DVD REVIEW: Law & Order: SVU - The Second Year

Now in its seventh season, NBC's hit spinoff series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit remains a vital piece of the network's primetime lineup and a reliable ratings draw on Tuesday nights. After a rocky start in 1999 that saw numerous cast changes and endless comparisons to the original Law & Order series, the Dick Wolf production got into its groove in the second season which has now been released on DVD. Heading the cast are Christopher Meloni playing the easily angered family man Detective Elliot Stabler and Mariska Hargitay as the tough yet sensative Detective Olivia Benson. The two settled into their lead characters in the first season while the secondary detective team of sex crimes cops molded into its current incarnation in this very second season. It was the first full year to pair comedian Richard Belzer with hip hop legend Ice T as wise-cracking conspiracy buff Detective John Munch and the street smart Detective Fin Tutuola, respectively.

While the first season struggled to secure the cast for the Order half, the Law side was also in disarray with different options presented for the District Attorney's office. In season two, Stephanie March, who was introduced in the first year as A.D.A. Alexandra Cabot, comes on board as a regular appearing in all episodes. Dann Florek, the only actor from the first season of the original Law & Order to continue in the franchise each year for a decade and a half, plays Captain Donald Kragen, head of the SVU squad. Season Two is also notable for introducing psychiatrist Dr. George Huang, played by B.D. Wong, as the shrink who analyses rapists and other criminals. Wong joins the cast in the second to last episode of the second season and has been a regular ever since.

For fans of any television series that makes the leap to DVD box sets, the true joy of owning a full season comes from discovering episodes missed when aired on television whether through the original network run or in syndication. SVU Season Two is packed with all 21 episodes from the 2000-2001 season including many terrific ones that viewers will not mind seeing for the umpteenth time. Plus, with the USA Network picking up Law & Order: Criminal Intent this season and cutting down on the number of SVU episodes it slots each week, this DVD set will help satisfy the cravings fans have for back-to-back cases involving sexually based crimes.

The first episode "Wrong is Right" begins like a true September season premiere with Stabler taking his daughter home from the beach since the time for summer fun is over. But when she witnesses first-hand a burning car with a man on fire during the drive home to Queens, the detective must solve the case and explain to his teenage girl how these are everyday events with his horrific job. Ice T's first full episode plays it easy with the rapper playing a character not far from his own self. The second episode is also a classic with detectives investigating the vicious murder of the daughter of an Afghan diplomat. The story uncovers the tradtion of honor killings as cultures collide. Airing one full year before the 9/11 terror attacks, this episode examines Taliban rules and plays differently today than it did when NBC first aired it.

"Taken" begins with a teenage girl stumbling out of an elevator during a grand opening of a luxary hotel after being raped. Both the hotel and the victim become suspects as their true motives are slowly revealed. In "Pixies," the murder of a gymnast forces the elite squad of detectives to examine the world of girls gymnastics, Eastern European coaches, and wealthy pedophiles who stalk young girls in leotards. Eric Roberts guest stars in "Victims" as a former cop and community activist who takes it upon himself to hunt down sex offenders.

"Runaway" jumps head first into New York City's underground rave culture and brings back former cast member Michelle Hurd as Detective Monique Jefferies in a flashback episode about a cop's missing daughter. "Parasites" finds a Romanian woman sent to America for an arranged marriage killed and "Folly" studies the world of male escorts and the dangerous missions they are sent on. Margot Kidder and Chad Lowe guest star in the May sweeps episode "Pique" as a mother-son duo whose relationship becomes increasingly sick and twisted as the episode progresses. It also marks the debut of Dr. Wong in a stereotypically nerdy interpretation of the Asian-American doc. The character would soon lose the glasses and sport cooler hair in future episodes.

Each episode is accompanied by a card with interesting stats like episode number, air date, rating and share, writer/director credits, and a summary. Deleted scenes add little substance, but in some cases are intriguing to watch. Profiles of Meloni and Hargitay are among the more valuable bonus features. Fans of the series and newcomers alike will find much to enjoy in this latest DVD set in what is sure to be a profitable title for its studio.

Law & Order: SVU - The Second Year contains three double-sided discs with a total runtime of 15 hours and 23 minutes. The DVD is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 and includes English SDH and Spanish subtitles. The material is not rated and distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

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L&O:SVU Season 2

SVU DVD Season 2