The winter hiatus is finally over, and Law & Order SVU is back!
Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 9 seems to have finally wrapped up the Sheila Porter storyline, too. If that's true, it's a great belated Christmas gift.
I wasn't surprised that Sheila was behind Noah's kidnapping. I'd predicted it before he even disappeared, and her insistence that she was innocent when no one asked her sealed the deal.
But did the writers have to make her into a complete nut case for the sake of this ridiculous story?
I really, really wanted to be wrong about Sheila.
When it's so glaringly obvious that a character is up to no good, being proven wrong is half the fun. Viewers love to be surprised, and there's nothing better than being led down one path just to find that everything is completely different than it seemed.
In the first half of "Gone Baby Gone," it seemed like SVU was going that way, and I was thrilled.
Olivia: Do you think anyone was following you?
Sheila: I don't know.
Olivia: Think Sheila, think.
Sheila: I'm trying to! It's not like I wanted this to happen.
Olivia: No one is saying that.
Sheila: You don't have to. Your eyes say everything.
Sheila seemed genuinely upset, and she and Olivia seemed to bond over the loss of Noah. Olivia even tried to tell her that this was a very different situation than when Elly disappeared and Sheila acknowledged that Olivia had the right to freak out because she is Noah's mother.
Maybe the writers thought that having her turn out to be the bad guy, after all, that was a great twist, but it wasn't, because it just led me right back to the path I was on all along.
Apparently, the real twist was that Sheila was completely insane.
I'm really over the mentally ill villain with a grudge against Olivia trope. It's been done far too many times on SVU, and I'm tired of seeing it.
Olivia seems to constantly lose her gun to the bad guys and end up in dangerous situations that could easily have been prevented. I prefer seeing the stronger version of Olivia to the incompetent one who has to somehow talk down a crazy person who is aiming a gun at her.
Olivia: I am his mother.
Sheila: Why? Because a judge signed a piece of paper saying you are? That doesn't make you his mother.
Olivia: Actually, Sheila, it does.
While I knew all along that Sheila would kidnap Noah at some point, I found it hard to believe that she was this out of touch with reality and able to pretend she wasn't.
She apparently had the cognitive ability to plan a complex kidnapping, which included multiple red herrings and the help of a gardener who secretly had feelings for her, yet did not understand that a judge giving Olivia legal rights to Noah meant Olivia had those rights.
Nor did her plan make any sense whatsoever.
Noah kept asking when Mommy was coming to join them at the cabin and Sheila kept making fake phone calls to keep him happy. Did she think that was going to appease him forever?
What was she going to do if Olivia hadn't shown up? Never leave the cabin again and make up more and more complicated stories about why Mommy never answered her phone? Tell Noah his mom was dead? What exactly was the plan here?
And if she felt she should have custody of Noah, why did she drop the custody suit?
Wouldn't that have made a lot more sense and been more likely to succeed than pretending to be supportive of Olivia, befriending her and Noah, faking a stranger kidnapping, leaving 100 false trails, and constantly telling Noah that Mommy knew where they were and was on her way to join them?
Or she could have left well enough alone since Olivia was practically letting her co-parent and might even have allowed her to take Noah to the cabin for a weekend away now and then.
Either way, this was a storyline that did not need to happen. But if Sheila's arrest means it's over, as opposed to some other plan of hers popping up after the fact, then I guess it was worth it.
Finn: I don't think that's gonna happen, Chief.
Dodds: She's emotional, she's liable to make rash decisions.
Finn: You wanna see emotional? Wait til I tell her this.
I also felt like there was some missing payoff to some of the story threads at the end of the hour.
Dodds ordered Olivia off the case, which she ignored and then nothing happened except him having a cryptic conversation with Finn that amounted to him admitting he was looking the other way, despite his threat that both their jobs would be in jeopardy if she disobeyed this particular order.
Noah was found and had no problem going home with Sonny and Amanda and never seeing his new grandma again. Unless I missed something, it didn't seem that he even asked about her or why they weren't all staying at the cabin like Grandma said they would.
Sonny and Rollins coerced a confession from Juan by falsely arresting his daughter for being involved in the kidnapping when they knew she was not, but it was never mentioned again, and there were no repercussions either from the department or the traumatized girl reporting any of this.
Instead, the hour ended with most of the adults (and Rollins' daughter Jessie who hasn't been mentioned or seen in so long that I forgot she existed) happily playing with Noah while Olivia fretted and nobody suggested she call the therapist who helped her last time she had PTSD.
You know what the problem is with this job? What good do we really do? We come in after it's already happened with the broom and the mop and we clean up the mess. You know what would be really special? If one time we could come in before there was anything to clean up.Olivia
Olivia's questioning whether this job was worth anything or how she could have misjudged Sheila's intentions with all her experience in this field was a great story arc and probably one of the best parts of the episode.
I hope we will see more of her self-doubt as the season progresses since she seemed to be the only one falling apart at the end.
The other high point of the hour for me was Barba's developing relationship with Olivia.
I have been enjoying seeing him support Olivia through these various Noah crises all season long, and "Gone Baby Gone" was no exception.
Barba was calm, caring and empathetic and I was overjoyed that he showed up to check on her at the end of the hour.
Plus who knew that Noah calls him Uncle Rafa! That was adorable.
Anyway, I was kind of wondering if this friendship might develop into something more. Most of Benson's romantic relationships are kind of forced and annoying, but I thought this one might work if it goes in that direction.
What did you think of "Gone Baby Gone?"
Was I the only one who was annoyed by this stupid Noah kidnapping story? Whether you loved it or hated it, I want to hear your opinion!
Weigh in below, and don't forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.