & Order” began with Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) getting a new partner to replace Mike Logan. This time, he was teamed with a family man: Rey Curtis (Benjamin Bratt), a by-the-book kind of guy who often had issues with Briscoe’s occasionally flexible viewpoints on the legality of how to handle certain situations. Otherwise, however, the cast remained the same as from the previous season, with Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) serving as the detectives’ commanding officer, Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessey) acting as Executive and Assistant D.A., respectively, and Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) doing his duty as D.A. by grousing and complaining about every move made by the pair.
As per usual, several episodes come ripped from the headlines, as it were, borrowing certain amounts of their plots from actual criminal cases, including premises resembling those of Patty Hearst, Susan Smith, Divine Brown, and Kitty Genovese. Guest stars aren’t quite as profound in this season as they have been in some years, but “Alias” father and daughter Victor Garber and Jennifer Garner turn up (albeit in different episodes), as do Amanda Peet as the Patty Heart wannabe, Sandy Duncan as a spunky defense attorney, Fisher Stevens as a lawyer with an aura of naiveté who proves wily, and good ol’ Abe Vigoda as a retired detective. The best guests, however, come with the two-part crossover with “Homicide: Life on the Street,” though nothing in those episodes tops the moment when we learn that Briscoe once slept with John Munch’s ex-wife.
The most shocking event of the season comes in the season finale, an episode which is unlike any other in the history of the show up to that point. Instead of focusing strictly on a crime and the subsequent prosecution of the criminal(s), the appropriately-titled “Aftershock” begins with Briscoe, Curtis, McCoy, and Kincaid attending the execution of a criminal that they helped to arrest and convict, then follows the foursome as they deal with the emotional repercussions of what they’ve witnessed. It’s the antithesis of a typical “Law & Order” episode, in that it’s solely about the characters and their personal lives, with Briscoe struggling with the relationship he has with his daughter, Curtis being tempted with an affair, Kincaid discovering that she has issues with capital punishment that have never really reared their head before, and McCoy getting drunk off his ass in a blue-collar bar. In the end, Briscoe falls off the wagon and gets drunk, Kincaid has to drive him home, and the episode concludes with their car being broadsided, leaving Kincaid in very poor shape, indeed.
Did Kincaid survive? We’ll find out in the premiere of Season Six, so let’s hope NBC-Universal finds it in their heart to release that set with less of a delay than there was between Seasons Five and Six. But I won’t lie to you: it’s not looking good for Claire.
Special Features: Despite the claim on the back of the set, you can’t really call the inclusion of an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street” (“For God and Country”) to be a bonus feature, since “L&O” fans would’ve been pissed if they hadn’t included this second part of the aforementioned two-part crossover. Unfortunately, this lone inclusion is the extent of the so-called bonuses for the set, so fans will just have to grin and bear it.