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Our Blather, Who Art In Benson, Hallowed Be Thy Lame Law & Order: SVU

Thy boredom come, thy chill be gone, inert as it is unleavened. ...An episode so egregiously sanctimonious and self-regarding, it forced a format change.

I've watched every single episode of SVU that's ever aired. I've seen some of them many times, and I even cherish a couple of laughably bad ones like "Avatar" the way one loves a slow cousin who ate some paint, so when I criticize the show, it comes from a place of exasperated fondness -- but also of deep knowledge, so when I submit that "No Surrender" is the worst episode the show has aired to date, I hope you will respect my opinion even if you don't agree.

"No Surrender" concerns the brutal assault of the Army Ranger School's first woman graduate; Captain Beth Williams is whacked on the head with a blunt object and raped -- by her (recently ex-) fiancé, as it turns out, as Beth had grown out of Mickey and he couldn't accept it. The episode is billed as, among others, as a "return" to Fin's "military roots," but what we actually get is an unbearably sanctimonious, poorly paced, repetitive, self-satisfied collection of inorganic soundbites about post-assault self-care and "closure," all delivered by St. Benson of Manhattan in the most insufferable manner possible. It soon became clear that I would have to make a list of the most infuriating writing snippets of the episode in lieu (so to speak) of the customary Show-o-Matic, but it's worth noting that the episode itself made the Show-o-Matic useless in the first place: there is no real procedure to breach, just patronizing platitudes about blame and sense of self; there is no verdict save Liv's beatific (and fucking interminable) nodding to signal that Beth is doing the right thing.

Perhaps the saddest part is that I think the stinking heap that is "No Surrender" comes from the best-meaning of places, that the show wants to instruct, support, and enlighten about sexual assault, how survivors feel and heal, and the harm done by keeping rape and sexual menacing in the dark. I think it's not in fact entirely an attempt by Mariska Hargitay and the other writers to blow gold up Benson's culo to the exclusion of all else. Alas, that's the end result, and it's off-putting and tedious. "No Surrender" came with numerous opportunities to explore what it's like to live as a warrior woman in today's antediluvian sexual-politics culture; how hard it is to go first; the "manosphere" the show dismisses as pathetic (which it is) without engaging with its evident appeal to millions (which it has). It forewent every single one to cast Benson as the holy den mother of all survivors, even one who could punch her to death while eating a sammich. Look at the header photo; tell me I'm exaggerating.

A list of other clanky, sticky, or otherwise eye-roll-inducing moments from "No Surrender," in chronological order.

  1. This vomitous hashtag

    Benson is neither the victim/survivor nor the other Ranger emeritx on the squad.

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    And, not for nothing, should not require "following" in the figurative into-the-field sense, because she's the commanding officer, and should not spend nearly as much time in the field, gun drawn,

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    or in court, mouth hanging open, as she does, although I suppose it's pointless to complain about that now.

  2. "People are always asking what drives me."

    1. No, they aren't. This isn't how "people" speak to each other. Press might ask you that, but 2. you wouldn't leap off that to give a speech at your own welcome-home party.

  3. Second prize is telling AND showing

    No need to hold on this

    2017-02-23-svu-entire-screen

    if you're also going to read literally every word of what's onscreen aloud.

  4. Carisi's use of the word "tussle"

    I like both Carisi and the word "tussle," and in any other episode I would have clocked that moment on the cute side. Here, it's just another example of tone-deaf writing.

  5. RedChanIt

    Take it away, Maura.

    Well, really. Also, what year does SVU's font wrangler think it is?

    2017-02-23-svu-redchanit

    And can we not with the "parents' basement" insults? Not to line up alongside MRA trolls, obvs, but attacks on them should be on them and their shitbrick beliefs, not on some 1996-based idea of internet "nerds."

  6. "Is that what I think it is?" "Yeah, it's a fight club, mang."

    Good thing the dialogue didn't make the rumspringa segment of the audience wait until after the ad break for an integrated exchange of dialogue during the questioning of Marquez to find out what the footage has already made very clear. Chrissakes.

  7. Benson PSA-o-Tron Cards 1-4

    "Some survivors prefer to go public." "I am not here to judge you, I promise you that." "You didn't do anything wrong." "I will do everything in my power to find the person who's responsible for this." And let's break this next one out into its own list item...[drops two bottles of Pepto into beer helmet]...

  8. "What's my mission?" "To heal."

    I mean, for fuck's sake! As I said before, I understand what the show and MarHar probably want to do, but this is so cheesy that it's an outrage!

  9. Silent-movie reaction-shot padding

    The ep runs a bit short as it is, so I wonder what legal made the production cut so as not to fall afoul of the armed forces' libel dogs or whatever, but the eeeeendless holds on Liv shaking her head ruefully at Beth leaving AMA, and Rollins looking at the security-cam footage, and the footage itself, is notable. It's like "No Surrender" had 27 minutes of story and filled in the remaining runtime with banalities about moving forward. Gave me plenty of time, when I wasn't scribbling furious notes about the assy dialogue, to wonder...

  10. What's up with the hospital-room dinette set

    Because...what's up with that?

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    Not sure a Ranger with a skull fracture is taking a lot of meetings in her breakfast nook there, set designers.

  11. "His world kept getting smaller; my world kept getting bigger."

    Not how people talk.

  12. Benson PSA-o-Tron Cards 6-8

    "None of this is on you. None of it." "In my work, over the years with survivors...there is this freedom in coming forward." Blah blah role model blah.

  13. Beth insists that Liv call her "Captain Williams," and that's goddamn right!

    But then Liv is such a pain in the ass tireless advocate that, when she says, "I'm proud of you, Captain," Beth corrects her: "'Beth.'" Barrrrrrrf.

  14. What's more sick-making, the shite "There is only honor in being a survivor" "writing" of Beth's press conference? Or Benson's self-congratulatory beaming?

    Why pick one when we all lose as a result?

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    Or why not go with Option C, the Very Special (And Verrrrry Lengthy) Exchange Of Healing Nods And Smiles designed to kill time while underlining that Liv is the best at victim?

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