It was supposed to be the television event of the season for politics nerds and Weiner-watchers alike: Anthony Weiner’s zipper problems were finally getting the Law and Order treatment. The previews promised ridiculous sexting names, nude high school girls and a front-running mayoral candidate. And yet except for a couple of standout moments, the episode felt strangely flat. Could it be that Weiner’s wandering was always going to overshadow whatever fictional adaptations came out of it?
The episode revolved around the relationship state senator and mayor-to-be Alex Munoz has with assistant district attorney Rafael Barba and their childhood pal, Eddie Garcia. When Garcia is charged with rape after an argument with a woman in her apartment, the detectives investigating the incident discover things go deeper than they thought (because of course) and actually involve Munoz paying off various women he’s been showing his dick to on the internet. Munoz, despite his Weiner-like zipper problem is actually more like a Bill de Blasio or Eliot Spitzer type, shooting to the top with a campaign based on bland anti-Wall Street, ant1-1% rhetoric only a hack writer could love.
The problem with the episode is that the show spends so much time on the old friendship between the three old friends that we don’t get much in the way of insane antics like Weiner provided us. There’s a glimmer of hope at the beginning of the episode when the alleged victim is revealed to be a vaguely Sydney Leathers-ish, shoe collecting serial sexter, but she’s shunted off quickly so we can focus on the important things, like the ADA possibly having a crush on Munoz’ wife!
It’s not until over 20 minutes in to the episode that we get to the SVU detectives setting a clever honeytrap for Munoz, followed by the sexting and the selfies and the PleasureWithoutConscience, which definitely belongs in the pantheon of fake SVU websites. And finally, we get the famous bulge picture.
At that moment though, things start to deviate from the real story in a completely uninteresting way, as we learn that Munoz has kept the women he’s sexted with quiet through cash payments and state jobs they’re unqualified for. Ultimately it turns out that Munoz sexted a 15-year-old girl, but this revelation comes almost at the end of the episode. Which means no awkward press conferences, no shout-y confrontations and definitely no awesome punny newspaper headlines. Just a weird, sad Ron Kuby cameo in a courtroom and professions of innocence from Munoz, then roll credits.
But maybe I just went into this expecting too much from a show that still has a “confused grandpa” level understanding of the internet and is trying to cover their ass by making the bad guy some combination of Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Bill de Blasio. What made the actual Anthony Weiner such a compelling story wasn’t his short-lived frontrunner status and it definitely wasn’t populist rhetoric, which he had none of.
It was that despite the fact that he admitted to sending women pictures of his dick after he told the world he’d stopped doing that, he still the sad drive to insist people trust him as mayor. And that he thought by just admitting to his sexting, people would stop asking him questions about it. Because despite whatever Weiner said about the sexting not being a distraction, he ended his campaign literally running away from his sexting partner, who’d shown up in a sexy red dress at his victory party for whatever reason. Weiner’s was a campaign that was a rolling clusterfuck from almost the minute it started, and this SVU episode didn’t have any of the insane energy that Anthony Weiner brought to every appearance he made after the Sydney Leathers-era of his campaign started. Well, guess we can always hold out hope for a Lifetime movie.