'Law & Order: SVU' season 16 finale recap: 'Surrendering Noah'
This post contains details from the Law & Order: SVU season 16 finale, which aired Wednesday, May 20.
Law & Order: SVU has been on for 16 seasons. Again—16 SEASONS. That’s quite a feat in a televisual world where there are endless channels and options. SVU’s not settling down in Springfield territory just yet, but it’s getting there. Naysayers called for a bus on the show after Christopher Meloni bowed out after season 12. Meloni and his portrayal of sensitive rageball Det. Elliot Stabler was a force to be reckoned with, and new showrunner Warren Leight decided it would take two complicated characters to fill his shoes. He was right. In addition to introducing are-they-or-aren’t-they Rollins and Amaro (Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino), Leight turned up the soap opera elements of what was always the L&O franchise’s most dramatic entry. Well, now it’s the only one, and it’s still chugging.
“SVU 2.0” has gelled in the past two seasons by focusing on the trials and tribulations of TV’s most beloved policelady (sorry, Laura of the Mysteries). Mariska Hargitay has handled the bigger workload with seeming ease. She’s one of the most soulful actresses on TV, and it was in her destiny to headline. We really care about Sgt. Olivia Benson. When pesky psycho William Lewis (Pablo Schrieber) made Liv’s life a living hell in the “Save Benson” arc, fans were on pins and needles. But this is Liv. One of them is dead, and the other one is still running the show. Can you guess who’s who?
Liv closes out season 16 embroiled in yet another personal drama with life-altering stakes. No, it’s not Carisi (Peter Scanavino) constantly mentioning that he’s matriculating at Fordham Law. She’s fighting for custody of foster son Noah with the boy’s father. Baby Benson’s bio-dad is sex trafficker, rapist, and generally awful person Johnny D. D’s looking to stick it to the SVU by making off with Liv’s son. You can tell he’s evil because he’s used what looks like an entire can of Crisco to slick his hair back.
In a teary, go-Liv! opening scene—which you know is going to be horribly negated later—Liv is finally approved to adopt Noah. But the space on Noah’s birth certificate that lists the father reads “Unknown.” Liv, who has gotten screwed for lying in an official capacity in the past (see: the William Lewis affair), decides to list Johnny D. as the dad. Girl, no. Barba warns her against it, and you should always listen to the nattily dressed, shade-throwing ADA.
While we’re waiting for this to blow up in Liv’s face, Amaro approaches her about taking over as sergeant if she ends up going for lieutenant. Liv thinks he’d be great, until Tucker and his Liv’s balloon-specific pin lets her know that Amaro will NEVER be a sergeant. Due to three seasons of bad luck and poor choices, he’s considered “damaged goods” by One Police Plaza. Ouch. Luckily there are no bats around, and Amaro takes it well. He later apologizes to Liv for adding to her stress. Oh, this isn’t looking good if Amaro and Liv are having quiet moments of gratitude.
Johnny D’s lawyer has spilled the slime and filed a motion to have charges dropped against his monstrous client. They claim that he was arrested and is being prosecuted solely because Liv wants him out of the way so she can adopt Noah. Ugh, you’re both way gross. The motion is denied but Atty. Slime Guy Esq. wants a plea deal. He’ll drop any and all claims on Noah if they knock his client’s charges down to nothing. Liv’s all “yeah, no” but Barba reminds her that D. will be able to insist on court-ordered visits at the prison till Noah’s 18. And who wants that every week? Have you ever seen a prison waiting room? I haven’t, but I’ve seen it on TV.
The squad is assigned to act as confidantes to the witnesses in D.’s upcoming trial. We’re reacquainted with pimp Timor and pimp mama Selena. Timor’s cool with testifying against D., and Selena’s still all hard-bitten and “no way.” She doesn’t have much of a choice, though.The trial begins, and Liv takes the stand. D.’s lawyer manages to work in the fact that he’s Noah’s father, and the press has a field day. His next move is to arrange for Selena to waste Timor in the prison van. Two witnesses gone, and then another lies on the stand despite indicating she would testify truthfully. Luckily the girl D. almost killed when he was arrested, Ariel, rallies the other survivors to testify against D. They do, and it looks like he’s going up the river sans paddle and pieces of broken glass to hold at hookers’ throats. Unfortunately, he’s also filed a motion for parental rights to Noah.
D., realizing he’s not going to come out on top, suddenly grabs a bailiff’s gun and starts a’shootin’ and a’hostage takin’. Amaro gives chase, gunshots ring out, and yes, I really, really thought Nick wasn’t long for this show. I was half-right, he typed sadly.
The season finale ends with an adoption party at Liv’s. The gang’s all there, celebrating the good news. Noah Porter Benson is officially Olivia Benson’s son. GO LIV. She’s wanted a kid for about 10 seasons now! And Elliot sure wasn’t going to relent to her unspoken requests for sensitive rageball semen.
Oh, you were probably wondering! Amaro shot and killed Johnny D., but was shot in the liver and knee during the gunfight. He crutches into Liv’s along with a beaming and lovely Amanda Rollins. Rollins is probably not going to have a pleasant season 17, seeing as Amaro’s leaving. What? Who? Kudos, Warren Leight for keeping this a secret.
In a moving exchange, Amaro tells Liv that he’s going to retire to California where both of his children now live. He apologizes for not being as good a partner to her as Elliot was. She tells him that she grew more in the years they worked together than she did in the 12 she was partnered with Stabler. And somewhere Christopher Meloni just threw a side-eye at NBC, Warren Leight, and probably Mariska Hargitay. Whatever, it was true. It was a total unrequited love thing, and Liv was too busy ministering to Elliot’s psychic wounds than she was taking care of herself. I could go on, but it does look as though Danny Pino is leaving the show. We will miss your intensity and your magnificent jawline, Nick Amaro.
What did you guys think of the season 16 finale?