|Last night was the series finale of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, otherwise known as The Social Network Mad Libs. Just look at the set-up: A set of wealthy twins from [Princeton] file a lawsuit against an intelligent [woman] who created a [dating] website, claiming she stole their idea. Meanwhile, 1990s teen heartthrob [James Van Der Beek] plays a partner in the [dating] website with a fondness for partying and drugs. A million dollars isn’t cool, but do you know what’s really not cool? Letting Law & Order: CI go out with such a lazy episode.|
Back in February, after USA set the premiere date for the final season of the procedural, I pleaded for the series and its writers to let Vincent D’Onofrio’s Det. Goren die. As I wrote, I felt the most fitting end for the perpetually tortured detective was to allow him to go out with a bang, allowing him to finally be at peace. But watching the final season — during which Goren got police-ordered psychiatric help from Julia Ormond — I was willing to let that idea go. I would have been okay with an episode in which Goren found inner-peace without having to pass onto another world. In which he let go of his inner turmoil involving his incredibly flawed past and family life. In which he bested a CI recurring villain with nothing more than a chess board and philosophy book. But, instead, we got an episode which didn’t even play like a season finale, let alone a series finale.
I get what the writers were doing. Showing Goren ride off with Eames (Kathryn Erbe) after his last(?) psychiatric appointment — during which he was deemed capable of holding down his job without letting it drive him to the brink of insanity — set up Goren as a happy detective, going about business as usual. It’s a fitting end to a series finale that was also business as usual. The episode was normal. And, for once, the detective that led the case was normal. But I couldn’t help but want more. Why not give us an episode that revolved around Goren and his family life, past, and what he wanted for his future? One that tapped into his previous problems at his workplace? One that bolstered his relationship with longtime partner Eames? As EW’s Ken Tucker wrote before Sunday’s episode, “When it premiered ten years ago, Criminal Intent broke with the formula in a significant way: It was essentially a vehicle for one actor, rather than the ensemble piece that all the others were forced by Wolf to be. That’s because the outsize personality of Vincent D’Onofrio over-shadowed any actor with the temerity to squeeze into the TV screen with him.” Considering Goren’s outsize personality, it seemed a shame to watch the series end with an ellipses, rather than an exclamation point.