SVU came back with a bang! Tonight's episode was a fast, twisty roller coaster of a story that wove the harrowing real-life issue of sex slavery with a touching glimpse of Olivia's newfound motherhood. The result was a flat-out terrific premiere that showed, once again, why fans can't get enough of SVU.
Olivia has just settled into motherhood with her adopted baby, Noah, when the arrest of a fourteen-year-old prostitute throws her world into chaos. The girl works for a terrifying sex trafficking ring involved in the death of Noah's prostitute mother. But Olivia and her team dig deeper: finding more underage girls, a gaggle of muscle-bound pimps, and a shady Uber-like cab company transporting the girls around town to service middle-aged married men.
Nick goes undercover to try to gain a pimp's trust - but soon witnesses are getting killed left and right. (Olivia's going to need more than her baby wipes to clean up all that blood.) The gang even takes a shot at Noah! Mama Bear Benson is now on the war path.
Our newest detective, Sonny Carisi, makes it 39 minutes into the franchise before he's enlisted to go undercover in a prostitution sting. He almost gets killed, but Ice-T rushes into the motel room and they arrest a prostitute-turned-enforcer named Selena. Is she a victim or victimizer?
Selena won't talk -- until Olivia finds Selena's young son, living in a mansion in a slum in Mexico. Turns out, all of the underage prostitutes come from a single Mexican town, where pimping is the local business. The girls were all kidnapped from their homes, brought to New York, and sold. The pimps keep any babies the prostitutes had as leverage to keep the girls compliant -- Selena's included.
Olivia promises Selena she'll see her son again if she talks. Selena admits that the guy who runs the Uber-like cab company is "Angel," the head of the sex slave ring. Our detectives go to arrest him, but when he threatens Noah (and reaches for a gun), Ice-T shoots him through the heart. Selena is tearfully reunited with her son.
Olivia goes home, hugs her baby, and tells him that everything is okay now.
What They Got Right:
Tenancingo is a real city known as the sex-slave capital of Mexico. It is said to be the single largest source of sex slaves who are sent to the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's New York field office arrested 32 sex traffickers last year; 26 of them were from Tenancingo. Boys in Tenancingo grow up aspiring to become pimps. Girls are seduced or kidnapped into a life of sex work. Slums sit in the shadow of huge mansions housing the families of sex traffickers. The girls' babies are kept as collateral, to keep the girls compliant.
Kudos to SVU for shining a light on this dark place in the world.
On a personal note: I loved how Olivia's newfound motherhood enriched and challenged her work as an investigator. As a working mom myself, I've had that exact experience - where a binkie falls out of my briefcase as I'm talking about sex crime prosecution. It was very real. And I loved how Olivia used her mommy instincts to get a break in the case. She focused on the children the prostitutes had left behind in Mexico and the mothers' instinct to protect them. No one knows the power of motherhood like a mom.
What They Got Wrong:
What has SVU got against Uber? Did showrunner Warren Leight have to wait too long for a black car to arrive? In real life, Uber has weathered a few scandals, but none of their execs have been accused of running a sex slave ring. In fact, if you google "Uber and Prostitution" the first article you get is an adorably geeky Uber blog post about how high-prostitution and high-crime areas are generally correlated with more Uber rides. Uber may be the algorithm capital of the world.
Everyone went undercover, fast. Nick cozied up to Joaquin. Carisi canoodled with Carmen. In real life, you have to work with a gang for a long time, establishing credibility, friendship and trust, before you can make any real impact or connections.
Also, why has Carisi cycled through three districts in the last year? I'm guessing: the moustache.
What did you think, SVU fans? Is Olivia going to a be a great mom or what? Will Nick get out of uniform and back into the SVU soon? And, okay, Carisi may not be empathic, but shouldn't Olivia at least appreciate the zeppellis? Leave your comments!