Television

Dann Florek’s Too-Short Guest Appearance on Law & Order: Organized Crime Kicked Off Stabler’s Biggest Storyline Yet

Captain Cragen’s appearance was a too-short blast from the past.

During the final minutes of Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 4 Episode 7, he told Bell about the corruption behind Stabler’s suspension.

This is only the beginning of this story, but will Cragen have any more screen time as it progresses?

Cragen is retired, so it doesn’t make sense for him to have a huge part, but he should have had something more, given all the hype around his appearance.

Still, he gave Bell some vital info about the IAB agent in charge of Stabler’s reinstatement. The guy was biased from the get-go, but now we have a motive and a suggestion that IAB is as compromised as any organized crime family Elliot Stabler has ever taken down.

Why Captain Cragen Is So Important to This Story

Don Cragen was Stabler’s captain when Stabler partnered with Olivia Benson on the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: SVU, so he knows Stabler better than almost anyone and has a vested interest in ensuring he’s treated fairly.

He also had his legal troubles after being framed for a prostitute’s murder and knows how unfair IAB can be. Plus, he has the connections to investigate the cops who are supposed to be policing on their own.

Still, his only real purpose is to impart information, so there may not be anything for him to do now that he’s told Bell what he knows about the IAB inspector who’s messing with Stabler.

This Storyline Offered A Compelling Parallel With the Case

Bonner kicked off the hour by removing his daughter from her post as police chief so that she couldn’t interfere with his attempts to cover for Eric’s crimes and regain power for himself.

Bonner: You did fine, but you went off-script at the end.
Meredith Bonner: I did the best I could under the circumstances
Bonner: You didn’t say the case was closed.
Meredith: That’s because the case isn’t closed.

Keith Carridine’s creepy character believes he’s above the law — but he’s not the only one. The IAB agent assigned to Stabler’s case is also drunk with power and is weaponizing the IAB investigation into Stabler’s conduct to get vengeance.

Questions about how Stabler is like his father should be off-limits. Stabler was right that his father’s conduct was irrelevant to his job performance and choices.

If this version of the NYPD existed in the same universe as Blue Bloods,  Stabler wouldn’t have to deal with this for very long.

Unfortunately, the Law & Order universe’s NYPD is full of corrupt administrators who abuse their position, especially IAB officers. Now Stabler will have to find a way to get this guy off his back while trying to right Bonner’s wrongs.

Eric Bonner’s Crimes Were The Most Disappointing Part of the Hour

The senior Bonner is a terrific villain. He’s a charismatic politician who has managed to grab power over the town he’s supposed to serve and his family.

But Eric’s murders relied on tired TV tropes involving serial killers whose religious delusions drive them to murder innocent people in the name of saving them.

Eric’s violence made it seem like Bonner’s reign of terror was all about protecting him. That doesn’t match the elder Bonner’s character, who appears to enjoy power for its own sake and dislike the shame Eric brings to the family.

It seemed so much more likely that Bonner was behind the killings. Having Eric be the killer rather than Bonner framing his son was a disappointing twist.

And what was that scene in the car? Bonner’s right-hand man wanted to be chief but put up with Bonner double-crossing him, but that thread was abruptly dropped once Eric turned out to be a serial killer. I”‘m sure he’ll return to deal with the aftermath of Eric’s death, but his absence for most of the hour was strange.

Meredith’s reaction to having to shoot her baby brother was powerful, but there’s no way her father will let that go unpunished. Bonner’s response should be one of his creepiest moments.

Is The Bonner Saga An Organized Crime Case?

The focus on Eric certainly wasn’t a typical Organized Crime Unit case. This story would fit in on Criminal Minds, so why was Stabler’s team investigating it instead of Homicide?

Serial killers aren’t automatically the work of organized crime, but Bonner is a typical mob boss, even if he doesn’t think of himself that way. It’ll feel more relevant once the focus is back on his power grab.

The IAB officer’s corruption provides a compelling example of organized crime that most people might not have considered. IAB is supposed to be a vital part of the police department, ensuring that rogue officers are quickly dealt with.

But when an IAB officer is the one that goes rogue, using his position for vengeance instead of justice, there’s no one policing the police, and both that officer and anyone else who is misbehaving become more like gangsters than law enforcement officers.

Police have a lot of power, especially if left unchecked. But Stabler’s last attempt at taking down a corrupt police organization didn’t go well, and it’s unclear whether he can do any better this time.

Psych evaluator: Detective Stabler, if you leave now…
Stabler: What, you’re gonna fire me? You’re gonna have to threaten me with better than that. Look, this job killed my wife. I’ve been a detective for 30 years and it’s all I ever wanted to be. I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I have never betrayed my oath to help people in need and I’m not about to start now.

Stabler isn’t helping himself by blowing off the psych eval to engage in an unsanctioned police chase,  but I couldn’t help cheering at my screen when he stood up to the evaluator.

These people are wasting his time, and he’s not putting up with it. But with his job on the line, how much can he do to dismantle the power structure being used against him?

Stabler’s Personal Story Adds to the Pressure

Stabler also got confirmation that the foil he found on Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 4 Episode 5 contained drugs. Is he thinking this is Eli’s?

His family has been conspicuously absent while he’s used his house as an unofficial headquarters for his team, but there’s something major brewing. Otherwise, there’d be no point to this drug-laced foil. I can’t wait to find out what that’s all about.

Your turn, Law & Order: Organized Crime fanatics! What did you think of Stabler’s confrontation with Eric Bonner?

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

Law & Order: Organized Crime airs on NBC on Thursdays at 10/9c. New episodes drop 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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