The Third Season
When a television series becomes as successful as Law & Order, spin-off series get produced. Law & Order: Criminal Intent is the second spin-off series from Law & Order and it takes a much different approach to the television crime genre than its parent series. In Law & Order: Criminal Intent, the balance between law and order are removed and replaced with a detective named Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio). Goren is given a role similar to Sherlock Holmes, a detective who can see things that others miss and knows things that most people won't. The majority of the series' emphasis revolves around Goren solving a particular mystery. It's very much different from the other Law & Order series, but this deviation makes for a great mystery/crime television drama.
My initial impressions of Law & Order: Criminal Intent's first season weren't very high. This was mainly because I had a problem with Goren seeming too unreal, but as the first season went on, my impressions changed. I found that there was definite potential in this series. However, the first season was still not a cutthroat success. And now I'm able to prove myself correct, because the third season is really good. The first reason is due to the mood of the third season being slightly different from the first. While detective Robert Goren still comes off as a genius, a man who knows a little too much about everything from architecture to fine arts to philosophy to forensics, the mood of everyone around him is slightly different. In the first season, there wasn't much reaction to his profoundly large set of knowledge, but in the third season, there's more than one reference from those he interacts with regarding his profound knowledge. I found this subtle change made the series more attractive. At some points, it's even comical to hear eye-rolling statements of "sarcastic shock" from his peers and those he investigates.
This also ties in with a major change in the first half of the third season. Goren's partner, Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) takes maternal leave for seven episodes. In her place, detective Bishop (Samantha Buck) is temporarily paired up with Goren. This temporary change in the cast is pretty exciting because we get to see Goren "break in" a new partner. Apparently Bishop wasn't informed about how Goren operates. It's entertaining to see how Bishop reacts to Goren's super duper abilities as a detective.
Besides the interaction of Bishop and Goren, the temporary character really doesn't bring very much to the show. In my review of Law & Order: Criminal Intent - The First Year, I criticized the limited character development of the series. The majority of the focus is on Goren. The character of Bishop was given even less focus than the other regular cast members. For instance, there wasn't much of an introduction of her character, as Bishop summarily appeared and at the end of her seven episodes, she just disappeared. However, since she was a temporary character, I suppose the lack of emphasis on her character really isn't that important. But like the first season, the other regular characters don't get a lot focus in this season. It's a show about Bobby, all about Bobby.
Another positive aspect of this season is the writing. The third season did a very good job presenting each episode with a cloud of mystery. In most of the episodes, everything seems apparent, the who, the how, and the why of a crime, but the fact of the matter is that it's not as it seems. The writing does an excellent job twisting the facts and the clues, leaving you really wondering about the who, the how, and the why of the crime. The truth is that nothing is really apparent in this season. The writing was just done so well that it's really hard to actually know what happened until after Goren summarizes the who, the how, and the why. It's episodes like "A Murderer Among Us", "Sound Bodies", and "Shrink-Wrapped" that provide really strong and engaging mysteries. In "A Murderer Among Us", Goren and Bishop investigate a twisted murder that screams domestic abuse. In "Sound Bodies", in a small wholesome community both the lives of children and adults are taken. This episode is also entertaining, because it shows just how disturbing a weak mind can be with the wrong influence. In "Shrink-Wrapped", when a psychologist's patient is murdered, all fingers point to her husband or do they? There are plenty of more episodes in this season that are full of twists and turns.
Besides the mystery aspect of this season, the writing is also very good because it takes some of the same crimes seen in other crime television series and turns them into riveting stories. Also, the way that these crimes are presented in each episodes, makes them feeling unique, different, as if they've never been addressed before. However, this brings us back to the mystery aspect, as it's what makes each crime seen a little different.
Overall, the third season is really entertaining. Those looking for some outright entertaining mysteries will quickly fall in love with this series. I really enjoyed this season, especially the subtle changes from its earlier seasons. Furthermore, the episodes only seemed to get better as the season went on. It was a very big improvement from the first season.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent - The Third Year is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality for the most part is fairly good. Detail is fairly sharp, with only minor effects from distortion and grain. The picture quality is much better than what you would expect to see from broadcast or cable television.
The audio of third season release of Law & Order: Criminal Intent is presented in English Dolby digital stereo sound. The dialogue throughout the entire season is clear and understandable, but it is relatively flat, which is expected. There is a slight hiss in the audio track. The sound is complemented with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French languages.
While previous DVD releases under the Law & Order banner have been pretty much skimped of special features, this release includes a bit more. However, it's still not very much. There's a total of five featurettes. The first two are "Profile: Jamey Sheridan" and "Profile: "Courtney Vance". They each respectively provide three minute interviews with Sheridan and Vance, who talk about their characters and experiences on the show. I didn't really find these two extras very interesting. Since their characters are given so little focus, I just wasn't interested to hear about them. The next extra is "Set Tour with Fred Berner and Kathryn Erbe". Not a big surprise, but it's six minutes of the two discussing various aspects of the show's set. The second to last extra, "Criminal Intent: the Private Eye" is five minutes with technical advisor and former NYPD detective Michael Struk. It's pretty much all about his role in the development of series. The last extra, "Who is Robert Goren?" is the longest, clocking in at sixteen minutes. This is the most interesting extra. Since the major character in this series is Robert Goren, it was entertaining to learn more about the development and other aspects of his character.
The third season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent did a much better job providing a mysterious element to the television crime genre than the first season. In my review of Law & Order: Criminal Intent - The First Year, I was impressed, but not mesmerized. I felt that the first season just wasn't a very strong. However, the third season was a definite improvement. It's the show's superb writing and the subtle change in the cast that made this a really enjoyable season. So if you're interested in a good mystery crime show, I highly recommend Law & Order: Criminal Intent: The Third Year.
Be sure to check out DVD Talk's other reviews of the Law & Order television series.