Shout! Factory // 2009 // 660 Minutes // Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // December 16th, 2012
"In New York City's war on crime, the worst criminal offenders are pursued by the detectives of the major case squad. These are their stories."
Of the sixteen episodes originally featured on Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Eighth Year, only fifteen appear in this set.
* "Playing Dead"
* "Rock Star"
* "Identity Crisis"
* "In Treatment"
* "Astoria Helen"
* "Folie A Deux"
* "Family Values"
* "Salome In Manhattan"
* "Lady's Man"
* "All In"
* "Major Case"
* "Alpha Dog"
Note: According to Shout! Factory: "The Glory That Was," (which originally aired as episode number eight) "is not included in this collection due to content issues."
The stories are split, almost evenly, between two detective teams: veterans Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio, Full Metal Jacket) and Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe, Stir Of Echoes), and newly-matched partners Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson, Boardwalk Empire) and Zachary Nichols (Jeff Goldblum, The Fly). Both teams report to Captain Danny Ross (Eric Bogosian, Talk Radio).
Unfortunately, Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Eighth Year represents a mixed bag at best, juggling stories "ripped from today's headlines" with varying degrees of success. Despite a reduced workload (previous seasons featured 21-23 episodes apiece), the series exhibits clear signs of exhaustion, with burn-out plainly visible on many of the regulars' faces. (In fact, only one of the leading actors will carry on through Season Nine).
Top-loaded, the season breaks out with a barn-burner of a case for Goren and Eames, involving a high-powered politician's step-daughter being caught up in a shoot-out that results in the death of her crack-head lover. Scripter Antoinette Stella sets up a taut lattice work of political corruption, sexploitation, blackmail, and cold-blooded murder that builds expertly upon itself until the credits roll. Guest star Kathy Baker's (Edward Scissorhands) powerhouse turn as the politician's mother and campaign advisor makes an unassailable argument that this woman is one of the best working actresses we continue to under-appreciate.
"Rock Star" represents an almost mirror-opposite of the first episode, cluttered by stereotypical characters with all the depth of a reflective pond. This silly, soap-operatic sketch of "aspiring punk rockers" engaging in deadly competition while sharing a bed-bug ridden loft, introduces detective Nichols as Wheeler's new partner, replacing the departing Mike Logan (Chris Noth, Sex and the City). The transition is a rough one for both Wheeler and the show's runners, who've managed to come up with no more than a new name and job description for the standard Jeff Goldblum character: that manic, bug-eyed weirdo savant who occasionally turns handsome and superheroic, if only to keep the rest of the world constantly guessing about him. (For further examples, see: Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Big Chill, et al).
To his credit, Goldblum remains an inventive and engaging actor (well-qualified to offer more than the standard Jeff Goldblum character when given the chance), but the biggest problem with Nichols is that he ultimately comes off as a show-boating version of Goren. This becomes especially evident when Wheeler clocks out early (Nicholson's pregnancy necessitated her exiting the show), leaving Nichols to team up with Eames for two cases, and with so little apparent difference that I couldn't help wonder whether the scripts were originally written for Wheeler?
On a brighter note, the Nichols and Eames helmed final chapter ("Revolution") winds up bringing renewed hope for the series, by providing one of the season's best entries.
I was unpleasantly surprised to see some fuzziness occasionally crop up in these 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers, though to be fair, both the 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo sound options held up their end of the bargain. This bare-bones Shout! Factory release offers no extras, and unlike the Universal Studios sets of earlier seasons, no English subtitles are available here, though the same episodes are currently streaming on Netflix with them!
Even with its flaws, Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Eighth Year mostly provides better than average television entertainment, but considering its current list price, and the careless attitude towards quality control (not to mention the episode omitted altogether!), there's no way I can recommend this set in good conscience.
Review content copyright © 2012 P.S. Colbert; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 660 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated