Friday, January 21, 2005

From Jump the Shark
How the last Elisabeth Röhm episode of ‘Law & Order’ should have been written
I'm relieved I'm not the only one who was ready to yell "What da F%*@!" Gilbert-Gottfried style last Wednesday. A few more thoughts on Southerlyn's departure: First, it's obvious the writers or producers were trying for a "Gotcha!" moment...forgetting that we've seen gay or lesbian characters come out in a MUCH more believable way before. (Also, they missed an opportunity for a REAL L&O twist. More below). I still suspect they're gonna have Serena file a discrimination suit against the DA right soon, and IMO, there's only one way this could go that would make any sense: we'll learn that Branch had no idea she was gay until after he fired her. Serena wouldn't look too good after that, but it WOULD give closure to the one good thing about her departure - I thought Branch looked genuinely surprised. After she said, "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" the look on his face said W-h-a-t? That's the problem with this scenario: the only wrap-up I think would work would also have a major character, albeit an unpopular one (for pretty good reason IMO), go down in flames. Again, all of the other former cast members have gone out with some dignity, or have gone out and returned in a way that didn't suck. Even Stone, who screwed up royally (he was indirectly responsible for a witness's death), admitted his mistake and resigned over it. And that's exactly how last week's episode should have ended. So here's my quick-and-dirty rewrite of the ending. Shawn Foreman gets off for the rap producer's killing, and his buddy Psycho is charged with the earlier murder of the drug dealer. But during the trial, when Psycho denies knowing anything about the drug dealer murder, Serena starts to get uncomfortable. The possibility comes out: what if Psycho was telling the truth? What if Shawn Foreman played her the whole time?? Sean Nelson, who played Foreman, first played a VERY manipulative character in "Fresh". He could have easily pulled off a character like this. After the trial, Serena tells Branch about this. Branch's statement to her is the same as in the episode, except that he adds "And you let yourself be manipulated. Maybe we have the right person in jail, maybe not, but we'll never know." He then gives her a decision: make all the speeches and arguments she wants but do not let them affect her work under any circumstance (and if she does, she's gone); or, if she doesn't think she can do this, let him know right now, and he'll right a good reference letter for her to take to a private law firm. He tells her to sleep on it. She says, "I don't need twenty-four hours. I'll get that letter tomorrow morning." She shows no anger or bitterness. Branch nods a little. Southerlyn keeps her dignity, the lesbian angle (which I myself wrote in a screenplay twelve years ago - and threw out because it was so stupid) is ditched, and we have a nice twist about the DA's office possibly being manipulated by a 19-year-old kid. THAT would be a good episode. I'm at best a wannabe writer, and I think I just handed a highly-paid TV writer's ass back to him.
I think you’re right.

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