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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The Eighth Year
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The Eighth Year
Universal // Unrated // February 17, 2009
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted February 5, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Eighth 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. "Special Victims Unit" (SVU) focuses on the special victims unit, which is responsible for investigating crimes of a horrific nature: sex crimes. Each episode contains gruesome detail about 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, season four, season five, and season seven.

Intense is the only way to describe season eight. It opens with the thrilling episode "Informed". Haley Kerns (Kristen Bush) checks into a hospital after being raped. When Benson is called on to talk to Haley, she refuses help and leaves. Benson does not let go and follows her home. As she investigates the rape, she learns that Haley is an undercover confidential informant for the FBI. Haley has infiltrated an eco-terrorist group. As the case comes to a close, Benson is replaces Haley as the undercover.

In "Recall", Dani Beck (Connie Nielsen) from warrants joins the cast as Stabler's replacement partner. Beck's husband was a police officer and killed on the job. It is a painful memory she carries and it frequently comes out as her character develops. Beck is also very troubled by the nature of SVU cases. She does not adjust well to the gruesome cases and tends to get too involved. Nevertheless, she becomes a solid partner for Stabler. Eventually, Beck leaves SVU because the work is too much.

Around the same time of Beck's pending departure, Benson returns to NYPD. In the episode "Infiltrated", Novak has a case that will be declared a mistrial if Benson does not testify. In a flurry, Novak tries to get Benson out of her undercover assignment. By happenstance, Benson's case finishes in time and she returns to New York. However, it is not until "Choreographed" (three episodes later) that she returns as Stabler's partner. Upon her return to SVU, she and Stabler lack their same chemistry. They both changed and it takes a little while for them to get a solid understanding of each other. Part of the problem is that Benson comes back from her deep undercover assignment with a slightly different view on the world. Stabler is also different. Throughout the season, he goes through some difficult times with his divorce. And working with Beck, they got a little too close.

As the season continues, Benson breaks the law in "Philadelphia". She uses a new forensic DNA technique to find out if she has any family members. She wants to learn more about her past. From this act, she learns that she has a half-brother named Simon Marsden (Michael Weston). Unfortunately, Simon turns out to be a shady character. He is under investigation by the New Jersey Police Department for rape. As Benson sorts out her feelings of the past, she gets too mixed up in the Jersey investigation, as well as makes a few mistakes back home. This storyline sets up a solid episode "Florida", which brings Simon's rape investigation to a close.

As for the rest of the season, there are all great episodes. Some highlights include "Uncle", Beck and Stabler investigate a brutal murder of a mother and daughter and the primary suspect is Munch's uncle, "Cage", two children nearly drown in the river; as Beck and Stabler look into it, they are lead to a corrupt foster care system, "Outsider", after Tutuola's son's friend is raped, Tutuola teams up with Brooklyn SVU to stop a serial rapist, and "Loophole", Stabler is suspended after a suspect dies in his arms and the SVU team must race against the clock to exonerate him. Overall, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's eighth season has a lot of great storylines and developments to peek anyone's interests. Fans will really appreciate the direction that the characters take as they undergo new life changing events and cases. It is a must own season.

Episode Guide

1. Informed: When an eco-terrorist working undercover is raped and beaten, it takes the FBI and SVU squad working together to investigate the girl and her conflicted loyalties.
2. Clock: A teenage girl who looks like a child disappears during a school field trip, and the investigation takes a chilling turn when the lead suspect is someone no one expected.
3. Recall: Stabler and Beck seem to have all the pieces to end the 40-year crime spree of a rapist, but Beck must convince one last person from her past to testify or let the man go free.
4. Uncle: A mother and daughter are brutally raped and killed, and the main suspect turns out to be a homeless man - who is also Munch's uncle.
5. Confrontation: Stabler worries that his new partner is getting too emotionally involved with the victims in her cases, especially in the most recent attack by a serial rapist.
6. Infiltrated: During her continuing undercover investigation of an eco-terrorist group, Benson learns that the group is also suspected of being involved in the gruesome murder of a pedophile.
7. Underbelly: Stabler and Beck discover three teen murder victims with similar pawprint tattoos, but no one expects the trail to lead them from a home for girls to the territory of a double-dealing pimp.
8. Cage: Detective Beck thinks she may be in over her head when she becomes attached to a young girl from a foster home, and then the case turns up the mysterious death of yet another child.
9. Choreographed: Stabler and Benson are searching for proof-positive in the case of a model who died under mysterious circumstances, but nothing is clear when a suspect is linked to one of their friends.
10. Scheherezade: A terminal cancer patient has a tale he's dying to tell, so Benson and Stabler are in a race against time to get his confession before it's too late.
11. Burned: Benson and Stabler find themselves on opposite sides of a he-said/she-said case when a woman accuses her soon-to-be-ex-husband of breaking into her home and raping her.
12. Outsider: Tutuola reluctantly teams up with a headstrong Brooklyn detective to catch a serial rapist after his son's friend is attacked.
13. Loophole: Anonymous photos of a young boy lead the detectives to a suspected child pornographer, but when Benson takes ill, they begin to suspect that the man is involved in even more crimes than previously thought.
14. Dependent: Stabler crosses into dangerous territory when he puts everything in jeopardy to get information from a confused young woman whose mother was in a traumatizing attack.
15. Haystack: A baby is missing and the mother is suspected, but when she kills herself and the baby turns up safe, the biological father comes under suspicion.
16. Philadelphia: While the detectives search for a rapist in Central Park, Benson puts her job on the line to find her long-lost brother and get the answers to disturbing memories from her past.
17. Sin: A successful and charismatic preacher confesses to the murder of a gay prostitute, but the case becomes anything but black-and-white when his wife provides the investigators with another viable suspect.
18. Responsible: Teenage drinking turns deadly when an honor student dies at a party, and an unlikely suspect is found to be the underage partyers' alcohol supplier and accomplice.
19. Florida: Benson's newfound half-brother returns and wreaks havoc on her personal and professional life while threatening to reveal more damaging family secrets.
20. Annihilated: A young woman about to be married to a CIA agent is raped and murdered, and the investigation forces Stabler to confront some realities about his own family life.
21. Pretend: A filmed extreme wrestling fight gets violently out of hand when one of the teen participants is accidentally killed, but the detectives suspect that the real crime wasn't caught on film.
22. Screwed: Detective Tutuola's stepson, Darius Parker, is on trial for the brutal murder of Nina Stansfield, and the SVU's reputation is on the line as Benson and Stabler are served to testify for the defense.

The DVD

Video:
The video is given in 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color. Like previous season releases, the picture looks good. There are a few distortions in the picture during heavy movement and some minor compression artifacts, but nothing too bad. Overall it looks good.

Audio:
The audio track included with this box set is in English 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound. The sound quality is good, the track is pretty clean and spoken dialogue is easily heard. The 5.1 track is dialogue driven and makes decent use of the surround sound capability when applicable. This release also has 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 detectives' investigations, court room procedures, forensic pathology, and psychological/emotional aspects. Season eight has several intense developments that include Benson going undercover with the FBI, Stabler taking on a new partner, and exploring new depths of all the main characters. It is highly recommended.

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