- Jul 6, 2003
Law and Order – Criminal Intent: The Third Year
Year: 2003 - 2004
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 15 Hours and 25 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: English - Dolby Stereo
September 14th, 2004
Throughout the history of “boob tube”, when programs have achieved a certain measure of popularity, it has been almost inevitable for a spin-off to follow. This is particularly true in the modern era of television, where successful shows like CSI have multiple spin-offs. The groundbreaking Law and Order series proved to be no exception, spawning two excellent programs, namely Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
Now if you have already read my review for Criminal Intent’s first season, you already know I have a pretty high opinion of this series. And even though I still don’t have the time to catch quite as many episodes as I would like, my fondness for this show has only grown stronger, as the writing and acting have improved with each successive season.
Interestingly enough, Dick Wolf, the creative genius behind the world of Law and Order does not see either Special Victims Unit or Criminal Intent as a “true” spin-off. Indeed, in the special features that accompanied the “First Year” DVD sets, Mr. Wolf states, quite clearly, that these programs are intended to be separate and distinct from the original Law and Order series, even though they sometimes share common characters.
Essentially, Criminal Intent centers on cases assigned to the Major Case Squad, a division of the New York Police Department that investigates the most high profile crimes. This particular series differs from the original Law and Order, in that it focuses almost exclusively on the investigative processes employed by the detectives to catch criminals, significantly downplaying the courtroom drama that is a staple of the original series. Perhaps more importantly, this series has distinguished itself from its brethren by approaching the crimes from the criminals’ point of view, which is a concept that really intrigued me when I reviewed the first season of this show.
In my opinion, getting to see the motivations behind the criminals’ actions adds an interesting dynamic to the mystery that unfolds during each episode. As I mentioned in my review for the “first year”, I was initially somewhat skeptical that this would work, because if you see the crime being committed, a lot of the mystery surrounding the case is gone, which is one of the things that makes Law and Order so darn interesting in the first place. Fortunately, this deviation from the formula plays out better than I could have hoped for, adding a some complexity to the show by allowing for a more thorough exploration of both the “bad guys” and the “good guys”.
Since Criminal Intent cannot rely on plot twists as much, because we usually see the crime take place, the series rests squarely on the shoulders of the actors. This is particularly true of Vincent D’Onofrio, who is absolutely fantastic as Detective Robert Goren, an intellectual, methodical detective who is the closest thing we have to a modern day Sherlock Holmes. Fortunately, the rest of the cast proves to be nearly his equal, which makes for a truly superb hour of television each time a new episode airs.
For me, one of the main things that makes Criminal Intent work so well is how plausible the partnership between Goren and Alexandria Eames (Katherine Erbe) is. Quite simply, D’Onofrio and Erbe compliment each other beautifully, and really bring these characters to life! After two seasons, the actors have continued to further refine these characters, so Detective Eames and the other characters surrounding Detective Goren exhibit greater depth and development. Goren, on the other hand, is still Goren - using his razor sharp mind, amazing knowledge of many subjects, and attention to detail to crack cases that baffle other investigators
Most of the other changes to the series are really just subtle tweaks, but the third season did bring a new partner on board (if only temporarily) for Detective Goren. More precisely, his partner, Detective Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) is absent from seven episodes, as her character gives birth and takes maternity leave to bond with her baby. Her temporary stand-in, Detective Bishop (Samantha Buck) adds some additional interest to the show, as we finally get an idea of how Goren deals with training a new partner, who is unfamiliar with his methodologies. Likewise, it was quite interesting to watch Bishop becoming accustomed to working cases with such an unusually proficient and knowledgeable detective. In addition to the interesting interplay that occurs as Goren and Detective Bishop are paired off, the overall writing for the “third year” is very strong, especially in terms of the mysterious crimes the characters are tasked with solving.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: This is a great show, and certainly worthy of carrying the Law and Order name. With each episode, Vincent D’Onofrio continues to amaze me as super-sleuth Robert Goren, and the series as a whole just keeps getting better and better. It is just too bad there are not more shows on TV like this one! If you like good crime/drama, I cannot recommend this show highly enough!!!
The following is a brief description of each of the episodes from the third season of Law and Order: Criminal Intent:
--- “Undaunted Mettle” – Air Date 9/28/2003
The “third year” kicks off when an extremely pregnant Detective Eames reveals that she is serving as a surrogate mother for her sister’s unborn child. Of course, this being Law and Order: Criminal Intent, there is also a crime to solve, as a well-known architect becomes the key to unraveling the mystery behind the death of a young designer who was his closest competitor for the design work on a prestigious building.
