Thursday, May 09, 2024

Law & Order: No Good Dead (#500)

Thank goodness the collective Law & Order franchise has so many episodes. Otherwise, the Sundance Channel and MyTV might have to start producing their own programming. Of course, the franchise has far more than 500 altogether. This is just the mother ship’s half-millennial milestone. It also happens to be its most realistic, ripped-from-the-headlines case in quite a while. Only five days after his release from a paltry 5-year prison sentence, a violent sex-offender stands accused of murder in “No Good Deed,” the 500th episode of Law & Order, which premieres tonight on NBC.

Jack McCoy is gone, but certainly not forgotten. Nicholas Baxter, the new District Atorney, faces a hotly contested “re-election” campaign, so he is eager to convict Shawn Payne for the brutal murder and desecration of his social worker, Angela Hart. Although Dets. Riley and Shaw gave a look to her hot-tempered boyfriend, they quickly zeroed-in on Payne.

Given the brutality of the case and the intense media attention, Baxter wants a decisive conviction. Frankly, he is a little baffled why his inherited passive aggressive Executive ADA Nolan Price agreed to such a lenient plea-bargain. Of course, as far as Price is concerned, it was a miracle they prosecuted him at all (he must have served under Bragg too). He also claims he wanted to spare his surviving victim the further trauma of a trial. Yet, there is no denying the new murder victim.

Frankly, #500 is exactly the kind of episode the mature franchise needs more of. Take it from a New York city resident (for over two decades), “No Good Deed” definitely reflects the current state of the City. It vividly illustrates the dangers of plea-bargaining and early parole. Plus, Sam McMurray oozes sleaze as politically ambitious, leftwing Judge Steve Nelson, while Michael Hyatt inspires contempt as manipulative defense attorney Vanessa Carter. They will remind you why you always hated lawyers and politicians.

“No Good Deed” is also a good showcase for new cast-member Tony Goldwyn, as he develops Baxter’s character. This episode shows his shrewdness, but also a passion for justice that the smug Price never acknowledged, before now. A DA taking first chair on a case like this is still rather far-fetched, but this is TV, so drama should ensue.

Appropriately, #500 is one of the better
Law & Order episodes. Frankly, it might be one of the best in a long time. Highly recommended, “No Good Deed” airs tonight (5/9) on NBC and streams the next day on Peacock.