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Case Number 13488

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Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Sixth Year

Universal // 2004 // 992 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // April 24th, 2008

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All Rise...

In the criminal justice system, Judge Adam Arseneau is considered especially heinous. Or so the women tell him.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Fifth Year (published November 3rd, 2004), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Eighth Year (published February 17th, 2009), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Eleventh Year (published October 13th, 2010), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Fourth Year (published January 28th, 2008), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Seventh Year (published August 13th, 2008), and Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Third Year (published February 21st, 2007) are also available.

The Charge

Chung-chuuuung!

Opening Statement

Watch in amazement as the most heavily rerun franchise in the entire world tries to woo buyers into purchasing DVD copies of episodes available on TV all the freaking time. C'mon, you know you want to. Don't make me "chung-chuuung" again.

Facts of the Case

New York City's Special Victims Unit (SVU) is tasked with investigating the most heinous of sexually based criminals—pedophiles, rapists, molesters, and worse. Detectives Stabler (Christopher Meloni, Oz) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay, Lake Placid) pound the streets, while Munch (Richard Belzer, Homicide: Life on the Street) and Tutuola (Ice-T, New Jack City) back them up. Captain Cragen (Dann Florek, Law & Order) works the office, while ADA Novak (Diane Neal) prosecutes the heck out of the offenders.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Sixth Year contains all 23 episodes from the show's sixth season, spread across five discs:

• "Birthright"
When a 6-year-old girl gets kidnapped, SVU is called into action and soon unravels a complex scheme involving fertility doctors, stolen embryos, and all manner of shenanigans. Meanwhile, the ADA is forced to mitigate a raging custody battle between the biological and birth mothers of the girl.

• "Debt"
After the disappearance of a mother and teenage daughter, SVU uncovers an immigration conspiracy run by ruthless gangsters holding young women hostage as sex slaves and prostitutes.

• "Obscene"
After the rape of a 16-year-old television star, the detectives struggle over whether to arrest a controversial and obscene shock jock radio host for promoting the attack.

• "Scavenger"
A demented serial killer has returned from the history books to torment New York City, and the SVU squad is thrust into the middle of his twisted game.

• "Outcry"
When a girl is discovered beaten and raped in a college dormitory, SVU begins to investigate the crime, but the detectives are surprised when the girl quickly recants her story. Convinced the girl was indeed assaulted, Benson doggedly pursues the case, leading detectives to examine the girl's stepfather.

• "Conscience"
After the teenage murder of a young boy, the detectives and the DA get manipulated and worked over by the victim's father, who uses his expertise to pursue his own agenda of revenge.

• "Charisma"
The detectives attempt to unravel the misdeeds of a beloved cult leader, but find their investigation thwarted by the unwavering loyalty of his followers.

• "Doubt"
Stabler and Benson find themselves divided between a "he said, she said" case of consensual sex vs. rape. As the detectives take separate sides, professionalism gives way to personal attack.

• "Weak"
Desperate to solve the case of a serial rapist targeting disabled women, Benson enlists the aid of a former police officer turned psychiatrist in order to help understand the crime.

• "Haunted"
Detective Fin mixes business with family as he tries to save the life of two small children caught in the middle of robbery and drug abuse. In doing so, he must reunite with his estranged son.

• "Contagious"
During the examination of a young girl after a car crash, doctors determine the 9-year-old had been sexually abused. She points the finger at her soccer coach, which soon opens the flood gates, with numerous other victims coming forward. Meanwhile, Stabler tries to keep his personal life separate from his job.

• "Identity"
When SVU gets called in to investigate the death of a gangster falling off a building, confusion soon arises as to the perpetrator of the attack. A rival tagger confesses readily to the attack, but the physical evidence suggests otherwise.

• "Quarry"
The detectives charge a convicted serial killer with the death of a 7-year-old child. He is quite happy to go into detail about the ones he did kill, but to their surprise, he vehemently swears he never molested and killed the young boy. By the time the detectives realize they may have the wrong man in custody, somebody else beats them to the punch.

• "Game"
A seemingly random homicide leaves the SVU squad scratching their heads, until Stabler's son points out the similarities between the crime and a popular videogame.

• "Hooked"
A teenage body is discovered, but the victim has the I.D of her older cousin on its body. SVU investigates and soon unravels a complex network of teenagers hooking up online for casual sex.

• "Ghost"
After a young wealthy couple is found slain, SVU soon ties them into a drug smuggling ring—the same drug organization that forced former ADA Alex Cabot into hiding.

• "Rage"
Stabler gets his rage on after he discovers the leading suspect of a murdered and raped woman is an accused serial rapist who got off on a technicality fourteen years ago. Having missed his chance to lock the scumbag up the first time, Stabler vows not to let the same mistake happen twice, and his passion alarms his co-workers.

• "Pure"
When a psychic comes forward with information about the kidnapping of a teenage girl, Stabler refuses to believe the clues given to detectives are anything but admissions of guilt.

• "Intoxicated"
After a mother catches her 15-year-old daughter in bed with her 21-year-old boyfriend, she storms to SVU and demands they charge the boy with statutory rape. Benson intercedes on behalf of the distraught teenage girl and calls her friend, a children's rights lawyer, to come to her aid. But when the mother turns up dead, things are complicated immeasurably by the involvement of the lawyer, who opts to protect her young client rather than assist police.

