If there’s one thing Olivia Benson loves to do, it’s knock powerful predators off their pedestals.
On Law & Order: SVU Season 24 Episode 7, her team had a chance to do that after a soccer star raped a bunch of women, including a teenage girl.
SVU tells these types of stories a lot, but they never get old.
Sexual assault isn’t about sex — it’s about the perpetrator dominating and humiliating the victim. So all of SVU’s cases are about power dynamics in one sense or another.
And when the perp has so much money and power he thinks he’s untouchable, that takes the case to another level.
In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion in our society about whether rich people — especially rich white men — are treated as if they are above the law. SVU often rips stories from the headlines and explores this point.
Unlike in real life, Olivia Benson almost always wins in the end. The bad guys are arrested and sent to jail no matter how much money they have. It’s a fantasy that helps keep people going when they feel powerless against powerful predators in real life.
Benson: You did the right thing coming forward.
Nellie: You don’t understand. I cannot go forward with this case or he will sue me for custody of his son.
Paolo wasn’t white, but he was a rich, entitled man who believed he was untouchable. Bringing him down was going to be difficult for a lot of reasons.
While SVU did a great job of showing how he threw money around to silence his victims and intimidate anyone who got in his way, they left one thing out: the court of public opinion.
Paolo was a well-known soccer player who had millions of fans. He leveraged that, going on podcasts and pre-emptively claiming that a hypothetical version of Nellie was an opportunist who cried rape because he had deep pockets.
Oddly, fan reaction wasn’t a big part of this storyline. Velasco was a superfan, but he dropped his admiration of Paolo as soon as he found out what he’d done, and no other fans came forward to defend their hero.
While Paolo had a reputation for being selfish and ruthless, that wouldn’t dissuade fans from supporting him. Ana couldn’t have been the only one, teenage or otherwise, with stars in their eyes when it came to him.
The only other weakness in this story was that McGrath’s opposition to the investigation fizzled out.
He was worried about Paolo suing and quietly told Benson to stop confronting him, which she ignored. After that, he disappeared, and the SVU team went on with getting the dirt they needed to nail Paolo.
He didn’t resurface after Antonio’s wife told the cops to stop harassing her family. They didn’t listen to that either, and Muncy posed as a fan to get info out of Ana, then the cops spilled the beans to Antonio. Where was McGrath and his fear of getting sued?’
The story didn’t need his interference, but why have him hamstring the investigation only to disappear when Benson decided to ignore him?
This was a minor weakness in an otherwise strong story.
Every time they looked into Paolo’s behavior, the cops discovered he was worse than he thought. He truly believed he was untouchable and could treat women however he wanted.
Ana thought she and Paolo were in love and didn’t understand why her mother and the police interfered with their relationship.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often. As Valesco pointed out, Anna has known Paolo all her life. He was a family friend, so it didn’t seem strange to her that he took an interest in her.
At sixteen, she was too young to consent but too old for him to come across as a creepy pedophile. In her mind, the consent law was ridiculous and an impediment to her “true love.”
As Benson said, that family will need a lot of therapy. Ana is angry and confused, and everyone is keeping secrets from one another. What a mess!
Using Antonio got the cops what they needed to arrest Paolo, but it could have quickly become a disaster. Antonio was furious at what Paolo had done to his daughter; everyone was lucky that he didn’t hurt anyone when he grabbed that gun from Paolo’s closet.
Paolo didn’t understand why the cops were there when they showed up after the gun went off. You’d think he’d be grateful that at least they were trying to stop Antonio from shooting him!
His comment that he was getting arrested when Antonio was the one shooting a gun recklessly made me laugh. Of course, he didn’t know that Antonio was about to get arrested too.
Valesco had little reaction to his one-time hero turning out to be a predator. But what’s up with him and Muncy?
Their banter might have been typical of cop partners, but I detected a flirtatious undertone.
With Rollins leaving, Carisi’s relationship with her will be in limbo soon. So it makes sense that SVU would develop another cop relationship instead.
But these characters are both too new, and viewers may balk at Rollins’ replacement getting a romantic storyline before Rollins even leaves the show.
We want to hear your opinions, SVU fanatics! What did you think of Benson’s mission to bring Paolo down and Muncy and Valesco’s relationship?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.
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Law & Order: SVU airs on Thursdays at 9 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.