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"Law & Order" Competence (1994)

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Van Buren Shoots Kid.

8/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
20 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The lieutenant is at an ATM when she's approached by two kids. One demands money and points a gun at her. She wounds him and kills the other with one shot. The problem is that the wounded kid takes off and the dead kid has no gun. What's worse, both kids are African-Americans barely into their teens, and the dead one was severely retarded. He was unable to plan a robbery. McCoy and the rest of the DA's office treat it as another homicide, but it's a tough case for everybody involved.

What's impressive about this episode is that it so clearly demonstrates its lack of political correctness. The wounded kid who fled the scene is located and brought in, and so is his older brother, from whom he bought the pistol. And, wow, do they illustrate a type of street rat that was common in those years. Both the kids are black teen agers, insolent, snotty, burning with resentment towards legitimated authority, and immune to the kind of moral reasoning most of us are familiar with. They bash old ladies over the head to steal their social security or their welfare checks. It's the way things are done.

That takes huevos on the part of the writer and the producer because you're in danger of alienating half your audience. You probably won't alienate the residents of New York City who have had a gun shoved in their face by two young black kids, as I have, but there are bound to be cries of "perpetuating racial stereotypes" and so forth. "Law and Order" could be almost unique in that regard. No other crime show that I'm aware of ever achieved quite the same level of verisimilitude. The lousy, graffiti-covered walls; the wisecracking and often indifferent but fundamentally decent police. No wonder it garnered so much praise.

The performances are unusually good in this episode. A young retarded girl is played by Jacklin Brooke Sanford. She's pretty plain. Her hair isn't well groomed, she has a big nose and freckles, her gaze wanders, and there are gaps between her teeth. But she is nevertheless tres charmant. She smiles in a terribly trusting manner. I have no idea whether the actress suffers from some cognitive deficit or not, but either way --. The two insolent black kids are also plain awesome, thoroughly believable as two of life's losers who remain defiantly bad. It's hard to imagine where the casting people could come up with young people with such skills.

The plot takes a couple of doglegs here and there but it's never distracting. A nice job.

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Van Buren in the hot seat

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
26 January 2015

S. Eptha Merkerssen is the one getting grilled in this Law And Order episode. Lt. Van Buren while with her children is accosted by two young kids, one of them with a gun. Big mistake to hold up a police officer, she shoots one of them.

But this particular kid was slightly retarded and as the younger and more malevolent one Omar Scroggins says, he keeps him around because he looks menacing. I can understand that I had a friend who also was big and hulking and looked intimidating. Once he opened his mouth he spoke like Bullwinkle. But stay silent and you can get away with it.

Scroggins is a real punk, but he learned it from an older brother played by rapper Fredro Starr who's a career criminal. When his parole is threatened he has no hesitation in giving up his little brother and that leads to the his weapon.

Even though the Grand Jury clears Van Buren the DA wants to see some justice as far as the surviving perpetrator. But Scroggins has himself a civil rights attorney in the Alton Maddox/C.Vernon Mason tradition. Google those names if they're unfamiliar to you now. Samuel E. Wright is the attorney and he's trying this in the court of public opinion. Waterston will have to button this one down real tight.

Merkerssen is the dominant cast member, one of her best performances on Law And Order.

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