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Law & Order: Organized Crime - What Happens in Puglia - Review

  Law & Order: Organized Crime theoretically began with “What Happens in Puglia” directed by Fred Berner with the story by Dick Wolf, Ilene Chaiken and Matt Olmstead and the teleplay by showrunner Chaiken. I tuned in as a fan of Christopher Meloni (Elliot Stabler). Color me stupid for assuming that the series began here with episode one. If you, like me, tuned in and suddenly realized you were in medias res, I’m betting you were pissed off too. This is one of the reasons that I stopped watching the Law & Order franchises – the stupid crossover stories. So. Yeah. Apparently, this story started on Special Victims Unit – a show I stopped watching when Meloni left.

Here’s what I do know. Stabler is back in New York – presumably came back for some award that Benson (Mariska Hargitay) was getting? He’d been hiding out in Italy, working as a cop, and while in New York, Stabler’s wife is killed. He’s been trying to track down a crime syndicate that is selling black market PPE and hooks up with an elite organized crime unit in New York. 

Stabler makes a bad first impression on Ayanna Bell (Danielle Mone Truitt) when he shows up and tries to get information out of two guys about to go to trial on her case. She ends up being appointed to head the task force to look into the crime syndicate, and Stabler manages to wheedle his way on to it. His quick trigger finger is still haunting him. Truitt is solid, and I love her casting as his boss. Daniel Orseskes plays the head of the entire unit and is, frankly, terrible. 

It was fun to have Chazz Palminteri guest star as mob boss Manfredi Sinatra, who also happens to be a racist. Unfortunately, he’s also a bully and his son, Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott) kills him by the end of the episode. It turns out that Richard changed his last name to that of his first wife – Angela Wheatley (Tamara Taylor), who also happens to be Black – as is his second wife Dana (Christina Marie Karis). Angela is a professor – of chemistry? – and seems at least as smart as her ex. McDermott will likely be around as the big bad for most of the season. It turns out that he hated his father but is brilliant and started an online pharmaceutical company at an early age which he uses to sell illegal drugs – and apparently PPE. 

We briefly meet Jet Sloomaeker (Ainsley Seiger) who is likely going to be the quirky tech/hacker of the group. No doubt the team will continue to fill out in the next few episodes. 

I thought this first episode moved along at a good pace. McDermott is quite good and so is Taylor. However, it doesn’t feel like a traditional Law & Order – but then, they moved away from the ½ investigation, ½ litigation format a long time ago. This is definitely going to be a continuous storyline, not episodic. I’m not gonna lie though, if they start jumping back and forth to SVU, I’m out. I was also annoyed that they were clearly operating during the pandemic, but kept having people take off their masks and stand close to other people talking. Either you are going to mirror actual public safety measure or you aren’t. The show has had production shut down twice due to positive covid tests, and it’s not really a surprise. 

What about you? Do you watch SVU? Did you like the return of Stabler and are you eager to see more Organized Crime? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 




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