Law & Order: Special Victims Unit started Season 22 with an episode packed with references to the real-world situations that unfolded over the summer. "Guardians and Gladiators" looked at systemic racism and the rising tension between the police and civilians. Deputy Chief Christian Garland, played by new series regular Demore Barnes, made sure Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), Fin (Ice-T), and the rest of the SVU team understood how the world has changed.
The SVU team investigated an assault in Central Park, but it was much more than that. They came to the scene of the crime because a white woman called police because a Black man, Jayvon Brown (Blake Anthony Morris), was in the area and she claimed she feared for her son's life. Benson and her team arrived at the scene with Brown already in cuffs before noticing a man on the ground who was assaulted. The team later cleared Brown of that crime, but he still filed a lawsuit against the police, naming Benson and Fin.
Garland told Benson and Fin that "business as usual will not work" in this country after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Benson just nodded, assuming this was just strong words. But Garland stayed steadfast, telling Benson Brown's arrest will be investigated and the commissioner's office will start by investigating Benson. He later spoke with Fin outside the precinct to tell him that things are really going to change in the NYPD this time. He also reminded Fin that he is now named in two lawsuits, referencing the shooting he was involved in during the Season 21 finale. Garland made it clear that people will be going down, and Fin later told Benson she needs to watch her back.
While the rest of the team investigates the assault, Benson had to meet with an Internal Affairs investigator. The interview was eye-opening for Benson, who believed she was not racist. The IAB investigator, Captain Curry, revealed that Benson once used "stop and frisk" on Jayvon in 2013. She also reminded Benson that she never did run a background check on the white woman who called on him, and she would have learned that the woman had a history of making false calls and had a restraining order out against her.prevnext
Benson admitted this was a mistake. Curry asked why that was, but Benson insisted she was not biased. Curry explained that she has interviewed two kids of officers since George Floyd's death - the overtly racist gladiators and the "well-intentioned" guardians who are in "denial about their complicity in the systemic racism in the NYPD." Benson fits into the second category, according to Curry. The investigator said the only way police could get the trust back of the public is if every officer does a "self-inventory" of their own bias.prevnext
Afterward, Benson told Barnes she thinks she understands what her mistake was. She has been so focused on the victims that her own bias "didn't even occur to me. How much did that bias affect my choices? Affect my decisions as a cop? I'm reeling." "We all are," an exhausted Barnes said. He said he was more worried that the commissioner's office will try to make a big move in response to the changing relationship between the public and the police.prevnext
THIS #SVU EPISODE IS EXACTLY WHAT IS NEEDED— allison (@allis0nn_) November 13, 2020
This lack of trust between the police and the public became even more clear during the grand jury, when the jurors kept bringing up Fin's history and Brown's arrest in questioning. Carisi (Peter Scanavino) was frustrated with Fin's responses. To make everything worse, the defendant Murphy (Peter Hargrave) chose to testify to the grand jury, believing Carisi would not even be able to indict him. Murphy claimed he was actually coerced by police into confessing to the crime and told the grand jury point blank he wasn't lying, but the cops were.prevnext
The grand jury chose not to indict Murphy. Rollins (Kelli Giddish) tried to tell Carisi it was not over. He agreed, because there was one more step - they had to tell the victim's family no one was going to be charged in his assault.prevnext
Liv has work to do.November 13, 2020
The victim's family blamed the police, noting that Brown's arrest was the reason Murphy walked. At the end of the episode, Benson had a difficult discussion with Noah, who asked her if she was racist. She was frank, explaining everything that happened, including that she faces a lawsuit. Noah wondered why she couldn't apologize to Brown in person, this inspired Benson to meet with Brown. She told him the white woman who called on him earlier could face charges. He reminded her that nothing good is going to come from it. He lost his job and his life is under scrutiny now. "I have a lot of work to do," she said. "Yeah, you do," Brown told her as the episode ended. SVU airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.prev