Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 12 Review: Solid Police Work and a Tragic Case, But Something Was Missing


Did Benson do the right thing?

On Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 12, she wanted to get closure and justice for Sykes and other families of children who went missing in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sykes hated her for it, and finding Crystal’s body after all these years broke her heart. Still, Benson’s work allowed the families to get answers, which can be an important part of healing.

Shannah Sykes is No Amanda Rollins

Maybe it was because Rollins was fresh in my mind after Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 11, but it felt like the SVU writers were trying too hard to make Sykes into Rollins 2.0.

Like Rollins, Sykes has a troubled past and deals with her demons through addictive behavior.

When Benson confronted her about her three-day bender, it reminded me of once when Rollins was gambling and trying to pretend the reason she was late to work was that she had a problem with her dog.

Yet Rollins was likable despite her demons[ and was easy to root for. Sykes didn’t spark those kinds of feelings or anything at all. Sure, it’s sad her sister was kidnapped and likely murdered, but empathy for her situation didn’t translate into rooting for her to overcome her pain.

Part of the problem is NBC’s decision to rotate characters to save money. Sykes hasn’t been on much, and it’s hard to fall in love with a character who pops up with a drinking problem months after her initial appearance.

Still, Sykes’ anger and pain weren’t enough to make her a rootable character. She didn’t seem to have much more to her character than that.

She’s not out in the field solving cases because she’s fueled by her sister’s disappearance to seek justice for other victims, at least not right now. Instead, she came across as having a victim mentality, and she wasn’t interested in making the transition from victim to survivor.

Rollins, for all her problems, rarely threw a pity party. She was confused and frustrated by her negative behavior and wanted to do better, but she wasn’t drowning in self-pity even when she fell into addictive patterns.

That made her a fan favorite, and Sykes is missing that.

What Did Benson’s Behavior Have to Do With Her Traumas?

Sykes’ only contribution to the cold cases was to accuse Benson of searching for Crystal because of William Lewis and Johnny D. Um, what?

Benson’s encounter with William Lewis triggered her first bout of PTSD, so it’s plausible that experience made her even more determined to help survivors, but what did Johnny D have to do with anything?

He was a rapist and trafficker that killed Noah’s birth mother and is now dead. How does that relate to Benson wanting Sykes to have closure or searching for Crystal without Sykes’ permission?

Sykes acted like Benson searching for Crystal or her killer was a personal affront.

It’s true that Benson didn’t have much justification for investigating these cold cases, but she didn’t need the permission of Sykes or any other victim to try to catch their loved one’s killer. That’s kind of… her job.

Velasco: Why is Benson so obsessed with this case?
Bruno: You know Benson, she’s all about bringing closure to the families.
Velasco: Yes, but why this case? This is a little above and beyond, don’t you think?

Benson has been getting too deeply involved with certain cases lately and is likely dealing with some mental health issues. Still, it was odd that Sykes or anyone else was concerned about her during this case rather than during the Maddie Flynn case, which she was unhealthily obsessed with.

William Lewis’ name keeps coming up, and I wish it wouldn’t. Benson’s kidnapping was one of the best moments in the series’ history, but it was also graphic and disturbing, and we don’t need so many reminders of him a decade later.

If this were Days of Our Lives instead of SVU, I’d worry that all these reminders meant he was miraculously coming back from the dead to wreak more havoc!

The point is supposed to be that Lewis’ violence will never stop impacting Benson. Still, we don’t need mentions of him every other week.

There Was Only One Way This Case Could End

As soon as Benson discovered a pattern of cases in which the missing kids ended up dead, all hope evaporated that Crystal would somehow be found alive.

The perp had to have killed her. There was no way he murdered all his other victims but held her captive, alive, for all these years.

Sykes probably knew, on some level, that Crystal was dead, which is why she didn’t want to search for her.

As long as Crystal was missing, there was a slim chance she was still alive. Finding her body wasn’t the kind of closure Sykes wanted. She hadn’t been able to deal with her grief all these years, and learning that Crystal was dead would only hurt more.

It was hard not to wish for a miracle, even though no such thing was possible. Crystal was so energetic and full of life, and the idea of it being cut short truly sucked. She was a more interesting character than her annoying sister, and I found myself rooting for her to have somehow survived.

The Saddest Victim

Mr. Dao’s optimism about his daughter’s disappearance was heartbreaking. Like Crystal, there was no way she was alive, but he fantasized that she had escaped and had a family of her own, never stopping to question why she wouldn’t contact him if that were the case.

Dao’s scenes were painful because it was clear he wouldn’t get the answers he dreamed about. Those dreams were keeping him going. Hopefully, he will get some support now that Kimmy’s body has been found.

Solid Police Work But a Random Conclusion

The big break in the case came from a genealogy company that matched the killer’s DNA to a first-degree relative. That’s a solid investigative technique, but it wasn’t enough.

That lead got them Hannah Kincaid, who insisted her father was a wonderful guy until he was caught with a getaway bag that contained cash, clothes, and a weapon.

Richard Kincaid’s arrest felt anticlimactic because he was a random guy they found thirty seconds before they wrapped up the case.

That wasn’t an exciting plot twist. Kincaid came out of nowhere and was immediately ID’d as the killer.

These kinds of crimes are often random and senseless, but fictional crime dramas shouldn’t resolve the case by introducing the villain seconds before his arrest. Even if we didn’t learn Kincaid’s name until the end of the hour, there should have been some clues or foreshadowing.

For example, Fin wasn’t surprised Kincaid was an insurance adjustor because that allowed him to travel around the coast hunting for victims. Something as simple as the detective who originally worked the case saying he always figured the perp was a traveling salesman would have made this feel less like it came out of nowhere.

Kincaid’s explanation for his crimes was as creepy as they come, but again, there should have been clues that the predator wanted to preserve his victims’ beauty. That’s not the usual motivation for this type of crime, and it shouldn’t come out of thin air.

Over to you, SVU fanatics! What did you think of this episode?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9/8c. New episodes drops on Peacock the day after they air.

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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