Law and Order (Franchise)/YMMV

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  • Adorkable: CSU's Julian Beck. A skinny guy who geeks out whenever he gets to give the cops good evidence. He really seems to enjoy his job.
  • And the Fandom Rejoiced: The trepidation for the replacement spinoff set in Los Angeles was lessened quite a bit with the announcement of Alfred Molina in the role of the new show's chief prosecutor.
  • Anvilicious: Particularly the more recent seasons. Rare is the episode in season 20 that doesn't smack you in the head with a political message.
  • Complete Monster: Quite a few defendants over the years. But especially the Serial Killer from Bodies.
    • To expand on that, the killer from Bodies was a cab driver named Mark Bruner. Over the course of several years he brutally raped and murdered over fifteen teenaged girls who were unlucky enough to hail his cab. He kept their bodies locked up in an undisclosed location where he could go and watch them rot. He creeped Green out so much that Green drew his gun on him the second he put his hands on a kitchen knife to cut some cheese for a sandwich. He scared his attorney so much that she refused to represent him. What makes him truly monstrous is the enjoyment he takes in refusing to reveal the location of the bodies of his victims so as to deny closure to their parents. He does this to torture Jack as well as the families, mockingly promising to tell them where the bodies are twenty years down the line when Jack has retired, so he can live knowing he was unable to help all those suffering mothers. And to get a hint of his insanity, here are his final words to Jack in that episode;

Bruner: I am the un-you. Without me, you would not exist.

