Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent Review: The Iconic Franchise Comes to Canada

Dick Wolf's television institution goes up north.

No franchise in American television history is quite as ubiquitous as Law & Order. With seven separate series and over 1300 episodes under their belt, they have achieved an iconic status in our shared North American culture. Whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not, the trademark visual style and “dun dun” sound effect are instantly recognizable. I say this because, after three decades of being on the air, Law & Order is finally expanding into Canada with the new series Law and Order Toronto: Criminal Intent.

In the original flavour of Law & Order, each episode is divided roughly in half, with the first half following the police who track a suspect and make an arrest, and then the second half following the prosecutors who attempt to have them convicted. Criminal Intent follows almost entirely the police investigating the crime and plays much more like a straightforward procedural police series with the law and order trappings tacked on. This version was anchored in the US by stars Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe, and is now in Canada by series leads Aden Young and Kathleen Munroe.

Law And Order Toronto Criminal Intent

These shows are no-nonsense and rapid fire so it can be difficult for a character to show through all the procedure, but Young and Munroe pull it off. Young’s portrayal of Det. Sgt. Henry Graff, the intelligent outside-the-box thinker on the team, is memorable and well-tuned to the material. Kathleen Munroe as Det. Sgt. Frankie Bateman is his more business-minded partner and, together, they make a good duo whose strengths complement each other and whose differences make for some fun jabs at each other’s expense. Even in the series’ premiere episode, where the two investigate the surprising death of a crypto CEO, subtle moments of backstory are elevated by the stars’ strong characterization.

Veteran performer Karen Robinson is on the team as their boss, Insp. Vivienne Holness, and she is also good, but her character may also be named “Law & Order Police Boss”. That’s not exactly a complaint, mind you. She makes a meal of the brash boss archetype and steals every scene she’s in, but this reliance on archetypes and such a well-established formula is both the show’s biggest weakness and its greatest strength. It’s either “another Law & Order…” or “Another Law & Order!”

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Law And Order Toronto Criminal Intent

That might seem like a fairly narrow distinction, but it’s true. Once again, this is a franchise with enough episodes under its belt that if you watched one a day, it would take you three and a half years to watch them all, and that’s before you consider counting international remakes. It has its own tropes, and the pilot episode hits almost all of them, up to and including ending on perhaps the most cliched line of dialogue of the year so far. In the case of almost any other series, this would be a bad thing, but in this case, it’s just Law & Order. The tropes make it a beloved institution, and this entry into the franchise fits comfortably into it.

Thankfully, this one also has the Canadian setting to set it apart. It’s nice to see such an iconic setup using Canadian locals, from high-rises to dingy hotels, as well as common vernacular. Everyone involved is giving it their all, so between all of these things this installment definitely ends up falling into the latter category: “Another Law & Order!”

Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent premieres tonight, Thursday, February 22 at 8 pm ET, on Citytv and Citytv+, with new episodes premiering every Thursday.



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