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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Law and Order: Special Victims Unit - The Fourth Year
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit - The Fourth Year
Universal // Unrated // December 4, 2007
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted December 2, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Fourth Season

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a spin-off series of Law & Order. It has a similar format as its parent show. The major difference is the type of cases that the detectives investigate. "Special Victims Unit" (SVU) focuses on the special victims unit, who are responsible for investigating crimes of a horrific nature known as sex crimes. Each episode contains gruesome detail that covers issues like incest, pedophilia, rape, etc. There is also a lot of focus on the emotional burden that the victims and the case detectives have to face. For more details about this series refer to DVD Talk's reviews of season one, season two, season three, and season five.

Season four of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is pretty intense. The content continues to tackle the nitty-gritty underbelly of the criminal element, looking at a wide-array of gruesome crimes from various aspects: police, law, medical examiner, and psychological. The season has several notable developments, which include some fantastic episodes involving federal law enforcement and corrupt cops. There are also plenty of solid episodes with grisly plotlines that have a big twist. The season also marks the final full season with Alex Cabot as ADA. In season five, she is replaced by Casey Novak (Diane Neal).

One of my favorite episodes of the season is "Disappearing Acts". In this riveting episode, the SVU detectives investigate the brutal rape of a high-profile businesswoman who turns out to be under investigation by the feds. Benson and Stabler run into a major roadblock when the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney's Office takes their victim. Apparently, she was under investigation for racketeering and has close ties to the Russian Mafia. The federal case is important than her rape, or at least in the eyes of the feds. The SVU team has a very different perspective: they want to stop the rapist. The investigation gets especially dicey when Benson and Stabler are taken into custody after the shooting of a US Marshal and key federal witness. It is a pretty intense episode.

Another really strong episode is "Risk". After a baby is rushed to the emergency room and found to have overdosed on cocaine, Benson and Stabler's investigation leads them to the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). They are forced to cease and desist, but go against IAB by continuing the investigation. It is a case that leads to drug smuggling, corrupt cops, and Stabler under investigation by IAB. The season premiere episode "Chameleon" is also of worthy note. It guest stars NYPD Blue's Sharon Lawrence. Lawrence plays a prostitute who fended off an attacker. Or at least, that's how it looked. The story takes a twist and Lawrence gives a solid performance as both the victim and the villain.

The remaining season four episodes have a similar intensity and offer compelling drama. Some highlights include "Vulnerable", a senile elderly woman was abused and cannot remember what happened; the case gets pretty extreme when the SVU detective's investigation trace it back to a nursing home, "Damaged", the investigation of a six-year-old girl who was killed and has a sexual transmitted disease leads to a twisted case; Cabot puts her career on the line for the sake of justice, "Mercy", a dead baby girl is found stuffed in a cooler and the case has an emotional impact on Cabot, "Desperate", a woman is raped and her son is the witness, but the father refuses to let him help the detectives with the case, and "Perfect", the death of a young girl leads to a doctor, someone you wouldn't suspect.

Overall, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's fourth season is a solid season that doesn't stop. The episodes feature well-written storylines that occasionally take a gruesome twist and never fail to entertain. The leading and supporting cast members have great chemistry together and help to deliver the strong emotions that come with the cases. The featured guest stars are also worth noting, as they give convincing performances as victims and emotionally disturbed perpetrators. Fans of the show and newcomers alike will want to check out what this season has to offer.

