Law And Order's Mehcad Brooks Previews Shaw's 'Worst Nightmare' In Fall Finale, Plus First Look At Inmate Escape Emergency

Mehcad Brooks as Jalen Shaw in Law and Order Season 22
(Image credit: NBC)

Law & Order is raising the stakes for none other than Jalen Shaw in the fall finale that will air on December 8, including forcing the detective to face what actor Mehcad Brooks describes as the character’s “worst nightmare.’ Plus, a first look at the prison escape previews how the case will get out of control for Shaw. Brooks spoke with CinemaBlend about the episode, called “The System,” and previewed what Shaw will have to go through before Season 22 concludes for the year. 

In “The System,” a suspect (who was in police custody for months before getting his day in court on a murder charge) escapes, and Shaw will have to question his own actions as the person who arrested him in the first place. When asked how this case compares to those that Shaw has faced before, Mehcad Brooks shared: 

I think that this is the most challenging case that he's ever had to face, for a multitude of reasons. One, there's a micro aspect and a macro aspect on a personal level. This is every good cop's worst nightmare, that you have received and collected a false confession and sent somebody away, who's innocent, and destroy the family and several lives because of that false confession. That affects someone's confidence and how they trust their instincts moving forward. And that'll keep you up at night.

Trusting his instincts has seemingly been effective for Shaw in fitting in with the unit on Law & Order as a newcomer after Anthony Anderson’s departure as Det. Bernard, and clearly in making the transition from practicing law to working in the NYPD. He impressed Cosgrove the very first time they worked together, in the three-part crossover, but he hadn’t faced his “worst nightmare” yet. Mehcad Brooks continued:

I think on a larger scale, on a societal scale, the episode's called 'The System.' And I think that Shaw in particular got into law and then became a homicide detective, to not only to lock up the bad guys, but to make sure that innocent Black men didn't go to jail on his watch. And, lo and behold, here he is, being a guardian of a system that he promised himself that he will be a disrupter of. There's no mentorship for that. There's no playbook for that. It's nothing less than traumatic.

Shaw is unique within the Law & Order universe as a former attorney who gave up practicing law to become an NYPD detective, as Carisi over on SVU actually did the opposite. As the actor said, his goal was to use his role and position to help innocent Black men who were being betrayed by the system, and that clearly didn’t happen in this case. 

While fans will have to wait for the fall finale to see exactly how the case goes down and how it affects Shaw, Mehcad Brooks shared his thoughts on how his character’s perspective is different from Cosgrove, Dixon, and the rest in his unit. The Supergirl alum said: 

There's once again a micro and macro aspect of that. I think that because of his history as an attorney, he knows what the district attorney is going to need, so he approaches cases in a way where he is almost working backwards. He's adding as much grace as he possibly can when dealing with suspects so that they don't have some sort of complaint later that can get something thrown out. Also, as an actor, I think it's a good example for America to see that I'm not just stuck on these factory settings, like roughing up suspects and treating people with disrespect.

While the cops of the Law & Order corner of the nine-show Wolf Entertainment TV universe are somewhat less likely to rough up suspects compared to some of those over on Chicago P.D., Shaw in particular has the perspective to conduct himself in ways that will support the eventual legal case. That’s normally good news for Price and Maroun (especially after Maroun’s intense recent case), but perhaps this won’t be easy for them either!  Brooks elaborated on Shaw’s perspective: 

Once again, I think that one of the reasons that Shaw became a law enforcement officer and detective is because he was privy to a perspective about a system that is set up to steal Black joy, steal Black opportunity, steal Black liberty and dignity, and being a disruptor and champion of change against that system, is something that he takes very seriously. I think that he comes at it with a different responsibility and a different weight on his shoulders than I think some of his colleagues may or may not have to.

Unfortunately, that “different weight” on his shoulders tends to be much heavier than some of what the others in his unit have to carry. In a first look at Shaw speaking at an evidentiary hearing before the bloody inmate escape happens, the detective explains everything he did in the process of getting the confession. Check it out:

The evidentiary hearing definitely doesn’t go according to plan when the courthouse goes into lockdown due to an attempted prisoner escape, and Shaw leaps into action to help the man who was shot. He wasn’t doing well, but he identified the shooter as “an inmate” before naming him: Troy Booker. If Shaw accidentally sent an innocent man to prison and that resulted in what has to be at least a very serious injury, then it’s no wonder that Mehcad Brooks called this Shaw’s “most challenging case” on Law & Order!

The fall finale of Law & Order Season 22 airs on Thursday, December 8 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, ahead of Law & Order: SVU (which is on the verge of saying goodbye to Rollins) at 9 p.m. and Law & Order: Organized Crime (which may be splitting up the unit) at 10 p.m. For when these and more shows will return in the new year, take a look at our 2023 TV premiere schedule, and check out a Peacock subscription to relive some L&O action over the winter hiatus. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).