    • Of notable...note, is the defendant's wife from "Patient Zero." Not only does she say some of the most sociopathic things in the series - like how all women who become angry at a cheating spouse are bound by outdated morality - but she goes into an engineered public breakdown so that her husband's lawyer, on redirect, can say that all the affairs the defendant had over the course of their marriage drove her to the point of being willing to do anything to punish him. Result? The defendant walks on the attempted murder of his most recent lover, the murder of the child he fathered with said lover, and its only as they are leaving the courtroom, and witnessing a PDA that the prosecutors realize they've been had.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: To many fans, there is no Law and Order without Jerry Orbach.
    • There is a small group that insists the last episode actually ended with Anita van Buren's phone ringing. This brings it more in line with the rest of the series.
  • Funny Aneurysm Moment: In the episode "Shangri-La", a teacher is murdered. During a interview with the collective faculty, one of the teachers says that it was likely done by a student. When the detectives ask him about it, he replies "You don't see many headlines about faculty out on shooting sprees." The show's final episode is about a teacher who does just that.
    • In Second Opinion (ep. 5-1), which featured a fake breast cancer cure Van Buren tells the detectives if she got incurable (breast) cancer she'd rather spend her last days with a whole body and surrounded by family rather then working. Years later she gets diagnosed with cervical cancer and works through it the whole time; fortunately it's in remission.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Following a court's ruling that evidence obtained by the Tokyo police is admissible, the defense lawyer says, "What's next, drag a suspect across the nearest border and beat a confession out of him?" In 1995, unthinkable. In 2005, official US policy.
  • High Octane Nightmare Fuel: "Indifference." (ep. 1-9) Easily the creepiest episode of the series.
    • "Hubris" (ep. 11-9) involved a jewelry store robber executing over a half dozen people in the store, including children. A store security camera video showed him dragging the victims off to the back room to their deaths. The fact that he got a hung jury and probably wasn't going to be retried added an extra element of nightmare fuel to an already horrific story. Of course, L&O is fond of Karmic Deaths, so...
    • "Stiff" (ep 10-23): The Victim of the Week is in an irreversible waking coma (put there by spiked insulin). The episode ends with the doctors' Hail Mary attempt at reviving her failing. The clear implication is that she'll be like that for the rest of her life.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: On the season 8 episode "Baby, It's You" (crossing over with Homicide: Life on the Street) that was Ripped from the Headlines from the Jon Benet Ramsey case, they arrested the stalker of a 14 year old model that was raped to death. The stalker misread the name tag of a certain visiting Baltimore Homicide detective as "Defective Monk." This was in 1997, 5 years before the debut of Monk the Defective Detective. In case you were wondering, it turned out that the kid was innocent and the girl's own mother was the one who raped and killed her daughter.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Many. Philip Swann from Season 4's "American Dream" and recurring character Governor Don Shalvoy immediately come to mind.
    • Magnificent/Manipulative Bitch: Expy- The plot of expy-Mary Sue Hubbard[1] to sink her abusive con-man husband and get all his money. It did wind up killing six innocent people, including a child, but it worked: he's stuck in prison for six life sentences and no one can prove she actually meant to kill anyone.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: It just wouldn't be Law and Order without the inimitable CHUNG-CHUNG (also known as doink-doink and "Cell door clang").
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: If the Special Guest Star isn't the victim or defense attorney, (s)he's the perp (or a major accomplice).
    • Subverted by Kevin Smith, who asked to play a guy who was just one more person the detectives had to talk to before they found the killer.
    • Also now played with by the fact that many smaller parts are played by actors who, much later, became famous.
  • Never Live It Down: A running gag of the last decade of the show has been other prosecutors bringing up how McCoy once purposely hid a witness in a murder case from the defense team. This, plus the subsequent ethics compliant and trip before the Bar (from which McCoy was ultimately cleared of all wrong doing) has been used against Jack whenever he complains about his subordinate's bending to the point of breaking the rules of law for the pursuit of justice.
    • And more often than not McCoy would counter with "And I'm the one telling you this is a bad idea. That should tell you something!"
    • He also twice instigated 'fake trials'. In one, the defendant was in on it (the goal was to suss out a corrupt member of the prosecutor's office), but in the other the defendant wasn't and the whole thing was a ploy to allow McCoy to suborn perjury which would induce the defendant to confess. McCoy was later removed from the case for that event. Oh, and the judge's superior threw out the case. The defendant was released and subsequently murdered by his co-conspirators. Oops.
    • Another time, McCoy hid evidence from the defense that could have seemed exculpatory but he didn't think was technically relevant (he was arguing that a certain person was mentally unable to consent to commit a crime, and the evidence was the defendant's motive). The judge disagreed and ordered the evidence admitted (see: episode 5, season 6, 'Competence'). The next season, one of McCoy's former assistants was found to have hidden evidence and accidentally sent the wrong man to prison. Her defense was that McCoy did it too. McCoy's look when Kincaid told him that she'd have to tell the Bar Association that he suppressed evidence in the first case is a Tear Jerker. (See episode 6, season 12, 'Trophy').
    • McCoy also once attempted to have a woman sterilized; she had Munchausen's Syndrome and was murdering her babies. The judge threw this out. Much later, Cutter cited this case when Jack objected to him trying to enjoin a family from having their severely-disabled daughter go through a medical procedure that would remove her legs and reproductive organs (to make it easier to care for her).
  • Replacement Scrappy: Several in-universe examples. It becomes something of a tradition, when one detective is replaced, for his former partner to regard his replacement with suspicion or outright hostility for the first few episodes.
    • In Real Life, the defining examples are: Nora Lewin, who replaced the most popular DA, Adam Schiff, and was seen as wishy-washy even In-Universe; Serena Southerlyn, without question the least popular ADA, who followed the polarizing but far more memorable Abbie Carmichael; Michael Cutter, who had the unenviable task of succeeding Jack McCoy in the EADA's chair; and, definitively, Joe Fontana, who replaced arguably the show's most beloved character, Lennie Briscoe.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Viewers eventually warmed up to Joe Fontana. Ditto Mike Cutter, once the writers toned down his cockiness.
  • The Scrappy: Serena, who fans pretty much hated due to the blandness of the character.
  • Shipping: Jack/Claire and Michael/Connie both have pretty decent sized fanbases. Jack and Nora also had a smaller, but passionate following.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped
  • Squick: 20-y-o guy to his 60-y-o girlfriend, after learning she'd had a "vagina lift": (basically) "But I love you because of how you are!" The reason he's into May December Romances is also fairly squicky.
  • Strawman Political: There's A LOT.
  • The Woobie: As of the current season, Lt. Van Buren and her struggle with cancer (not that she'll have any of it, mind you) What makes her worthy of woobie-dom is the fact that she's currently the longest-running member of the Law and Order cast.
    • If you can say you did not tear up a little bit over her talking with Rey Curtis and her boyfriend at the end of "Fed," you have no heart.
    • On top of that, word is the actress leaving the show, not that it matters since the show got canceled. And she just got her hair back/revealed her real hair for the first time!)
    • Don't fret, the series' finale reveals that (after a scare caused by a scanner malfunction) that her cancer is in remission ("Thank you, thank you.").
    • Jack and Claire's relationship was dealt with with a very light touch, but it became the focus of an episode after Claire's death. Jack is trying a drunk driver and conspires with the judge to charge him with murder, with everyone around him stepping lightly. Finally, Jack pushes the defendant to a breakdown on the stand. Jack, in a My God, What Have I Done? moment, relents and reveals the evidence that the man was blind drunk (and earning an enemy in the judge, who had political aspirations).
    • Typically, the show wants you to sympathize with the victims, the Law, or the Order, but they sometimes make even the defendant a woobie. One particularly tragic story is that of a psychotic who refuses his medication, even though he gets violent. It's revealed that the side effects make it incredibly difficult for him to function, and because of his illness he wasn't able to pursue any work, let alone his dream career. He'd contemplated and pursued suicide when he realized that. He stopped taking his medication after his sister testified to that. He agrees to take a plea (strict monitoring for the rest of his life to make sure he takes his meds or stays in a hospital), and breaks down into renewed psychosis is a Tear Jerker. Everyone in the courtroom acts their little hearts out, showing dawning realization and varying degrees of regret and horror.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The angry, suicidal blogger who's planning on shooting then blowing up a school in the series finale is actually a teacher, driven to homicide by a molestation charge (he was trying to stop a rebellious student from peeing on his desk), losing his girlfriend because of said accusations, and being forced to spend months with other teachers who were also metaphorically put on a bus for being unprepared for classroom problems and a hyper-sensitive system geared to protecting students at all costs, even if it's the students who caused the disruption in the first place. Oddly, it's implied that he didn't have any sympathy for the other teachers, he just didn't want to be with them.
  1. of Scientology (in)famy)