Thursday night's season finale of NBC's Law & Order pushed gun-control ideology in an episode about a U.S. senator's assassination. The fictional senator voted in favor of gun rights.
On Thursday's episode, "Open Wounds," a gun control activist named Derek Quinn (Dennis Flanagan) kills a U.S. senator for changing his vote on gun control legislation. Quinn is a teacher who survived a school shooting that left 16 of his students dead.
The episode begins at a wedding for the daughter of Senator Alan Chandler (Brian Haley). The senator is dancing with the bride when Quinn, wearing a Covid mask, runs up and shoots him.
Detectives hunt Quinn down and corner him on a boardwalk. Quinn points his gun at his own head as he cries out about Chandler's gun control vote.
"But that bastard Chandler got what he deserved," Quinn said. "He should have never changed his vote! We need to stop all this gun craziness. How many more people have to die?"
Detective Jalen Shaw (Mehcad Brooks) agrees with Quinn's opinion and convinces him to put down his weapon and surrender.
"I agree with you," Shaw responded. "And nobody needs to die right here tonight, right?"
During a press conference following Quinn's arrest, District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) gives a lecture on the importance of gun control.
McCoy: After considerable consultation with the U.S. Attorney's office, we decided to prosecute this matter in state court. Gun violence is a national plague. The only way to effect real change is to move past all the political acrimony and pass strong and effective common-sense gun-control legislation. The question for all of us is-- Had enough? We can't become a place where people settle their political differences at the point of a gun or where talented and passionate men and women avoid public service out of fear for their lives.
Never mind the inappropriateness of a district attorney using such a moment to criticize the victim's political stance on gun rights. Apparently, the only way to "move past all the political acrimony" is to do what gun control advocates want.
Quinn's defense attorney is McCoy's daughter, Rebecca (Elisabeth Waterston). Rebecca is angry at her father for charging Quinn with first degree murder. She claims that because Quinn has PTSD from the school shooting, he isn't responsible for his actions.
Rebecca criticizes her father's "lack of empathy" for the killer, thereby showing a remarkable lack of empathy for the victim. She's so convinced that Quinn should go free that she even rejects a plea deal offer of manslaughter.
Throughout the episode, the prosecutor, Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy), feels torn about having to pursue a premeditated murder conviction even though that's exactly what Quinn did. Many people suffer PTSD. They don't kill politicians in cold blood as a result of it.
The jury declares Quinn guilty in the end, but the episode still left me troubled. Why did a script about the killing of a senator spend so much time on sympathy for the murderer?
Law & Order essentially ended its season by hectoring viewers about gun control and empathizing with an unhinged political assassin. I can only imagine what next fall's television season will bring.