Making a personal confession here, tonight’s episode of “Law & Order: SVU” entitled “Secrets Exhumed” is one that I’ve looked forward to all season.
Back in September, in a discussion with Executive Producer Warren Leight, he revealed the actual case that this episode is based upon. It’s a case that I’ve been fascinated with for years and I’m more than a little excited to see exactly how the story will be told under the guidance of the “SVU” creative team.
To even hint about the case behind this episode would be criminal (pun intended), as it would completely diminish the impact that I’m certain this installment of the show will have.
But, in knowing what I know, I can tell you that that this storyline will, without a doubt, evoke the kind of performances from both Mariska Hargitay and Marcia Gay Harden that will not soon be forgotten.
The official synopsis for the episode reads, “When F.B.I. Agent Dana Lewis suspects that a 25- year-old rape-murder case in New York is connected to several unsolved cases across the country, she joins the SVU team in investigating the crimes. As Lewis relentlessly pursues her prime suspect, Detectives Benson and Amaro have their doubts about his guilt.”
Harden’s Dana Lewis character was first introduced in the 2005 episode “Raw” as she pursued a group of violent Neo Nazis. She’s since returned to the “SVU” squad room on two additional occasions to shake things up. During each visit by Lewis, or ‘Star,’ her undercover name, things seem to go a little awry for all involved. She’s convinced Benson to go undercover with eco-terrorists, shot at her own rapist and killed a young female informant whom she earlier had admitted she was fond of. She’s also responsible for several injuries to Benson’s former partner, Detective Elliot Stabler, who was shot and almost blown up when he was with her. (Maybe Amaro should have taken some time off as soon as Lewis showed up.)
Given her unorthodox work habits, Lewis has always been a bloom that the members of the 16th precinct are wary of; she seems like a rose with her slight southern drawl, but underneath the blossom lie more stinging thorns that one can imagine.
Benson in particular always tries to give Lewis the benefit of the doubt as her methods, which often seem to stem from madness, also somehow continually get the job done. The odd dynamic between the two women is very believable despite the different modes with which they conduct their work and their lives.
Tonight’s episode was written by Leight and fellow Executive Producer, Julie Martin. Laura Belsey directed “Secrets Exhumed” and provides some insight into the episode.
“Warren and Julie wrote an amazing script and it all starts with the script,” related Belsey. “This story is very powerful, there’s a lot of meat to it.”
Speaking about her work with the actors, Belsey offered, “It was so great to work with Marcia. She’s so intense, and wonderful and had lots of ideas about her character. She knows the character of Dana Lewis so well, it’s really exciting to watch her bring the history of the character to this episode.”
While no reminder seems necessary, it is worthwhile to note that Harden has proven time and time again that she’s stellar at what she does. She’s a two-time Oscar nominee and took home the prize in 2001 for her role in “Pollock.”
Offering a bit more about the production of the episode, Belsey added, “Several scenes in this episode are very emotional, and we realized that it was incredibly important to get the shots that clearly convey the poignant moments of each scene. We spent a lot of extra time getting the most visually effective shots that we could, and while we worked hard on that, when you’re watching those scenes, I really hope that you’re not thinking about the shots, but are really just engrossed in the story.”
“Secrets Exhumed” may not contain a heavy dose of high action squences, but the nature of this story makes the drama just as intense as a ‘run-and-gun’ event.
“While this episode is very contained with a lot of time spent in small group conversations, like in the interrogation room, I feel the scenes still really move,“ explains Belsey.”It was challenging discovering how to tell this story, which is really rather intimate, to accurately and pleasingly show all the levels of emotions that each character is experiencing. We worked hard to achieve all of that and I really feel like we exceeded what we set out to accomplish.”
In “Secrets Exhumed,” more than just evidence will be uncovered; revelations of true character will be exposed. Those will be the most difficult discoveries of all.
“Law & Order: SVU” airs tonight at 9c/8c on NBC.
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