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"Law & Order" Encore (1996)

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice -- umm.

7/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
18 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Up to the usual series standards, this is the story of a man who kills his first wife for insurance money, gets away with it, then kills his second wife a year later and is convicted by the canny folks at the DA's office. What tips the scales this time around is that McCoy gets the man's exploited girl friend to turn around.

It must be tempting to kill your spouse for the insurance. After all, a million dollars will pay off a lot of debts and keep your kneecaps intact. It's just human nature. But then, as Rose says in "The African Queen," "Nature, Mister Allnut, is what we were put on earth to rise above." If anything makes this episode outstanding it's the performance of the balding, pock-faced, steely-eyed Larry Davis as the wife murderer. His character is so slimy, so sarcastic, that he carries a faint sour odor with him whenever he appears. He's one of the few characters in the series who could clear a room without using a gun. He has a snotty remark for everyone, including the cops who, in my experience, would rearrange his features given half the insults he throws at them. It's a great performance, but Davis's appearance limits the kinds of roles he's suited for. The young woman he's manipulating does a fine job as well.

A weak point in the plot is when McCoy brings the two of them together and exposes Davis's supposed affection for her as a sham. The script has him give up the ruse too easily. When she stares at him tearfully, he shrugs and says bitterly, "Women!" A good con man -- and he IS that -- would never give up so easily. It's the equivalent of the witness breaking down on the stand and sobbing, "Okay, I did it, I did it, but I didn't mean to kill him!" That is, it's cliché.

But it doesn't detract from the overall quality of what is otherwise a fine episode in an unusually good television series.

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