|In the city of Los Angeles, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important versions of Alfred Molina. Well, sort of. In the revamped Law & Order: LA that debuted last night, Molina’s character, Ricardo Morales, made a decision that would have been shocking if it hadn’t been so widely reported beforehand: Disgusted by the bureaucracy of the District Attorney’s office, he quit working as a lawyer to become a detective. That wasn’t the only development that rocked Los Angeles’s homicide division — Corey Stoll also shaved off his mustache. And, oh yeah — SPOILER ALERT: Rex Winters, the intrepid detective played by Skeet Ulrich, was shot and killed by the minions of a drug kingpin he was trying to put behind bars. Again, his death wasn’t as effective as it might have been if we hadn’t already known Ulrich was leaving the show — though it was a little shocking that LA‘s writers killed off the character rather than just letting him quit the force or get fired (but not for being a lesbian). Winters’ murder indicated that Dick Wolf & Co. aren’t afraid to shake things up in an attempt to fix this ailing iteration of NBC’s favorite franchise. But how much of an effect will these changes have?|
At the very least, Molina’s switch from the courtroom to the precinct — however implausible it might be — seems like a good move for the show. While Morales isn’t as fun as, say, Lenny Briscoe, he does have more gravitas and presence than Winters did. It will also be interesting to watch his principles get tested in the field, and to see how his lawyer brain affects his policing. (Though why, exactly, does he think he’ll be able to do more good as a detective than as a deputy DA, if the justice system itself isn’t going to change at all?)
Morales’ job swap and Winters’ death also means that Terrence Howard’s Deputy District Attorney Jonah Dekker will be getting more screen time. I’m less excited about this, since Dekker has been a bit of a nonentity thus far; hopefully his character will get more fleshed out soon. As for the cases themselves, they’re still boilerplate L&O, with just the slightest West Coast twist: instead of a shooting at a bar mitzvah, for example, there’s a massacre at a quinceañera. When a franchise has lasted this long, though, it’s no surprise that the formula feels stale.
Did you watch the new and possibly improved Law & Order: LA? If so, do you think the changes improved the show or hurt it? Will you miss Skeet Ulrich? And does Corey Stoll look better with or without that luxurious ‘stache?