Law & Order: SVU Season 18 Premiere Recap: The Worst of Both Worlds

Kimberly Roots

If you’re an avid Law & Order: SVU fan who feels a disturbance in the (police) force, it’s likely because the unthinkable is afoot: Lt. Olivia Benson experiences — gasp! — a moment of happiness during the NBC procedural’s Season 18 premiere.

Don’t worry. Quicker than you can say #BringBackMeloni, Liv is plunged into an hour that involves a lethal cycling accident, a terror plot, a mass shooter in Central Park, a 4-year-old wielding a Glock and of course the series’ standbys: rape and murder.

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Along the way, the ripped-from-the-headlines series also touches on the San Bernadino massacre, encrypted cell phones and all, and still finds a few minutes to give us an update on Benson and Tucker’s romance.

Read on for the highlights from “Terrorized.”

SVU, JE T’AIME | Somewhere in Central Park, a woman shouts in a foreign language to a wandering child, then gets mowed down by a speeding cyclist. Olivia and Noah are playing nearby; “You want me to fly you like the plane we took to Paris?” she says, swinging the kiddo through the air. I’m trying to picture Liv all light and carefree, with a scarf tied jauntily around her neck as she and Tucker skip around the 1st Arrondissment, feeding Noah bites of Nutella-and-banana crepe. I’m not succeeding.

But true to form, Olivia’s fun day is interrupted by a work call, this one about a lost kid elsewhere in the park. So she brings Noah with her to the scene of the incident, where a beat cop informs her that a 4-year-old who doesn’t speak English has been found without any corresponding adult nearby. And are we really surprised when the 4-year-old pulls a gun out of his backpack and casually aims it at the lieutenant?

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Olivia throws Noah behind her and defuses the situation, eventually making a successful grab for the weapon before anything terrible can happen. Then she grabs her son and hugs him to her, breathily whispering, “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK.” Be right back — getting a GoFundMe together for Little Noah’s Eventual Staggering Therapy Bills.

LOADED AND LOCKED | It turns out the kid’s name is Ali, his great-aunt was watching him — she died in that bike accident, by the way — and Carisi and Rollins’ attempts to track down other family members eventually reveals that his mom is a Bosnian woman named Ana… and no one knows where she is. Meanwhile, a fingerprint off the gun helps the gang find a Queens apartment where Ana, her fiancé Luka and Ali lived but recently left in a hurry. In the back of the place, Fin opens a door and comes face-to-face with a home arsenal, complete with Arabic writing on the walls. “Call ESU, Joint Terrorism and the Bomb Squad,” a shocked Olivia orders.

Turns out, the guy paying Luka’s rent is his brother Armin, and when the cops raid his midtown insurance company, they force him to call Luka. But the brother shouts a warning, causing Luka to toss his cell phone in a dumpster. When the police find it, it’s locked, and only the company — which is so not Apple, right? Right? — can unlock it. “Call Barba,” Liv says.

Barba gets a judge to sign an order to unlock the phone, arguing that the police and FBI likely can prevent an attack if they have access to the information on the device. “Godspeed getting the company to comply,” the judge warns him, and he’s right. (We’ll revisit in a minute.)

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HIS NAME WAS LUKA | Based on some intel that Luka and Ana are in Central Park, Benson’s unit starts to close in. Unfortunately, an off-duty cop notices Luka looking suspicious — and packing serious explosives underneath his shirt — during a public performance near the park’s 72nd Street Transverse. When the officer flashes his badge, Luka shoots him and then starts firing into the crowd at random while terrified onlookers flee. Eventually, a police officer shoots Luka dead. As the rest close in on Ana, she begs, “Help me, please.”

Her story: She’s a victim who has been repeatedly raped and beaten by Luka and Armin for the past five years. The D.A.’s story: She’s a murderer and a terrorist, and who cares about anything else? Benson believes the woman; Barba warns that “the more you investigate this, the more you legitimize her story.”

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A FATHER’S GRIEF | Meanwhile, Liv is dealing with an icy Captain Dodds, who clearly blames her for his son’s death in the season finale. I mean, he basically says as much, verbatim. Though he immediately walks it back and leaves the room, Olivia admits to Barba that Dodds’ dad is right.

Oh, and Tucker has been appointed to the Conviction Integrity Unit, which he explains is “kinda like an in-house Innocence Project.” Say hi to Hayley Atwell for us, Tuck!

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DADDY ISSUES | Ana submits to a rape kit, which proves rough sex but not rape. To make matters worse, DNA tests show that Ali is Armin’s son — which is all the brother needs to know before he starts calling Ana a “terrorist and a tramp” who turned his sibling “into a radical, a killer.”

The rest of the episode deals with whether Ana’s rape should come into play in the murder case. Liv — who’s certainly out on her own on this one — quietly advises Ana’s lawyer to cut a deal on the murder and terrorism charges so they have a little more leverage to pursue the rape case. So she does.

Meanwhile, Liv and Barba try to get the phone company to comply with the court order in order to access some videos that would help prove Ana’s rape claims. Though they win in Motions Court, the company immediately appeals. But it doesn’t matter, because the Feds hear some “chatter” that Armin is talking with known radicals in Afghanistan, so they cart him off to “a very special and secure hotel.” Translation: Armin’s not going to be a threat to anyone anymore.

So Liv tells Ana the good news: Armin won’t be able to get custody of Ali! Yay! Now say goodbye to your kid, lady, because you’re going to jail for life! After the sad goodbye, Ana thanks Olivia for looking out for her child (a sister in Bosnia is going to raise the boy). Then Liv, Noah and Tucker enjoy a happy — albeit slightly teary — afternoon back in the park.

Now it’s your turn. Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!

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