June 03, 2008

Beach leaves with a bang

In "Cold," the season finale of Law & Order: SVU, Adam Beach went out with a bang. It was probably his best performance to date on the show. Too bad it was also his last.

Here's the plot:An old murder case of a teenage girl is reopened, when Detective Lake (Adam Beach) is caught in a gunfight and wounded by the case’s former investigator, Detective Mary Kralik (guest star Eva Kaminsky). The shooting leaves Kralik dead, and Lake’s uncooperative answers lead to confusion in the squad room. The case intensifies when Lake escapes from the hospital, and takes hostage the original case’s only witness, Celina Cruz (guest star Victoria Cartagena). The SVU squad is left to revisit the original murder case, as Detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) search for Lake and his hostage.Here's a longer recap of the episode. It mentions a couple of bits that let Beach emote as an actor though they didn't quite make sense:OK, there were a lot of things happening in this episode. Maybe too many things. I understand that they had to try to wrap up two characters’ fates here, but it seemed a bit too incredible. For example, I am not quite clear on why Chester first refused to talk to his fellow detectives. Was it a matter of trust? If so, what did they do that would cause such mistrust? And Chester gets on Fin for Fin not trying hard enough to get to know him. It seemed out of place. Since when did partners have to be best buddies?And here's a video that gives you a two-minute version of the episode (after a 30-second ad):

Comment:  This was a typical episode of SVU, about average in quality. Beach and fellow actor Diane Neal left with a bang--i.e., some showy acting. So did their characters--but not in a good way. Chester Lake wound up looking like a grim, stoic Indian, a classic stereotype. Casey Novak seemed like an out-of-control vigilante, lying baldly to her superior. Neither portrayal fit the characters we've come to know.

At the end we had little idea what was going through Lake's mind other than a murderous rage. "We" identified with the shocked Stabler and Benson, the good white cops. They looked upon Lake as if he were an outsider, a stranger, an alien from another world. He had reverted to an Indian "type" and almost nothing human was left.

Killers get away with murder all the time, so should someone hunt them down and shoot them? In the Shark season finale, lawyer Stark was faced with an escaped mass murderer who had threatened his daughter. Given the chance to shoot his enemy, Stark declined.

But SVU handled the same dilemma differently. Lake saw an opportunity for revenge and took it. So if the protagonist is an Indian whose ancestors were "savages," the answer to the above question is yes.

We've seen this presumption on several TV shows with Indian characters. If it's a police procedural, the Indian is likely to be the killer. SVU was an exception, but it isn't anymore.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians and All About Adam Beach.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Been offline for over a week because the high-speed modem went wonky. But...
Obviously, the diversity thing at NBC didn't work to Wolf's satisfaction and so Adam Beach departs, that much richer for having his multi-year contract either settled or bought out at a mutually agreed price. How else do ya think he could afford to start his own production company? Be prepared to see CANADIAN Native presence increased in films and TV...
All Best
Russ Bates

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you. Television and film are filled with good characters who do take vengeance against killers, especially child molesters/rapists and murderers.

For instance, on a recent episode of "Life," a white teenager is let walk by the police after he explains that he killed the man who tried to molest his pre-teen sister.

Moreover, Lake's killing of the guilty party was portrayed as necessary because the justice system failed. The failure of the justice system was also the reason why Diane Neal's character violated the law and was disbarred.

Have you watched many episodes of "SVU"? If you had, you would know that Stabler has had a long standing problem with anger problems. In fact, members of his team thinks he's unstable. Therefore, concluding that Lake's fellow detectives would be revolted by his violence is wrong. More likely they were saddened that he felt forced to take such action and felt sorry that he got caught.

The dirtiest cops on TV are the thugs on "The Sheild." The dirty cops are murderers who started the series killing a good cop who discovered their misdeeds. Over the years, they have done horrific deeds in pursuit of money and attempts to keep their secrets.