“Father’s Shadow,” a recent episode (air date 2/8/2012) of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is evidence to the excellence of this series. A young actress is found in the park unconscious with drugs in her system and evidence of sexual assault. We are led to believe that the producer of a new reality tv show is the perp. The young actress is the special victim.

The case is pretty straight-forward. All the evidence points to the sleazy producer and to other victims, including a guest spot by country singer Miranda Lambert. The episode takes quite a twist when the producer’s son Eddie (played by Cameron Monaghan) takes matters in his own hands. Determined that his father is innocent, he takes his girlfriend Jess and her daughter Lily hostage. He slips a note under the door asking for Detective Benson (Mariska Hargitay).

Benson is the only one who truly sees Eddie as a special victim too. Raised by his sick and sleazy father, Eddie has a twisted and unrealistic vision of reality. Benson, despite what the rest of the police force thinks, insists on getting inside the room with Eddie and the hostages. Once she does she is able to talk Eddie down and help him see how much of his father’s shadow he has been living in and how much it has distorted his perspective of reality. His father had told him so many lies that he hasn’t been able to see truth. As she does this, she shares with Eddie her own experiences living in her father’s shadow. Benson has been getting more and more comfortable self-disclosing with victims, yet has difficulty sharing her past with ADA David Haden (Harry Connick Jr.), whom she is clearly interested in.

When asked by Haden what she said to bring him out, Benson said, “I told the truth.” So often we choose not to speak truth to save face or out of concern for the feelings of the other person. Yet, when speaking truth we invite openness and authenticity. When we are real and honest with ourselves and each other we encourage and embrace transformation.

This was a compelling episode, guided by the extremely well written script. The show opens in the present day and then flashes back to five days earlier to catch us up. While this technique is nothing new to a lot of shows, it is a bit different for SVU. I’m not sure I’m a fan of this technique, but it worked well here. Mariska Hargitay delivered in the drama department, adding to that extra sense of excellence.