--- “Gemini” – Air Date 10/05/2003
In “Gemini”, Goren and Eames investigate the possibility that a schizophrenic has committed a series of murders to punish those he holds accountable for distorting the appearance of human beings through cosmetic surgery. However, as the investigation proceeds, the detectives come to suspect there may be more than one killer, and that a person who knew the man may have used both his illness and his crimes against him in an extortion scheme.
--- “The Gift” – Air Date 10/12/2003
In this episode, Goren and Eames investigates a murder committed by members of a Santeria cult, and his sights are soon set on two ex-cons who convince the murder victim’s mother that she has psychic powers.
--- “But Not Forgotten” – Air Date 10/19/2003
In search of a missing bookkeeper, Goren and Eames discover several bodies, and their investigation leads to a killer for hire that is due for parole. However, when this assassin is killed, Goren finds that it may not be that easy to determine just who the killer really is.
--- “Pravda” – Air Date 10/26/2003
“Pravda” marks a big change for Detective Goren, as he is assigned a new partner when Eames goes on maternity leave, in the form of Detective Bishop. Still adjusting to working together, they are tasked with solving the murder of a respected reporter with a very interesting past.
--- “Stray” – Air Date 11/2/2003
In this episode, Detectives Goren and Bishop attempt to track down a woman who has manipulated her lover into murdering undercover cops and drug pushers, as part of a plot to get her hands on a large sum of drug money.
--- “A Murderer Among Us” – Air Date 11/9/2003
Here, Goren and company try to determine if a woman’s apparent suicide is really the work of her husband, who has a history of violent and abusive behavior. Interestingly, although their investigation into that particular incident does not prove as successful as they had hoped, they find that he just might be a person of interest in other unsolved cases.
--- “Sound Bodies” – Air Date 11/16/2003
In “Sound Bodies”, Detectives Goren and Bishop follow yet another trail of murder and deception when three bodies are discovered in a church.
--- “Happy Family” – Air Date 11/23/2003
This time out, the beating death of a wealthy man leads the investigators to several suspects, including his estranged wife and a suspicious aunt and uncle, each of whom had a reason for wanting him dead.
--- “F.P.S.” – Air Date 1/4/2004
In this installment of the series, the incomparable Goren uses his talents to solve the murder of a young woman who worked in the computer game industry.
--- “Mad Hops” – Air Date 1/11/2004
When a missing high school basketball star and the private investigator hired to find him turn up dead, Goren calls upon his own experiences as a high school athlete to piece together the clues he needs to catch the killer.
--- “Unrequited” – Air Date 1/18/2004
In “Unrequited”, Detectives Goren and Eames receive an anonymous letter, which leads them to exhume the body of an elderly poison victim. As the ensuing investigation proceeds, the detectives focus on the man’s power-hungry widow and the head of a charity with some shady connections.
--- “Pas de Deux” – Air Date 2/15/2004
This investigation begins when a bank-robber is killed by a bomb that was tied around his neck goes off. As Goren and Eames check things out, they come to believe that the bomb was set off by someone else, a discovery leading them to the person that is going to help the killer with his next heist. Subsequently, the detectives must race against the clock, to stop the next planned robbery before more blood is shed.
--- “Mis-Labeled” – Air Date 2/22/2004
While investigating the murder of a salesman, Goren and Eames stumble onto a web of white-collar crime, including fraud, bribery, and a conspiracy to sell contaminated blood to Thailand.
--- “Shrink Wrapped” – Air Date 3/7/2004
In this episode, the child of two self-centered psychotherapists is plotting to take revenge on them for their abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, her scheme spells tragedy for a young man caught up in her parents’ promiscuity and head games.
--- “The Saint” – Air Date 3/14/2004
“The Saint” chronicles the investigation into the death of a woman who was poisoned by the contents of a package sent anonymously. Subsequently, Goren and Eames are led to a man who is helping a local church to verify the Sainthood of a 19th-century priest named Jerome.
--- “Conscience” – Air Date 3/28/2004
In this episode, a neurologist who believes she can communicate with a woman in a vegetative state is killed by someone who fears the doctor will uncover the real reason that the woman is in said condition.
--- “Ill-Bred” – Air Date 4/18/2004
In “Ill-Bred”, Goren investigates the murder of a veterinarian that was questioning the use of drugs on her patients (horses).
