Universal // 2003 // 923 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Gutierrez (Retired) // November 3rd, 2004
It's the Goren Show.
Not once, not twice, but thrice has Dick Wolf's Law & Order series of series struck gold (four times if you count the upcoming Law & Order: Trial By Jury). In this version, the detectives of NYPD's Major Case Squad close the higher end cases. Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- The Third Year tackles cases ranging from architectural theft to horse rearing to murderous doctors.
Whereas the majority of the Law & Order shows are ensemble dramas, L&O: CI primarily focuses on the cunning intellect of Detective Robert "Bobby" Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio, Full Metal Jacket). Assisting Goren in putting away the evils of the world are his main partner, the level-headed and centered Alex Eames (Kathryn Erbe, Oz); temporary partner, Detective Bishop (Samantha Buck, Third Watch); cool as hell Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver (Courtney B. Vance, Panther); and the MCS Captain, James Deakins (Jamey Sheridan, The Ice Storm).
Also unlike its predecessors, L&O: CI documents how the crimes are committed in addition to the police work, allowing for a classic mystery feel.
Hinting at and allowing glimpses of Goren's past, L&O: CI spends little time on character and more on story. Thinly spread over three double-sided discs, Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- The Third Year contains the following twenty-one episodes and a handful of special features:
L&O: CI meets The Fountainhead when an architectural squabble turns into a familial homicide. Eames decides to become a surrogate mother for her sister.
Goren and Eames investigate contact lens-related murders.
Santeria and psychic phenomena get debunked by Goren and Eames.
*"But Not Forgotten"
Goren and Eames look into the disappearance of a dead hitman/policeman's sister.
A plagiarist reporter turns up dead. Goren and his new partner, Detective Bishop, search for the reporter's killer. Eames begins her stint at desk duty as her belly swells.
When two undercover cops turn up dead, an investigation into their deaths leads Goren and Bishop to a lovesick dyslexic.
*"A Murderer Among Us"
What looks like a murder, might just be a suicide intended to point Goren and Bishop to a hate-crime killer.
Girls are influenced to murder three teenage boys. Goren and Bishop track down the girls and the person behind the murders.
A murdered man's family is anything but happy. Goren and Bishop have no shortage of suspects in the father's murder -- but they don't have to look too far.
Goren and Bishop connect the dots between tampered ATMs, Spyware, and violent video games when a computer programmer is found dead.
A high school basketball player is killed. Goren and Bishop uncover a complex web of stats tampering and team recruitment.
An unhinged actress and a sleazy promoter assist in each other in murder and for their own selfish purposes. Eames returns to help Goren put away the murderous duo.
*"Pas De Deux"
A housewife falls for a dying thief that manipulates others to assist him in his bank robberies. Goren suspects a hidden agenda.
Goren and Eames investigate a pharmaceutical salesman's death that leads them to a bigger problem involving the sale of HIV-tainted blood.
A psychiatrist is strongly implicated in the murder of one his wife's patients.
After a woman is killed by a letter bomb, Goren and Eames find someone is going through great lengths to discredit an organization called the Foundation.
In a twisted tale, Goren and Eames unravel an embezzlement scheme.
Goren and Eames hit the stables to investigate horse tampering.
*"Fico de Capo"
Goren and Eames take on young Mob wannabes taking out witnesses.
Goren and Eames look into a series of murders involving the elderly.
In the series finale, Goren and Eames search for a policeman whose gun is involved in three murders.
Love it or hate it, L&O: CI is the Goren show. Nobody gets as much attention, screen time or dialogue as Goren does. For twenty-one episodes, Goren is allowed to move about like a wounded spastic, delivering his lines with deep pauses that can only be described as "Shatneresque" in length. That's not to say that D'Onofrio overdoes his portrayal of the complicated, almost childlike Goren -- though he comes close occasionally. Little by little, Goren has tidbits of his life uncovered for the audience. Due to the flickering nature of these revelations, it can appear that Goren has knowledge that creeps up when it is convenient to solving crimes, very much in a deux ex machina fashion. To like Goren is to have patience.
Detective Goren, in all his Sherlock-like bravado, is complimented best by his partner/Watson, Detective Eames. This season showed how important Eames is to the series. When partnered with Bishop, Goren had no counterbalance. It used to appear that Eames was treated as nothing more than an expositional vehicle. It is all too clear now that Eames anchors Goren. She lends credibility and strength to his character. Be it by design or through execution, nothing proved Goren's need for Eames like her absence. In fact, so empty is the Bishop character, I believe she's not even given a first name. For reasons unknown, the writers opted not to given Bishop any visible backstory.
Rounding out the characters are Captain Deakins and Assistant D.A. Carver. Regrettably, we don't get to see enough of these two. Both are strong actors that could carry episodes on their own. The courtroom scenes are few and far between, relegating Carver to occasional appearances in the squad room or his office.
The format of the show works to its advantage. While the viewer is shown some of the what and the who, rarely is he privy to the how. The show doesn't dumb it down or spell it out for the audience. Instead, the viewer can accompany Goren and company as he comes to his conclusions. Additionally, the show benefits through the writing of Gerry Conway. Conway was responsible for many of the best Spider-Man stories of the '70s.
The writing is consistently strong, in the Law & Order tradition. The season has its share of clunkers, but the majority of the episodes are well thought out. Most shows can't come close to the level of intelligence of the Law & Order family.
Perhaps the series' greatest strength is its individuality. Unlike C.S.I. and its interchangeable spin-offs, the Law & Order shows each have their own unique feel. The cases that the Special Victims Unit investigates differ from the Major Case Squad's which differ from the standard homicide investigations of the 15th precinct. Their cases wouldn't work anywhere else -- neither would Goren.
The DVD set includes a few less than special features. My main beef is with the "Who Is Robert Goren?" featurette. Astute viewers may notice several of the interview segments were lifted from the "Behind the Scenes" featurette from Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- The First Year. Chance are those that pick up the season three set will have already bought the first year's set. The set tour was interesting but not a must-see by any means. The profiles of Vance and Sheridan were brief yet informative. "Criminal Intent: The Private Eye" provided some background on the technical advisor for the show. The Law & Order sets are slowly increasing in the amount of special features. A little commentary never killed anyone (just a hint, Universal).
Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- The Third Year is presented in its original full frame format. The transfer on this set is impressive, with no detectable flaws. The 2.0 Dolby Digital mix was without problems as well. The new packaging is a nice touch. The slip case is sturdy and quite attractive.
Man, can that Goren routine get old. The show makes a point of showing Goren tricking or manipulating a confession out of a suspect. This can be a bit repetitive. The set is best viewed in short spurts, not in a marathon session. Too much Goren too soon isn't a good thing.
Double-sided discs are rarely a good thing, either. They are too prone to scratching. The streamlined sets are nice, but give me bulk and one-sided discs any day.
I'm not even going to mention that season two wasn't released before season three and that there is now a gaping maw on my shelf betweenLaw & Order: Criminal Intent -- The First Year and Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- The Third Year -- a huge, gaping, lonely maw.
Continuing the Law & Order standard of excellence, Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- The Third Year deserves a place on the shelf. Rent it or buy it, L&O: CI deserves a look.
Chung-chung. Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- The Third Year is free to go.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Gutierrez; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 923 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Set Tour
* "Criminal Intent: The Private Eye" featurette
* "Who is Robert Goren" featurette
* Profiles of Courtney B. Vance and Jamey Sheridan