|I’d love to tell you that the final episode of NBC’s “Law & Order” is good to the last ching-ching.|
But I’m certain District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) would have me up on perjury charges so fast, my head would twist right off.
To be fair, creator Dick Wolf and his company of “ripped from the headlines” scribes did not know “Rubber Room” would serve as the series ender - but they certainly knew they were crafting the 20th-season finale.
The episode title refers to the administrative holding pens New York teachers who have been accused of various infractions must to report to, sometimes for years, as they await disciplinary hearings.
Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) search for a blogger named Moot who is threatening to destroy his school.
“Right place, right time, we could be looking at hundreds of casualties. It’d be nice, if just this once, we could stop something from happening,” Lt. Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) says.
With few clues, they embark on what feels like an interrogation of everybody in New York.
The treatment embodies all of what has gone wrong with the mothership in the last two seasons. Instead of engaging in detective work, they pull on threads until one gives. Lupo’s lame jokes (there’s one about a rhyme with the word sphincter) remind you how the show never recovered from the loss of Jerry Orbach’s Lennie.
In the B-story, Van Buren’s battle with cancer comes to a head. “Rubber Room” was intended to serve as Merkerson’s final episode after 17 seasons, not that it matters now.
I won’t spoil the denouement, but it may just leave longtime fans a bit teary and finally earn Merkerson an Emmy nomination.
Also deserving of some praise is Waterston, whose righteous litigator was reduced to cameos because of budget cuts. He doesn’t get much time tonight, but boy, does he burn up the screen when he takes on an attorney (Paul Schulze, “Nurse Jackie”) protecting a potential witness.
With its utter contempt of defense lawyers, who are at best obstructionists and at worst as vile as the people they defend, Wolf’s machine runs true to form.
In the space of two nights, three series (including “Lost” and “24”) with distinct voices are being silenced. “Law & Order” might have been the most staid of the three, but it is unequivocally the most lucrative. I’ve little doubt that someday there will be a dedicated cable channel for “Law & Order” reruns.
This episode won’t be high on the rotation list.