Law And Order Subverted Expectations With Season 21 Finale, But Is That A Good Thing?

Law and Order Cosgrove and Bernard
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 21 finale of Law & Order, called “Black and Blue.”

The first revival season (and 21st season overall) of Law & Order came to an end with “Black and Blue,” which centered on the murder of an off-duty NYPD detective. The case was personal right off the bat due to Cosgrove’s friendship with the dead man, and in true finale form, delivered something special in the form of a guest appearance from SVU’s Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson for the show’s first key post-revival crossover. Everything started to fall apart once the case went to trial, and I was fully expecting a cliffhanger – or at least a twist – at the end. That didn’t happen, and my expectations were subverted. I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing or not. 

The murder of a cop (which also brought in an appearance from SVU’s Chief McGrath) had pretty much the entire NYPD pressing as hard as possible for a conviction that would put the killer – a Black woman named Kendra – away for the rest of her life, but Price didn’t charge her with murder after her claim that the cop had been racist to her and she killed him out of a panic that he would kill her. It was a case of he said/she said, with the problem that the “he” in question was dead and couldn’t testify. The assembled cops in the courtroom were on edge about Price not pushing for the maximum penalty, while Kendra’s supporters were feeling pretty passionate as well. 

The courtroom felt ready to blow on both sides depending on the verdict, and I was expecting that somebody was going to be hurt after the verdict was read. Actually, I was half expecting one of the cops to hit Price once Price didn’t charge the killer to the full extent of the law, but I’ve watched enough TV that it seemed inevitable that somebody was going to explode and there was going to be a cliffhanger. But nope! The case is closed, and that’s that. 

Admittedly, while Kendra was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter in the first degree, the jury found her guilty of aggravated manslaughter in the second degree, so the cops who were furious for a conviction did get a guilty verdict, and Kendra’s supporters saw her acquitted of the more serious charge. Neither side entirely won, and neither side entirely lost. And nobody was targeted at the last minute to leave fans on the edges of their seats until the fall. 

While I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a last minute twist – even though I’m not rooting for anything bad to happen to Price (or Maroun, who could have been in the line of fire at his side if somebody had taken a shot) – the episode still worked fine as a finale, and not every show has to end its season on a game-changing twist. The L&O shows are largely procedural, with even Organized Crime tending to deliver closure at the end of its serialized arcs.

On the whole, Law & Order subverting expectations instead of leaning into a cliffhanger just for the sake of a cliffhanger isn’t a bad thing. I think my slight disappointment comes from how “Black and Blue” did a pretty great job of ramping up the tension and creating an opening for something to happen at the final moment to leave fans wondering for the next few months, only for nothing to go down. The setup was there for a great cliffhanger, but it didn’t happen. It was a fine way to end the season, but probably not a standout of the 2022 spring TV finale season

Fortunately, Law & Order has already been renewed for another season, so it will be returning to NBC in the fall along with Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime. For some viewing options now that the three L&O shows are finished for the season, check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule for some summer viewing options.

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. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. 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).