Episode Guide

1. Chameleon: Detectives Benson and Stabler search for an ex-con who is sexually assaulting prostitutes -- only to find their suspect murdered by one of his would-be victims.
2. Deception: A kindergartner's family portrait leads Detectives Benson and Stabler to suspect the child's actress mother of seducing her teenage stepson into a long-term sexual affair.
3. Vulnerable: When a senile woman is found wandering and abused, Detectives Benson and Stabler first suspect her scheming son, as their victim is unable to recall her attacker or attack.
4. Lust: When a doctor who worked with HIV patients to contact their sexual partners is found brutally raped and murdered in Central Park, Detectives Benson and Stabler have no shortage of suspects who had previously threatened their victim in connection with her job.
5. Disappearing Acts: The brutal rape of an FBI racketeering suspect leads Detectives Benson and Stabler into a federal investigation of an organized crime boss.
6. Angels: When the battered body of a young boy is found on an airport shuttle bus, Detectives Benson and Stabler search for the boy's identity, only to discover that his guardian had been routinely sexually and physically abusing them.
7. Dolls: The gruesome discovery of a sexually abused girl's body puts Detectives Benson and Stabler on a desperate hunt for a serial pedophile, whose latest victim's life hangs in the balance.
8. Waste: When a trip to the emergency room for a coma patient reveals the woman to be seven weeks pregnant, Detectives Benson and Stabler turn to DNA testing in order to seek out their rapist -- only to have their investigation hampered when the victim's doctor attempts an abortion.
9. Juvenile: When a drug raid uncovers the body of a 30-year-old suspected marijuana dealer, raped and repeatedly stabbed, Fin, along with Detectives Benson and Stabler, uses his old narcotics skills to track down the murderer, only to see the investigation reveal the attack was the work of two junior high school students.
10. Resilience: When a 15-year-old rape victim attempts suicide by stepping off a subway platform, Detectives Benson and Stabler search for the girl's rapists, using DNA to seek out two suspects.
11. Damaged: When a six-year-old shooting victim caught in an apparent robbery gone bad tests positive for a sexually transmitted disease, Detectives Benson and Stabler discover her rapist to be the same store clerk who allegedly foiled the crime.
12. Risk: When an infant overdoses on cocaine, Detectives Benson and Stabler discover the child's baby food to be the culprit, and in the process stumble across a major drug smuggling operation using baby formula to transport their product.
13. Rotten: When a drug dealer dies in jail after being beaten and sexually assaulted, Detectives Benson and Fin look at the victim's cellmates and disgruntled guards as possible suspects.

14. Mercy: When a one-month-old baby turns up dead and stuffed inside a cooler in the East River, Detectives Benson and Stabler are horrified, but a shocking discovery is soon made -- the baby had a genetic condition that always proves fatal by the time the child is 5 years old.
15. Pandora: Investigating the brutal murder and sexual assault of a female motorist, Detective Stabler discovers the victim was moonlighting as a cyber vigilante, using herself as bait for online pedophiles in order to stop the predators.
16. Tortured: The discovery of the body of a Tibetan torture survivor sends Detectives Benson and Stabler digging through the victim's past in the belief that a former torturer might be the killer.
17. Privilege: Investigating the apparent suicide of a 20-year-old woman who took a flying leap off the balcony of a prominent Manhattan family's apartment, Detectives Benson and Stabler search for a motive and uncover the victim's personal relationship with the famous family's son.
18. Desperate: When a young woman is found brutally murdered after a violent sexual assault, Detectives Benson and Stabler rest their hopes on the only witness to the crime, the woman's young son.
19. Appearances: The discovery of an eight-year-old beauty queen's body in a suitcase on a Manhattan bus sends Detectives Benson and Stabler searching for a pedophile with a fetish for pageants.
20. Dominance: When an engagement celebration dinner ends in sexual assault and a gruesome quadruple homicide, Detectives Benson and Stabler search for a violent killer looking for revenge through the domination of his victims.
21. Fallacy: When a female party-goer defends herself after being sexually assaulted, killing her attacker, Detectives Benson and Stabler attempt to support the girl's claim of self-defense.
22. Futility: After arresting a man accused of raping several neighborhood women, Detectives Benson and Stabler attempt to obtain an indictment for their suspect with the help of a key eyewitness -- his last victim.
23. Grief: When a cocktail waitress at a trendy Manhattan club is raped and murdered outside the popular nightspot, Detectives Benson and Stabler rest their suspicions on the victim's angry ex-boyfriend.
24. Perfect: When the body of a murdered 14-year-old girl is discovered in a back alley, Detectives Benson and Stabler discover the victim was a missing Pennsylvania teenager believed to have been kidnapped eight months earlier.
25. Soulless: When an alleged rape victim is kidnapped from a New York hospital and later murdered, Detectives Benson and Stabler search for the girl's killer only to discover her attack to have been perpetrated by several bored young socialite club-goers at a popular Manhattan nightspot.

The DVD

Video:
This release is given in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The picture quality for the most part is fairly good. Detail is good, with colors looking pretty sharp and minor effects from distortion and grain. There are some traces of edge enhancement.

Audio:
The audio track included with this box set is in English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound quality is good, the track is pretty clean and spoken dialogue is easily heard. Like most TV on DVD releases it is fairly flat and there is not much to it, but it fits the presentation well. This release also comes with subtitles in English and Spanish.

Extras:
There are no extras included with this DVD release.

Final Thoughts:
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a television crime drama that takes a look at the gruesome side of crime by focusing on cases of a sexual nature. In particular, this series balances a fine level of character development while looking at disturbing and twisted cases from the case investigations, court room procedures, forensic pathology, and psychological and emotional aspects. Season four follows this general tone and provides one compelling episode after another. This season comes highly recommended.

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