Sometimes the past is worth re-exploring,
Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 6 made that clear.
Re-opening the past helped Carlos Hernandez get his life back, but it was too late for his fellow prisoner Ricardo--and for Benson's half-brother.
The Simon storyline was the least compelling part of the hour.
Simon never adds anything positive to Benson's life and turns up at random times. Benson was right to be wary of him, especially after he didn't show up for lunch.
As soon as Benson left a message telling him to get lost, it was obvious something had happened to him.
On TV, you never write anyone off unless they're about to be kidnapped, maimed, or killed. And sure enough, Simon turned up dead.
If Simon's character had been developed more, I might have felt sad about his untimely demise.
But as it was, it seemed like a pointless story.
Simon hadn't been seen or heard from in years, so the emotional impact of his death was exactly the same as it would have been had Benson got that call without him making an on-screen appearance.
And even within the episode, there weren't many signs that he was in distress or in danger of losing his sobriety.
He asked Benson for a second chance, disappeared, then died. End of story.
In a way, it's sad. It's sad the way a newspaper story about a stranger overdosing is sad.
You cry for the fact that such things happen, yet it doesn't touch you the way it does if it happens to someone you know and love.
At least Benson won't have to comfort a distraught Noah, since Simon didn't meet him for more than half a second.
Rollins: Just to be clear, we had DNA that didn't match either of the suspects.
Fin: Why check DNA when you had confessions?
Kat: And it's the projects. They were murdered at a bad address.
Meanwhile, the case of the hour started off with the promise of exploring the way police often treat low-income crime victims, but that promise never quite materialized.
Lupe's attack brought out a crowd of angry residents who felt that the cops didn't care about protecting people in the projects, but those people were never seen again.
Where did they go after the investigation began?
They could have pressured the police department to close the case, been angry that the focus shifted off Lupe to a murder from 16 years ago, or protested against Carlos' unfair incarceration once the discrepancies in the evidence came to light.
Instead, once the double murder was re-opened, the whole theme of murder at a bad address faded into the background and everyone worked diligently to catch the real killer, who incidentally also raped Lupe.
And when the perp confessed to the murder in exchange for dropping the rape charge, everyone was fine with that.
When Kat offered to take the Perezes home, I expected Lupe to stay behind and complain that it wasn't justice enough because the man wasn't being charged with raping her.
But instead, she and her mom were both happy with the outcome.
That made sense to a degree.
Lupe was humiliated by the rape and didn't want to have to talk about it in court.
But it would have underscored the way the legal system is sometimes cruel to victims if Lupe -- or anybody -- was less than thrilled with the way the case worked out.
Often on SVU, the initial case is resolved quickly, only to lead to a bigger story. But Lupe's case was open -- it just languished on the back burner while the cops investigated the murders and tried to prove Carlos' innocence.
The injustice Carlos suffered was the most emotional part of this case.
Carlos couldn't even grieve his family's death properly. He didn't know where they were buried, nor did he know his friend died.
This story made some good points about the way homophobia intersects with injustice in the jail system.
Carisi: A lot of people have come out of the closet. Times have changed.
Carlos: Not in here. In here, you come out of the closet, you go into a casket.
Carlos had resigned himself to spending the rest of his life behind bars for a crime he didn't commit because clearing his name would mean coming out -- and in jail, that wasn't safe.
Ricardo died of AIDS even though there are now medications that allow people with HIV to live full, healthy lives -- perhaps because of the homophobia he endured in jail.
And both men suffered because they had secretly met on a beach meant for gay men while Carlos' family was being murdered.
Plus, the world had moved on while Carlos was behind bars.
He didn't know what a GoFundMe was or how to use a tablet, and after so many years behind bars he's going to find it difficult to find employment and live as a free man.
Kudos to SVU for shining light on so many injustices in the so-called criminal justice system.
But this should have been a separate episode from Lupe's story instead of overshadowing her case.
As for DA Keene, the less said, the better.
It was unrealistic that a bunch of ADAs would cover for a DA with dementia so that he could keep his position. Surely someone would have noticed the man was unfit for office.
And Carlos suggested the guy was corrupt when he put him away, but that was quickly dropped in favor of this silly storyline.
What did you think, SVU fanatics?
Was the end of SImon's story tragic, pointless, or both?
Should Lupe have had more of a starring role in her case?
And who else teared up a little when Carlos finally got to put flowers on his family's grave?
Share your thoughts in the comments below and don't forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything.
Law and Order: SVU continues to air on NBC on Thursdays at 10 PM EST/PST.
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Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.