Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 3 Was Strong But Didn’t Confront Benson’s Biases

Spoilers

Benson might have had to confront her biases… but she wasn’t there.

On Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 3, Benson’s obsession with the Maddie Flynn case dragged her out of the squad room right after learning that an escort was a second victim, not a rapist.

While the series missed an opportunity to confront implicit biases about rape survivors and perpetrators, Ray Goldberg’s story was one of the most moving survivor stories they’ve had in a while.

SVU has always been about supporting survivors, and Benson has been more like a social worker than a cop since the beginning. Neither of those facts changed during this case.

Her empathy for the Flynns and guilt over not rescuing Maddie before it was too late interfered with her focusing on the case in front of her. But maybe that was the point: she’s unable to shake the sense of responsibility in Maddie’s case so that she can do her job effectively.

This puts a fresh twist on Benson’s 25 years of going above and beyond the call of duty to support survivors. She’s gotten herself into trouble doing too much for the victims she works with before, but that was when she was young and overly idealistic.

This time, it’s unhealthy, which allows her to have a moving mental health storyline that’ll continue all season long.

I was glad she went to therapy at the end. I’m unsure if it was with Dr. Irwin or a new therapist. Still, either way, this development normalizes therapy for cops and others who face vicarious trauma and is a step forward in her attempt to move past Maddie’s kidnapping.

I still would have liked more of her reaction to Dr. Goldberg’s case, though. Although Benson understands that men can be raped, too, it might have been more challenging for her to empathize with a male victim, and I would have liked for her to try.

Naturally, she assumed Tess was a victim from the beginning. Tess came to the police station to report a rape and was in tears — there was no reason for anyone to assume she did anything wrong.

Tess: I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t feel right about it. But then one of the guys, he put a gun to the back of my head… and I did what they told me to.
Benson: Tess, you didn’t rape anyone. You were raped.

But she was also quick to say that Tess couldn’t have raped anyone because of her small size. Ultimately, that was accurate, but she didn’t know that.

Ray’s rape was drug-facilitated, though it wasn’t entirely clear how that happened.

It seemed like he ended up smoking crack with the two weirdos he met, but he remembered nothing. Yet no one questioned whether he had been roofied — they only questioned whether he was telling the truth about not remembering.

That subtle difference demonstrated that male survivors are treated differently than female survivors in some ways. It would have been even more potent if Benson had interjected her opinion into this case instead of just giving her patented Olivia Benson supportive speeches.

Nevertheless, this was still a moving story — both because of how the case was handled and because of Benson’s PTSD-related obsession with Maddie’s case.

Ray’s reluctance to admit he was raped, his marital difficulties afterward, and his self-blame were sprinkled throughout the hour, giving viewers just enough of a glimpse into his life to understand how the rape affected him.

Ray: It would have been so easy to follow the list my wife gave me, instead of screwing up my life.
Fin: You were victimized. I know what happened to you wasn’t easy to deal with.
Ray: I didn’t want to see the lights of the city. I wanted to be one of them, at least for one night.

He went to the club because he was bred with his life. It wasn’t a great decision, but that didn’t mean he deserved to be sexually assaulted.

We didn’t need quite as much of his pre-rape story — the cold open went on for too long — but his explanation afterward of why he did what he did and his excitement over getting to be part of the sting operation were effective.

Sadly, though, the reason he came forward mainly was for Tess. He didn’t want her to get in trouble for what had been done to them, and his decision that he wanted justice for himself, too, seemed like an afterthought.

The scene between him and his wife at the club was strange. I didn’t understand why Fin kept telling Velasco to hang back rather than divert Denise’s attention, and those two perps should have been suspicious after the interaction with her.

At least he didn’t end up dealing with a breakup for the sake of drama. Denise seemed turned on by her husband working undercover with the cops!

Well, they’re idiots, but at least they’re consistent.

Carisi

Carisi was right when he pegged those two guys as idiots. They thought that it was okay to threaten Tess with a starter pistol because it wasn’t a real gun and that they were doing Ray a favor by forcing a stranger to have sex with him.

This is one of the areas where SVU still has some work to do. It’s important to demonstrate how US culture contributes to some men feeling entitled to sex by any means necessary. Still, when the perps are such caricatures of such men that it’s unbelievable, that’s a problem.

Meanwhile, Benson put on her social worker hat again to care for Eileen Flynn.

Maybe telling Eileen to take care of herself first woke Benson up to the need to follow her own advice. Still, did anyone else think Benson would find a clue in Maddie’s room?

Going in there underscored her guilt and grief over Maddie’s disappearance, but it would have been great if she’d found something that could move that story along.

Instead, she’s caught up in the hamster wheel of emotion about this. Maybe that’s why she stared at that ballerina going around in circles when she was in Maddie’s room.

She’s finally getting help for her obsession, and that’s good. But it wasn’t lost on me that she touched the compass Elliot Stabler gave her while waiting for her therapist.

Benson and Stabler’s paths should cross while solving this case. Stabler’s busy going after fentanyl dealers, and this George guy gives his victims the same drug.

Could Benson’s fidgeting have been foreshadowing? Or did it simply demonstrate that she felt lost?

Your turn, Law & Order: SVU fanaticas. Hit the big blue SHOW COMMENTS button and tell us what you think of this story.

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9/8c.

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

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