Jesse L. Martin
Credit: Will Hart

Try as it might, Law & Order still can’t fully break a nasty habit. Jesse L. Martin worked his final case as Det. Ed Green in last night’s episode, and the show just couldn’t resist one more gotcha exit. (Go ahead and start singing Roberta Flack’s “Jesse,” if you must. I’ll wait.)

As I was saying, there’s a pattern here — consider the history. Poor Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy) was smashed in a car crash. Alexandra Borgia (Annie Parisse)? Sliced by a psycho and dumped in the trunk of a car. Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Rohm) and Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) were the lucky ones — L&O just outed Serena as a lesbian and killed off Adam’s unseen wife. To be sure, not everyone gets so dramatic a send-off (notice how quietly they packed off Milena Govich’s one-and-done Nina Cassady?), but L&O does like its exclamation points. So we shouldn’t exactly be surprised that Green turned out to enjoy the company of croupiers.

addCredit(“Jesse L. Martin: Will Hart”)

As Green explained it, back in the dark days after the death of Lenny Brisco (the forever missed Jerry Orbach),he reignited a gambling habit that had him frequenting an undergroundcasino in Harlem. Bad luck for him, the latest victim-of-the-weekturned out to have a connection to Ed’s old nemesis from the tables. Itall came crashing down when said thug ended up dead in the street withEd’s bullet lodged firmly in his back. Cue the grand jury, strike upthe indictment… a good cop ends up off the force.

Ah, but not dead. Or in jail. Or even all that sullied, really. Instead of nicking an artery, Law & Orderlet Ed Green walk out the door dignified and chivalrous (nice touch,having him protect the honor of a lady). “The man’s been in my office100 times,” said Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston). “I just kind of assumed hewasn’t a murderer.” Murderer? Let’s see, he recovered admirably from anaddiction, defended a troubled woman, and dispatched a homicidal freak.Any other city they’d be running him for mayor.

But this episode wasn’t only about giving fans and Martin — an L&O vet of nearly 200 episodes — a fitting send-off as he steps out the door to star in the Marvin Gaye biopic, Sexual Healing.It was also a chance to learn more about Jeremy Sisto’s Det. CyrusLupo, and meet his new partner, Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson).Verdicts? Well we know we dig Lupo because he has a cute dog, and we’reeasily swayed by puppies. But Bernard? Let’s just say Anderson gonnahave to keep bringing his special sauce, because so far B.’sinvestigative skills are iffy. Still, it’s a curious pairing, andperhaps the most dynamic since Brisco met Logan (Chris Noth). Andbottom line, it’s probably best to go ahead and decide right now thatwe like them. I mean, what are we gonna do? Pick season 18 to suddenlystop watching?