Law & Ordocki Season 3 #3 (#26): Oedipus Sex
One of the things you have to understand is I’m bad at my job. When Margot Kidder passed away, I thought to myself “I should honor her by making fun of the time she played the mother of a serial killer in Law & Order: SVU”. She died in May; it’s now January of the new year. Look, I’m a busy man. I have podcasts to edit, Leprechaun films to watch, Spider-Man costumes to unlock. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to things. It’s worth the wait, though, I think. This is yet another early SVU, although it has the good sense to have Ice-T (in the credits if not the episode) so things aren’t too weird. There’s a certain elegance to the writing that fades away in later seasons as the crimes have to become more and more specialized and absurd, the scenarios more immediately reminiscent of shit you may have read about in the newspaper. For instance, in “Pique” it takes about 2 minutes for them to go from crime scene to autopsy to identification of the body. Call that pre-credits sequence Hernan Perez because it is utility.
Well, would you just look at these…breasts.
A perp rapes and stabs a woman to death from behind. Tones become more sonorous when the autopsy reveals a fetus inside the dead lady. It’s a network show but I would’ve liked a shot of the fetus, maybe a single tear rolling down its cheek for artistic license. Benson does ruefully state that when this goes to trial it’ll be suppressed on the technicality of fetuses not being human beings. Motherfucking liberal justice system! At least she didn’t go into a whole thing about abortion being wrong because as a product of rape she could’ve been aborted and in that horrid alternative universe Stabler would have a different partner who complements his worst traits. (Probably one with a more femme haircut!) The husband is difficult to console; he pounds on the glass, screaming “you should’ve been home!” as he IDs the body. He has a point that if women stayed home they’d only be murdered by their abusive husbands, as is God’s will. He explains she worked as head of personnel at CompuGames. First mistake of the episode: depicting CompuGames as a normal workplace with normal people as opposed to overworked, overtired sex criminals. Has Riot Games taught us nothing?!
No, see, it’s like one of those great CW supershow show meta references. Margot Kidder’s wearing glasses, whereas in the Superman movies Clark Kent wore them. That’s interesting writing!!!
The detectives run down former employees, and a security guard fired for using the security cameras to peep on the ladies fingers another security guard for framing him. This is where Margot Kidder comes in. She portrays Grace Mayberry, mother of prime suspect Jason. They visit the palatial Mayberry residence in Jersey, finding out Jason is rich and doesn’t have to work. That means he wants to be a security guard, and therefore a cop. Benson tracks down his status and finds he failed the psych evaluation so hard that he’s out of contention. “Even psychos know how to pass a psych exam,” Benson contends. “Which is why we figured this guy must be a real secret squirrel” the cop says in response. Critical to his police dreams dying are a letter of recommendation and a rescinding of said letter from none other than victim Veronica Tandy. So she shittalked him to the police, crushed his lifelong dream and he retaliated by raping and murdering her. Sounds simple enough. But you’ve still go to prove it.
“Please, let me photograph your nuclear power stations.”
“Pique” indeed is a momentous occasion of an episode because it marks the first appearance of Dr. George Huang. Much like a lot of initial appearances by beloved characters, he’s not fully formed yet. Instead of the emphatic, soft voiced Huang we’ve come to know and acknowledge, the character has a pencil thin mustache, glasses, and a cold, robotic demeanor that suggests he’s not too far afield from the monsters he fights. It’s like B.D. Wong is doing a Val Kilmer impression the entire episode. It’s weird. Cragen introduces him as a consultant from the FBI and immediately he’s issuing commands on how to conduct the interrogation. Since he hates women, Stabler should do it, and he should try a friendly, sympathetic ear. Huang evinces no warmth or personality in his appearance. I’m thinking that the character came about when Dick Wolf informed the writing staff he wanted Fu Manchu on the show, and George Huang was the compromise when they couldn’t come to terms with the Sax Rohmer people.
These glasses have about as long a life as Fox Mulder’s reading pair.
Anyway, the interrogation is some of Meloni’s finer work as he has to continually keep this guy on his toes and most importantly from deciding he wants a lawyer. He’s not under arrest either, so he can leave at his leisure. First Stabler suggests Jason is on the fast track to becoming an officer; when that doesn’t go anywhere, Huang advises him to up the misogyny. (“Get on his level. The nastier, the better.”) So Stabler storms back in there with complaints about his wife and his bounty of kids that sound indistinguishable from his actual complaints about his wife and his bounty of kids. Jason explains his relationship with Veronica as that of sexual harassment, her harassing him. Goddamnit, Disclosure was right after all! Unfortunately for him, he fucks up and lets loose a few details he shouldn’t know, like that she was pregnant. Even the husband didn’t know she was pregnant, which propelled the investigation into seeing if she was cheating or not. It culminates in an awkward scene in which husband walks into the precinct and demands Benson look at the video camera the late wife ordered for him. He’s making a scene, she just wants him to shut up, emotions are heightened in a naked effort to show THIS! IS! IMPORTANT! I care about the victim to the extent that she’s an innocent woman, I don’t need to know she’s fastidious about camcorder replacement.
Jason’s victimhood comes into question when his locker at his new job is searched and it’s full of photos of Veronica. He also bragged about his girlfriend to all his new co-workers. This gives the cops enough for a search warrant of his apartment; said search yields a few magazines titled Tactical Advantage and Sidearm Quarterly and about forty boxes of condoms. Inside a cabinet in his apartment is a collection of bloody hatpins, each with a date and location. Hence the episode title “Pique”! That’s not all. His closet contains women’s clothing and his laundry hamper has panties in it. Since some of the clothing carries a monogram of “GM”, it only requires remembering Margot Kidder’s name to anticipate the latest twist.
