TV Review: Vincent D’Onofrio Returns For Final Season of ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’

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CHICAGO – It may have never earned the press or praise of “Law & Order” or “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” but the third child of Dick Wolf, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” has some hardcore fans. They will be happy to know that Detectives Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Eames (Kathryn Erbe) are returning for the final season, premiering tonight, May 1, 2011 on USA with a very solid hour of entertainment. Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

First, a little history. “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” premiered on NBC in 2001. It was never quite the critical or commercial phenomenon as its two older brothers and the company moved it to sister station USA for its seventh season to share costs with less of a ratings threshold and the show has been a solid performer for the network. “Criminal Intent” focused mostly on solving the case on a detective level, rarely including anything in the courtroom.

Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Photo credit: USA

On both NBC and USA, the show was driven by a strong, unique performance from Vincent D’Onofrio, who was ably supported by Kathryn Erbe. If someone ever writes a book about the best partnerships across the “Law & Order” universe, Goren and Eames would have to be considered for a whole chapter. They made a great team from episode one. D’Onofrio, Erbe, and co-star Eric Bogosian left the show at the start of season nine, replaced by the great Jeff Goldblum (among others), who was good but not quite the right fit. When it seemed like he wanted to leave at the end of season nine anyway and ratings were in decline, Dick Wolf and his team decided it was time to stop the revolving door and usher the show out with the two detectives who started it all with a final, eight-episode season.

Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Photo credit: USA

The season premiere of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” is a very strong, consistent mystery, enlivened by typically strong work from D’Onofrio. Goren is not quite 100%, ignoring instructions to visit the shrink and defying orders again. But he gets the job done. His interrogation technique and ability to discern when someone is lying to him is fascinating to watch. He wastes no time.

The opening case guest stars the excellent Neal McDonough (“Band of Brothers,” “Boomtown”) as a Priest involved in something clearly shady when a woman ends up dead in a suicide that doesn’t quite look self-inflicted. It turns out that the woman works for a bank responsible for paying out settlements for cases of abuse that have been filed against the church. Did she kill herself? If so, why? If not, who killed her? It’s a captivating mystery with strong performances to anchor it all around. And it doesn’t have that manipulative air that has sunk “Law & Order: Los Angeles” to the point that it’s probably not going to be renewed for a second season. Can you believe it? It seems likely that there will only be one “Law & Order” (“Special Victims Unit”) on the air at this point next year. Times really are changing.

Here’s what really matters about this weekend’s premiere — having covered television for the nearly-ten years that “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” has been on the air, I have seen more than my share of “L&O” episodes but have never watched an entire season from front to back. Based on the strength of this weekend’s final season premiere, I think I’m going to change that with the last season of “CI.” Better late than never, right?

“Law & Order: Criminal Intent” stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, and Jay O. Sanders. It returns on USA on Sunday, May 1st at 8pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Anonymous's picture

L&O Criminal Intent

Jeff Goldblum is one the one reason I didn’t watch it anymore. Great in other outlets but not L&O CI5

Liz's picture

I’m not sure what episode

I’m not sure what episode YOU saw, but I saw a Law & Order: CI episode starring Jay Mohr about the fashion industry. I guess they sent a different “first episode of the season” to TV reviewers.

BrianTT's picture

Thanks For the Heads Up

You’re right. They pulled a switch — probably to get the more headline-grabbing episode on first. Although many sites (including IMDB) still list the episode I saw as the first so it was probably a last-minute shuffle. I’m guessing the one sent to critics will now be on next week. At least you know next week’s is a strong entry. :) Brian

Liz's picture

Yes, now I have something to

Yes, now I have something to look forward to!

Last night was a good show (though I’m not a fan of Jay Mohr) but it missed the bits (talking about being reinstated, seeing a psychiatrist) that would explain why Goren & Eames were back at work. It reminds me of Firefly where Fox aired the episodes out of sequence which just lead to confusion.

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