The detectives on “Law & Order: SVU” are accustomed to dealing with frustration on what seems like a daily basis and this week’s episode, entitled “Depravity Standard,” continues that trend, says Executive Producer Warren Leight as he describes what transpires to lead to such ire. “This case is one that we solved a while ago [in the series 300th episode, “Manhattan Vigil”], and it’s just now going to trial. During the proceedings the team has to watch as this brilliant defense attorney picks the system apart in an attempt to get this guy off, even though everyone knows that he committed these crimes.”
The criminal proceedings extend a bit beyond the courtroom explains Leight, saying, “we’ll see this case go to the jury and while it’s not ‘12 Angry Men,’ [referencing the award-winning film about a conflicted jury], it’s watching everyone outside that jury room as the deliberations go on and how the tension mounts. This episode has a slightly different perspective about crime and punishment than we usually do and that’s part of what makes it unique and interesting.”
Leight, who’s let it be known that this is his last season with “SVU,” says that his mission is to continue to shake things up on the series. “There’s really no holding back now. Because it’s my last go-around I’m really trying to push the envelope in terms of storytelling.” As an example of that, Leight points to the recent addition of Sergeant Dodds into the mix. “Having a new character like Dodds forces everyone to change their behavior in certain ways and it also realigns everyone in different ways in that squad room. Adding new people into a group always makes everyone change, sometimes in ways they didn’t expect.”
Looking forward, Leight reveals that star Mariska Hargitay (Lieutenant Olivia Benson) directed episode 10, which will kick off the New Year, airing on January 6th. While Leight gave no details about that installment of the series, he did disclose a few other items that will be of interest to fans of the series.
Harkening back to the beginning of the season, the reappearance of a character from seasons 15 caused a stir that Leight was willing to discuss. “Yes, the red-headed juror, Bronwyn, is back” Then he continued with a bit of a maniacal laugh as he said, “And I do have plans for her…and her mandolin lessons.”
Talking a little bit about the behind-the-scenes decisions that went into her return, Leight revealed, “It was funny, in any early version of the episode, the editors didn’t cut to her. When I told them to put her in, they were like, ‘who is she? Nobody knows who she is,’ and I said to them, ‘everyone but you guys will know who she is.’ To their defense, some of these editors have worked in the Dick Wolf organization where every episode is supposed to be self–contained with nothing based on anything that came before it so they’re not used to this. Obviously we’ve moved more to serialization on this show so there are going to be things that arc a bit more through several episodes.”
Leight admits that he took some hits during this discussion, saying, “I was openly mocked by the editors for a bit and then they gave in.” He reveals that he did feel a bit vindicated when the episode aired because, “we were watching social media and there was a pronounced spike when they the first showed to her. All of the comments from viewers were along the lines of ‘what’s she doing here?’ So clearly they know who she is and are curious about her motives.” As for those motives, Leight would only say, “I think it’s worth pointing out that Dr. Yates and Dr. Rudnick [who were both arrested and sentenced in an earlier episode] are in prison upstate together, and we’ve seen that Bronwyn really has a thing for prisoners. “
While he wouldn’t commit to any other specifics about upcoming episodes at this time, Leight did say, “There’s plenty going on with this team, both in and out of that squad room. Just like in real life, nothing is ever certain. You think things are going one way and then they go another. You can’t really plan for every scenario; you just have to sort of be ready for anything, right? But, what it comes down to is, are you really ever ready for anything at all? These are the things we look at every day in the stories that we’re telling and what we do know is that this isn’t going to be smooth road, things will get bumpy.”
“Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.