Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 Episode 15, "King of the Moon," is an acting masterclass in which every regular member of the cast steps up and meets Bradley Whitford at the highest acting level possible.
After 24 seasons and many guest actors, it isn't easy to bring in a guest character that will become as interesting as the rest of the characters we already love. However, Whitford's portrayal of Pence Humphreys changes the game completely.
Not only does the episode go where Law & Order: SVU has never gone before, but it reminds us the huge potential the show has to make an impact with stories that are worth telling.
Cecil B. Hargitay is Back
"King of the Moon" marks the return of Mariska Hargitay (or Cecil B. Hargitay if she is directing) as director. And this is probably her best work yet.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 Episode 15, "King of the Moon," is one — if not the — of the best episodes we have seen this season. It makes perfect sense that it is brought to us thanks to Hargitay's vision.
It is never easy to act and direct at the same time, but Hargitay proves it is absolutely possible. With her deep understanding of the characters and the show, she is able to deliver beautifully filmed scenes that connect us even more to the story.
The choice of closeups is what stands out the most on this episode. Hargitay knows exactly when to get the camera close enough to the characters to show on their faces the story they are trying to tell.
The camerawork, the lightning, and the angles are all at their best. This is proof of what a high-quality episode you can deliver when you care deeply about a show.
Whether it is because Hargitay is behind the camera or because of Whitford's participation, every single actor is at the top of their game, delivering a performance we haven't seen before.
A Special Case
Usually, Law & Order: SVU focuses on bringing the perps to justice and giving the victims the closure they deserve. However, "King of the Moon" changes the rules of the game.
This time around, the Special Victims Unit is working to prove to a man who confessed that he didn't kill his wife. But in order for viewers to believe the possibility that he is innocent, the show needs us to connect with these guest characters.
The perfect way to do this is by giving us a glimpse into their lives. By showing us their past, how they met, when they got married, and how they have overcome every struggle together, Law & Order: SVU makes us fall in love with their love story.
Because it is a love story after all, it makes perfect sense that Carisi pulls Benson into this case by saying he isn't thinking like a cop or a lawyer, but rather as a hopeless romantic. His tactic sure works, and Olivia ends up emotionally invested in the case — bringing the resolution we are all rooting for.
From the beginning of the episode, we know the title, "King of the Moon," is in reference to the story that Pence Humphreys wrote when he was a little boy. However, it is also in reference to Humphreys himself.
After losing his wife, his Queen of the Moon, he is once again alone, lost, and confused. Whitford's performance is outstanding, helping us believe this storyline even more.
His characterization of a man suffering of dementia and being terrified of what life will be without the one woman he has loved his whole life is one of the best we have seen as a guest role on Law & Order: SVU.
It also helps that during Humphreys time at the hospital he says one of the best lines: "An ass like the devil and face like Jayne Mansfield." The nod and salute to Hargitay's mother doesn't go unnoticed and becomes even more special considering she is also directing the episode.
The episode comes full circle when despite Humphreys fear of realizing and telling the truth, his wife's murderer is convicted.
It is in Benson's nature to care about others and she does exactly that at the end of "King of the Moon" by sitting next to Humphreys and reading him the story he once wrote. She allows him to have a moment of peace after such a tragic loss.
This is also the perfect way to end the episode as it brings back the story we see in the beginning between Humphreys and his wife. At first, they are shown as two kids falling in love, but in the end we see how long that love has lasted.
What Will Happen to Velasco?
After the last few episodes of Law & Order: SVU, we were wondering when Benson would be ready to confront Velasco about the murders he claimed to have committed.
What "King of the Moon" does perfectly regarding this storyline within the episode is allowing Fin to be in charge. Even though he says it is so Olivia won't get in trouble, it works side by side with Benson and Carisi taking care of the Humphreys case.
By separating Fin and Velasco from Benson, both characters have a chance to shine. On one hand, we are able to see Fin is capable of leading an interrogation and getting to the bottom of things.
After being in the shadows for so long, it is good to see his experience has earned him the title of sergeant. He knows what he is doing, and we trust him for it.
On the other hand, it allows us to finally understand Velasco. For so long, we as viewers were confused regarding his storyline.
He has given so many answers to who he is and where he comes from, that we no longer know what to believe.
"King of the Moon" gives the audience the truth behind Velasco's story. He has a messed up past that has dictated how he behaves. He tells Churlish that they grew up different, but as true as that is, he needs to take responsibility for his actions.
Fin makes it very clear that in order to survive at SVU, he needs to prove his loyalty to Benson. It makes perfect sense he is the one to share this with Velasco because he knows Olivia's trust issues run deep after watching so many people leave.
She confirms this once more during the last scene with Velasco. For her to trust him and for him to have a future, he has to bring his friend to justice. But will he do it?
After finally understanding who Velasco is, it will be interesting to see how he handles the situation moving forward. If he truly wants to stick around, he is going to have to do what Benson wants.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 Episode 15, "King of the Moon," delivers an exceptional case with terrific acting, reminding us how great the show can be.
If what it takes for everyone to step up their game and bring meaningful stories to the scene is Hargitay behind the camera, then maybe she should do it more often.
Stray Observations With Churlish's appearance, Benson mentions Fin keeps bringing strays into the squad room. Isn't it time the show made Churlish and Bruno part of the regular team? They sure bring a special feeling that has been missing for a while. It is nice to watch Carisi trying to solve the case with Benson. The dynamic between the two of them has become one of the best on the show, and it is always easier to explore it when Carisi is out of the courtroom. The final "In Memory of Richard Belzer" is a great honor to Munch who will forever be missed on the show.