“The untrustworthy Asiatic will be drawn to trinkets such as hairpins, headbands and jewelry. Watch over your possessions when they are in his vicinity.” – page 13 from Dick Wolf’s 1943 college paper “Asians Afflicted With Criminalism: What To Do With Them”.
Dr. Huang is practically orgasming over these revelations. His mood can be described as a mixture of awe and admiration, because he had a piquearist (someone who gets off on stabbing people) under his nose the entire time. In the box, Stabler has basically succeeded in yelling his way to a confession, with Jason having a very show-y breakdown that acknowledges the sexual abuse received from his mother. I guess she fucked him after finding him pleasuring himself. That’s one way to discourage masturbation. “Oh, you want to treat your body like an amusement park, huh? Well, do you have enough dick for the entire class?” This over the top confession is soon thrown out when it becomes apparent the suspect asked for a lawyer and/or to leave multiple times while Stabler continued to interrogate. Without the confession the suspect walks.
“Hey, there’s no jerking it in the interrogation room!”
Cue blow up between the law and the order sides of the show. (Do we ever pin down which is which? I guess the lawyers are order because it’s the second half of the show, but it feels like they should be ‘law’.) In the dispute, Cabot claims the sex crimes trial closure rate is 4%, which may be the realistic percentage for the real world but seems ridiculous on the show where they send a creep to jail or death or death on the courtroom steps almost every week. The problem remains: where’s the murder weapon? Well, you don’t cast Margot Fucking Kidder for nothing, so the guy goes to mom’s house after each of his crimes. They’re able to get a search warrant for Margot Kidder’s place because they find a cop-friendly judge. Everyone looking at the amount of time left in the episode knows the only outcome.
B.D.Wong gets the hilarious line of “the knife represents his penis. It is not disposable,” explaining why there’s a weapon to find in the first place. The assembled police force finds Jason and his mom in bed, mom dead of many stab wounds, the son spooning the corpse. What does he have to say for himself? “I’m not a little boy anymore” EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: DICK WOLF! The solution via sudden murder is a time honored tradition on Dick Wolf shows and this is one of the early ones for SVU.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re finally here. I was going to nod off, actually…”
The major problem with “Pique” lies in how disconnected Margot Kidder’s role is from the actual investigation. You could cut out her scenes and remove Jason’s relationship with his mother and the episode wouldn’t change much; the backbone of the show is Stabler’s interrogation. Those are the most compelling scenes and everything else is rather superfluous. Jason doesn’t even need the backstory trauma of being a motherfucker. He’s got so many things going on already: anger issues he wants to sublimate through being a figure of authority, creates an elaborate fantasy life for himself (this woman who works with him is his girlfriend), hates women. I’d hazard the guess that most misogynists aren’t such because of sexual abuse by their mother. The Margot Kidder material just doesn’t fit. There’s only one reason it’s in the episode.
You see, “Pique” is ripped from the headlines. It’s just that in this case the headlines are old and yellowed. In 1972, Barbara Daly Baekeland was found murdered in her home, stabbed to death by her son. Baekeland was a wealthy heiress who married into a plastics fortune. Whereas the reason the fictional Barbara fucked her son was seemingly proving a point to him about his filthiness, the real one slept with her son Antony because he was gay. To be fair, first she hired female prostitutes to sleep with him. Only when that failed did she resort to doing it herself. He expressed his gratitude by, well, you know. Fun fact: Antony also displayed symptoms of mental illness from a young age but never received treatment because his father didn’t believe in psychiatry. Another fun fact: six days after his release from psychiatric care, Antony stayed with his grandmother….and stabbed her eight times. He suffocated himself with a plastic bag while awaiting trial at Rikers Island. It’s as though he literally had the Michael Myers Cult of Thorn thing going on.
If there’s anything worth watching about this it’s Stabler roleplaying as a sympathetic misogynist. So often his interrogation method consists of screaming and light torture. This also involves screaming, but that’s merely punctuation in a larger, more nuanced performance. He has this whopper: “Women should be lied to, they don’t understand men, they never will.” When the suspect expresses a desire to go home, Stabler repeats in a mocking crying voice. Meloni’s character becomes so caricatured in later years it’s sometimes difficult to remember he’s a great actor capable of worthwhile performances. “Pique” is one of them. This means no one else gets much to do. Benson is sidelined because of Dr. Huang’s interrogation prescription, Munch and Fin don’t even appear, and Cragen and Cabot exist as figures of authority. If Dick Wolf had any direct influence on this episode, it was to showcase the slippy nature of the Oriental and how we shouldn’t necessarily trust them despite their professional standing. Wolf seems like the kind of guy who’d bring up Pearl Harbor within 60 seconds of beginning a conversation with B.D. Wong. “But he’s not that kind of Asian,” you say. Dick Wolf has a response for that: “there’s no good kind of Asian”. Like half of that FBI show he created is about the Chinese’s lust for our secrets, our debt and our women.
50 Shades of Pale
If you’d like to know more about mother-son incest go to literally any pornographic website. Otherwise, check out the movie Savage Grace, about the real life inspiration for the case. The proverbial headlines Dick Wolf ripped. It’s got Julianne Moore as the mother, Eddie Redmayne as the son and Hugh Dancy as the lover to both whose real life counterpart initiated legal action against the film that resolved with the man’s death. Samuel Adams Green disputed that he participated in a mother/son threeway and cast doubt on the incestuous relationship altogether. Obviously he had to die for running his mouth off like that. Nobody contradicts a Dick Wolf headline ripping and gets away with it.