• "Night"
A young woman is discovered raped and murdered in front of a nightclub with five hundred dollars stuffed in her mouth. Fingerprints on the money lead SVU to an attorney working for the Duvall family, a powerful, influential, and wealthy family in NYC. The detectives are convinced a Duvall is the rapist, but lack the evidence to charge anyone in the crime. Things get complicated when ADA Novak is brutally attacked in her office.

• "Blood"
After a young baby is tossed out of a car, SVU investigates. Soon, a young woman addicted to pain killers and an elderly woman end up in the hot seat. Meanwhile, Stabler has to bail out his teenage daughter for drunk driving.

• "Parts"
Junkyard workers discover a woman's head in an abandoned car, leading SVU to uncover an underground network of stolen body parts—harvesting healthy organs out of cadavers and selling them to the highest bidder.

• "Goliath"
When two seemingly unrelated crimes draw in the attention of the SVU squad, they soon discover both the accused recently returned home from a stint serving in Afghanistan and were administered the same controversial anti-malaria drug. After a military doctor comes forward with information suggesting the military knew the drug had potential side-effects, Stabler must come to terms with his own military past and assist ADA Novak in taking on the U.S. Army.

The Evidence

Love it or hate it, SVU is the only Law & Order franchise that still makes any attempt to push its boundaries. The others seem merely content to plod along, regurgitating the same material again and again, but SVU takes an almost visceral glee in seeing exactly how troubling a subject matter can be depicted on network television. Each episode is wrought with unsettling subject matter—rape, torture, disfigurement, abuse, psychological trauma, dismemberment—you name it, they got it. Plus hookers. Oh, do they have hookers. Dead ones, usually.

As the most rock-solid of the spinoffs, SVU always delivers a good season, full of quality episodes and choice moments. Season Six is no exception, with standout episodes including the balls-to-the-walls "Scavenger," an episode straight out of Se7en; "Weak," an oddly unsettling tale of mental illness and rape (in which guest star Amanda Plummer won an Emmy); "Contagious," a worst-case scenario of wrongful accusations; "Game," a barely disguised stab at the controversial Grand Theft Auto videogame franchise; "Ghost," which brings back former ADA Alex Cabot to deal with her past; and "Intoxicated," a surprisingly complex investigation into the difficult job of defending a teenage client. As with past seasons, anyone who's anyone in NYC for a few days drops in to cameo, and guest stars appearing this season are plentiful. To name a few: Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Lea Thompson (Caroline In The City), Ming-Na (ER), Lewis Black (The Daily Show With Jon Stewart), Maggie Grace (Lost), Kyle MacLachlan (Blue Velvet), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Martin Short (SCTV), Glenne Headly (Dick Tracy), and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) all log in for a solid day's work.

This is an especially rough season for Stabler, whose home life self-destructs and bleeds over into his job, making him even more a hotheaded jerk than normal. His marriage starts to go into the toilet, his teenage daughter is a jerk, and his normally cool demeanor (ha!) begins to crack. One area SVU seemed to struggle with earlier on was the back story with its characters—it had all these great ideas about episode content but little in the way to tie together a unified plot progression. However, by the sixth season, things are humming along quite nicely, and we can start to see the natural progression (or in Stabler's case, regression) of years of character development subtly worked in between the endless parade of dead hookers and rape victims. The downside, of course, to Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit: The Sixth Year is that characters other than Stabler pretty much take a back seat. Benson gets an occasional moment to sort out her own problems, Fin by my count gets one episode dealing with his estranged son, and Munch? Forget about it. He might as well not even show up for work.

Now that the show has made the full switch to HD, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Sixth Year looks superb, doubly so on DVD. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is a noticeable improvement from previous grainy full-frame DVD releases, featuring fantastic contrast and color saturation. Black levels are deep and rich, and with nary a scratch or mark to be seen. These may be standard-definition DVD releases, but the increased fidelity of the source material makes all the difference. Likewise, the audio now comes in a full 5.1 presentation (over previous stereo) with deep bass, clear dialogue, and great environmental effects. The mix is still primarily center-balanced, but the rear channels spring up during noisy sequences, especially on the streets of NYC.

The only extra included on this disc is entirely superfluous, but one cannot deny the appeal: a Sesame Street parody of Law & Order: SVU. You heard that right. The letter "M" has gone missing, and it is up to the Special Letters Unit to recover it. It may be inappropriate to parody a sexual-based offense drama on a children's television show, but seeing lookalike PBS versions of our beloved detectives is a riot.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As sweet as these DVDs may be, Law & Order episodes are mercilessly syndicated, making DVD purchases entirely unnecessary. Pick a random channel at a random time of day or night and you have a statistically strong chance of hitting a rerun. Do you really want to pay for these episodes when you can get them for free?

Closing Statement

If you're already invested in five seasons worth of SVU on DVD, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Sixth Year is probably already in your shopping cart. The spiffy anamorphic transfer and surround sound presentation should seal the deal for the undecided.

The Verdict

Not guilty, but most of us will be more than content just to catch the endless, endless, ever-endless reruns.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 94
Audio: 92
Extras: 10
Acting: 90
Story: 89
Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 992 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Crime
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• "Law & Order: Special Letters Unit"








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