Last night Law & Order: Special Victims Unit said goodbye to a fan favorite character, and they dismissed him in quite possibly the worst SVU episode ever, “The Undiscovered Country”
Everything leading up to this episode celebrated that Sam Waterston would be reprising his role as Jack McCoy, and teased that Rafael Barba would be on trial – safe to assume that McCoy returned to prosecute Barba. Instead, Phillip Winchester appeared in his role from the short lived Chicago Justice series, Peter Stone.
Now, if you weren’t paying attention to the Chicago branch of Dick Wolf productions, you may not even know that Peter is actually the son of Law & Order (the original) vet Benjamin Stone, an ADA on the first four seasons, played by Michael Moriarty. All of this backstory was supposedly conveyed in the opening scene, Stone Sr’s funeral, and later in a chat between McCoy and Stone the Jr. that felt incredibly out of place in this episode since neither of them are (at that moment) even part of the SVU team.
According to Deadline, “Winchester is the second series regular from Chicago Justice to move onto another Dick Wolf series following NBC’s decision in May to cancel the legal drama after one season. Co-Star Jon Seda is returning to his previous show, Chicago PD, as a series regular.”
Regardless of Phillip Winchester’s new role (yup, he’s confirmed to be joining the show as a series regular at least through the rest of the season), let’s talk about the incident that led up to Barba’s departure. In recent seasons we’ve set up that Barba was being targeted by Corrections Officers for going after one of their own, 17×23 Heartfelt Passages. Additionally, Barba was being blackmailed for giving money to a little girl or supporting a family that wasn’t his own – it was all super innocent and boring. Yet, neither of these plot-lines were brought up in Raul Esparza’s final episode, nor have they been discussed at all since they were originally introduced!
This episode came out of no where, as did Barba’s behavior. and by the end of the episode it became clear that Barba was out and Stone was in.
I admit there have been plenty of episodes that upon rewatching I changed my opinions, but this episode felt like a backdoor pilot to a different show, not the quality SVU we’re used to getting, and definitely not the send off Barba deserved.
— Yael Tygiel