Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13 Review: If

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    Decades-old rape cases are hard to prove.

    The statute of limitations has often expired, witnesses no longer remember what happened, and juries wonder why the victim didn’t come forward before.

    The ease with which Carisi got an indictment on Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13 might not have been realistic, but it was a riveting hour of television anyway.

    Asking For Help / Tall - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13

    This story worked because it was about Benson doing what Benson does best: using her painful past experiences to help similar victims become survivors.

    She spent as much time encouraging Michelle to explore the truth as she did directing the investigation into the rape. Without her willingness to be vulnerable, Michelle wouldn’t have even cooperated with the investigation.

    And in the end, it all worked out. Michelle had the opportunity to confront her rapist so that she could move on with her life, and Ashley felt justice had been served.

    Again, it rarely happens this way in real life. But this was one of those times where SVU gave survivors the world we wish existed where people get closure and rapists are held accountable even years after the fact.

    Leading the Search - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13

    Michelle even got to rekindle the flame with a man who had liked her and been good to her on that same horrible night that she was raped. How awesome was that?

    Ashley’s assumption that Josh was her father and that there was no rape was one of the most heartbreaking moments of the hour. It wasn’t likely that was going to turn out to be the case, so Ashley was setting herself up for a fall.

    She took it well, though, encouraging Michelle to continue a relationship with Josh anyway.

    Although it made sense that the DNA was too dissimilar for it to be Zach either, I was surprised he wasn’t involved.

    The Search for Birth Parents - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13

    Ashley and Josh both thought they looked alike and had similar interests, so that seemed to point to Josh’s brother being the rapist. Plus, Zach was less than forthcoming about who was at that party.

    Maybe he was trying to protect his younger brother, but it seemed suspicious.

    Cole: Look, I know this is being recorded, so I’ll just say that I didn’t do anything you didn’t want. Now I have more money than time. Tell me how much you want and I’ll wire it to you.
    Michelle: You think you can just leave money on the dresser and that’ll make this all right?
    Cole: You know what, you missed your opportunity. Story of your life.

    However, Cole certainly was smug, arrogant, and convinced he was God’s gift to women. His arrest was extra satisfying because it knocked him off that pedestal he put himself on.

    Going Public - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13

    In some ways, he was the stereotypical wealthy, entitled man who thinks his money gives him license to treat women however he wants. He never thought about how his behavior affected Michelle and the boys, who were generous enough to let him stay at their house.

    Zach was supposed to be his best friend, and he raped a 15-year-old in Zach’s parents’ bed, for goodness sake! And Zach and Josh ended up being suspects when the rape finally came to light.

    Talk about self-centered. Ugh.

    I was glad, too, that SVU again reinforced the message that having sex with someone who is too drunk or high to consent is rape. Too often, television frames these kinds of encounters as consensual, and in real life, survivors may question whether it was really rape when they are in this situation.

    A Personal Case - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13

    So it’s important to keep sending the message that these types of drunken encounters are not okay, and SVU again did an admirable job.

    Benson: I remember that night. My mom, Serena, was drunk and angry and lashed out at me. I was 13. She looked at me and she said she wished she never had me because of the rape.
    Rollins: I’m so sorry. Did you ever wish she hadn’t told you?
    Benson: At the time. But it’s informed my whole life.

    Benson’s reactions were at least as interesting as the case, if not more so.

    Over the years, she’s struggled a lot with knowing that she’s the product of rape. She’s seen her mother succumb to alcoholism, questioned whether she was sublimating dark impulses by investigating rapes, and dealt with the loss of her wayward half-brother.

    A Missing Birth Mother - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13

    She could easily have allowed her own pain to cloud her judgment when it came to Michelle’s case. It’s a testimony to all the therapy she’s been through that she was able to be reasonably objective.

    Rollins’ question about whether Benson wished she didn’t know was strange. I’d have liked to have heard more of that conversation.

    Benson would have had to learn eventually. If her mother hadn’t told her, she’d likely have wanted to search for her birth father so that she could get answers about where she came from and why her father wasn’t part of her life.

    But she probably could have done without her mother telling her in such a painful, abusive manner, even if Serena’s alcohol-fueled admission was due to her difficulty dealing with her trauma.

    Searching For Answers - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 13

    As for Rollins, her general worldview seemed to be to keep painful info to herself, even if it affected her kids.

    As Carisi said, that was a coping mechanism thanks to Rollins’ dysfunctional family. But I was glad that he insisted that Rollins make their relationship known, at least to her children.

    It’s not like he’s going anywhere any time soon, and if the girls are asking questions about who he is to them, that’s a sign that it’s time to talk to them about it.

    Also, Billie is curious about who her father is, which is an interesting parallel to Benson and Ashley’s situations that was not explored. I wonder if this’ll come up again later.

    Benson and Rollins - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 12

    Anyway, Carisi’s impassioned plea for them to stop living a lie reminded me of the way some gay people don’t want to keep their partners secret anymore.

    The circumstances were completely different, of course, and for Rollins, the consequences of going public were mostly in her head.

    But still, the general principle was the same. Secrets and lies put extra stress on a relationship, and since Carisi seems to be close with his family, keeping his dating status to himself was going to be a problem too.

    Now that it’s out in the open, will we soon get to meet Carisi’s family at one of those Sunday dinners? I won’t be able to resist comparing it to Blue Bloods if we do, but I’m hoping to meet the Carisi family soon!

    Your turn, SVU fanatics! Hit that big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts.

    Missed the episode? No problem. Just watch Law & Order: SVU online right here on TV Fanatic.

    Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 10 PM EST/PST.

    Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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