Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 4 Episode 1 Review: Memory Lane

Change is always difficult, and doubly so if your name’s Elliot Stabler.

Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 4 Episode 1 began with the oft-repeated beat of Stabler getting into trouble on an undercover mission. (Seriously, why don’t the bad guys ever recognize him when he’s always undercover and never changes his appearance?)

But things started to get interesting once Stabler returned to the office and met the new AI guy.

Unsurprisingly, Jet was cool with the new tech, while Reyes and Stabler had doubts. However, Vargas and his software open storyline possibilities while reflecting trends in real-life policing.

I was glad that Jet and Bell understood that AI is morally neutral — it’s a tool, and whether it’s helpful or harmful depends on the data it’s fed and what its capabilities are used for.

Whether anyone likes it or not, AI is here to stay — and human rights advocates fear police could misuse it. That alone makes this storyline worth it; Organized Crime could explore all facets of this issue.

But for Stabler and the rest of the team, there was an added issue: Vargas is the first new team member to walk through the door since Whalen’s death.

Whelan died on a dangerous mission; no one has ever gotten over it. Stabler has nightmares about it, Reyes uses work to distract himself, and Jet is even more sarcastic (and possibly more reckless) than she used to be.

Stabler: How are they doing?
Bell: Jet’s sharp edges are more like razor blades. And Reyes is throwing himself into work a little too much. Reminds me of you.

It’ll take a lot for anyone to accept Vargas as a full-fledged member of the team, and by then, he’ll probably be gone since he’s only meant to be there temporarily to help with the AI.

The software was helpful this time, but it’s probably only a matter of time before it malfunctions, like the OR 2.0 technology on Chicago Med Season 8.

Future episodes will likely deal with the dark side of AI, such as deep fake videos or racially biased results.

Still, this time, it allowed the team to investigate thoroughly and monitor dangerous situations more easily. Stabler might realize its value eventually.

Vargas is more annoying than anything, making inane comments while using his software to monitor detective safety.

He also got off on the wrong foot with everybody by taking Whelan’s old desk.

What’s going on with Jet and Reyes?

They pretended to be a couple to infiltrate the skin shop, but they also appeared to be one in real life. When did that happen?

Most of Law & Order: Organized Crime is fresh and original, but Jet and Reyes’s relationship is veering into tired TV trope material.

TV is full of will-they-won’t-they couples, people who have sex with each other because of mutual grief, and couples who swear never to kiss again but do it anyway.

Jet deserves better than that.

I don’t know why she’s never allowed to have a proper romantic relationship. Two of her boyfriends died, and the other one she broke up with for the sake of drama.

She’s far more than the cliche of the computer geek who cannot have relationships, so let’s not throw her into one that’ll only break her heart again, please.

The week’s case was typical for this series, with everyone chasing after a drug distributor and the cops constantly mistaking Stabler for the guy they were looking for.

It was almost comical how Espinoza ran away from the scene of the shooting, completely undetected, while the cops arrested Stabler.

Jet and Reyes’ attempt to investigate the reskin shop was the best part of the hour, though I was a bit lost as to what they were doing, and Jet’s fentanyl poisoning was predictable.

She got over that quickly, though, and she even had a fake DEA jacket to use to get the info the team needed to crack the case.

When Stabler donned his hazmat suit, I felt terrible for Sergeant Bell. The only person who ever listened to her directions seemed to be the AI guy!

That was some fight with that guy with the machete. I knew Stabler would come out of it all right, but the bad guy took his best shot at ensuring he didn’t!

But the most heartbreaking story arc had nothing to do with the investigation. Bernadette Stabler’s health is deteriorating before our eyes.

I’ve loved her since her first appearance on Law & Order: SVU Season 10 Episode 3 and was thrilled to have her rejoin Organized Crime. I missed her while she was gone.

But she’s not always lucid now, and she’s fixated on escaping from Stabler so she won’t be a burden.

Mama Stabler: I don’t want to stay here. I refuse to be a burden.
Stabler: What are you talking about? You’re surrounded by people who love you. I want you to stay. They want you to stay.
Mama Stabler: I don’t want to be passed around like old leftovers.

In real life, I lost my grandfather to vascular dementia, so it’s always doubly hard when beloved TV characters go through it, too. And it seems cruel for Mama Stabler to finally return, only to be so far gone that we may lose her altogether soon.

Still, This opens the door for Stabler’s brother to join the series. Judging from the preview, he and Stabler won’t get along well, though I could be wrong.

I can’t wait to learn what Randall is about and why Stabler’s mother wants him instead of Elliot.

I loved how the writers connected the SVU and Organized Crime universes.

Stabler calling Benson about an old case was a nice touch, but for the first time, Organized Crime and SVU took place at the same time, with Stabler watching part of McGrath’s press conference from the end of Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1.

Too bad he didn’t witness Mrs. Flynn crying about her lost daughter, though having the press conference there at all reinforces my belief that he and Benson will team up to solve Maddie’s disappearance.

What did you think, Organized Crime fanatics?

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

Law & Order: Organized Crime airs on Thursdays at 10/9c.

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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