--- “Fico De Capo” – Air Date 5/9/2004
This time out, Goren’s investigation leads to the son of a mob family, who is trying to inherit the power of his dying father. Unfortunately for him, he has a challenger…
--- “D.A.W.” – Air Date 5/16/2004
Goren and Eames’ investigation into the mysterious death of a woman searching for her late mother’s jelery leads them to a doctor, whose behavior arouses their suspicions.
--- “Consumed” – Air Date 5/23/2004
In the final episode of year three, Goren and Eames are looking into a triple homicide, which is initially blamed on a police officer. However, as is usually the case in Criminal Intent things are not always what they seem, and the investigation leads to some interesting discoveries (and new suspects).
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
The crimes investigated by Robert Goren and Alexandria Eames during Law and Order: Crimnal Intent’s third year are presented by Universal in the very same full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio in which they were broadcast, and look mighty fine. To begin with, colors are adequately saturated, and exhibit very little in the way of bleed or other distracting aberrations. Whites were also stark and clean, and black levels were typically both deep and noise-free, so shadow delineation was very good throughout the episodes included in this set.
In addition, fine detail was well above average, and the episodes are free from scratches and other blemishes, exhibiting only a negligible amount of grain. Really, about the only complaint I had was with the light (but still noticeable) application of edge enhancement, which was also present on the DVD set for the first season of Criminal Intent. Honestly, the resultant halos at the borders of light/dark transitions never become a major distraction, but I really wish that edge enhancement had not been applied at all.
In any case, overall image quality appears to be dramatically improved from the television broadcasts I managed to catch, so I have to say I was pleased with the visual presentation of the investigations conducted by Detectives Goren and Eames during their “third year”!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Surprise, surprise! The stereo Dolby Digital (2.0) mix provided for the episodes that make up Law and Order: Criminal Intent’s third year will not surround you with a cacophony of sound, but the source material sure is reproduced acceptably! Obviously, there is a lot of talking during these episodes, and with that in mind, dialogue is reproduced in a robust, clear manner, without hissing, sibilance, or other apparent detractions from the listening experience.
Similarly, although the soundstage does not provide an immersive experience, the extremely sparse score, and occasional sound effects, exhibit a pleasing degree of authenticity in their timbres. The soundstage is not very spacious, and frequency response is somewhat subdued in the lower registers, but I think this has to do more with the source material than anything else.
All things considered, as the audio is on par with the “first year” DVD set, I think the vast majority of Criminal Intent’s fans will be satisfied with the reproduction of the audio from these episodes!
NOTE: The extras are located on Disc Three.
Who Is Robert Goren?
Clocking in at approximately 15 minutes, this featurette is both the longest and best value-added featurette in the “third year” set. Perhaps I am a little biased though, as this piece focuses on providing viewers with ample detail on the Detective Robert Goren character (my favorite TV detective!), and how he has been developed over the course Criminal Intent. If you like the show, you should really enjoy it!
Profile: Jamey Sheridan
This short bonus feature consists of a roughly 3-minute interview with Jamey Sheridan, who provides a little more insight into his character, Captain James Deakins.
Profile: Courtney Vance
This “profile” consists of an approximately 3-minute long interview, this time with Courtney B. Vance, who describes his character, Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver.
Set Tour With Fred Berner and Kathryn Erbe
During this “set tour”, which flies by in only 6 minutes, Kathryn Erbe and Fred Berner take viewers onto some of Criminal Intent’s sets, describing their details and explaining some other things of interest along the way.
Criminal Intent: The Private Eye
Running for approximately 5 minutes, this featurette is another quickie, which focuses on Law and Order: Criminal Intent’s technical advisor, Michael Struk. In this extra, Mr. Struk, who used to be a detective with the New York Police Department, talks about the part he plays in ensuring that the show’s characters and cases remain faithful to their real world counterparts.
(on a five-point scale)
Episodes: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Video: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Audio: :star: :star: :star:
Extras: :star: :star:
Overall: :star: :star: :star: :star:
THE LAST WORD
For me, the “third year” of Law and Order: Criminal Intent did the unthinkable, by taking a premise that I really enjoyed (which was also very well done) and improving upon it! Really, as impressed as I was by the show’s first two seasons, this third season contains some truly outstanding mysteries and superb performances by the lead actors! In my opinion, the third year of Criminal Intent is the best one yet.
If you like this series, you will definitely feel justified in picking it up on DVD, as it contains some mildly interesting (though brief) extras, and the A/V quality is certainly acceptable. Having every episode at hand, with the ability to watch them without being barraged by commercials, left me on Cloud Nine! This is a wonderful series, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves great crime-drama! I can hardly wait until season four begins…September 26th will be a happy day for me!