You've heard of Siskel and Ebert? Well, here's Kitt and Kor, hashing out one particular episode of Law & Order. We don't argue nearly as much as those two, but here's an (almost entirely) untouched review of the episode "Coma," in which Larry Miller appeared memorably as a comedy-club owner who murdered his wife...or did he?



Show title: Coma
Episode Number: 090
Original Date of Airing: 9/28/94
Main Cast: Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, Chris Noth, Jill Hennessey, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Steven Hill
Guest Stars: Larry Miller [Michael Dobson], Debra Monk [Kathleen O'Brien], John Cunningham [Max Weston], Heather Gottlieb [Susannah], Frank Girardeau [Fred Harding], Erik Jensen [Joey Springfield], Terry Layman [Dr. George Fishman], David Pittu [Walsh], Jayden Lund [Grimley], Ed Jupp Jr. [Fernald], Brittany Slattery [Jessica Dobson], Bill Cohen [Sandler], Kitty Chen [Trial Judge Elizabeth Yee], Sidney Armus [Judge Walther], Kurt Knudson [Custody Judge Ari Waxman], Phil Parolisi [Robin Wenner], Lee Summers [Dr. David Monroe], Raul Davila [Camacho], Glenn Herman [Jerome "Hamster" Hawkins], Robb Pruitt [Comedian], Joe Gonzalez [Montero], Michael C. Mahon [Will Carter], Joanna Heimbold [Melody Carter], Beth Emelson [Nurse], Brian Connors [Uniform Policeman], Robert Joseph Coffin [Court Clerk] Taken from the L&O Episode Guide
Memorable quote:"I don't need you to tell me I'm a son of a bitch. Been one for a long time. I like it. The hours are good, and there's no heavy lifting."
-- Larry Miller as Dobson


Kitt: It's a good all around episode, as opposed to just the Law being good or the Order being good. Larry Miller is wonderful as the bad guy, because he's got those beady eyes and he's evil looking. His part is very well-written. He's almost like a full-fledged character. It's almost too bad when he's gone at the end of the episode, because we'd like him to come back later. He's so sarcastic, he's so unafraid of the cops, that makes him different than a lot of the other people they haul in. Even though he's not a professional killer, he doesn't care what the cops think. His character almost overshadows everyone else, because he has so much life and personality. I think he's the best part of the whole episode. And then, of course, one of the reasons I like this episode so much is the trick ending. A lot of the other L&O episodes, you know the person did it, it's just a matter of how are we going to get him convicted, or how are we going to get him into court, or how we're going to get him to not plead insanity. On this one, we know he's a jerk, but we don't know for certain, and even then, at the end, when we have this ironic twist, where they do find out that the real killer does know him, you still are not a thousand percent sure that he killed his wife, because it's not spelled out for you. Looking at it critically, what remains with you with the story at the end are a couple of scattershot scenes with the main characters, but the fact that we had such a dynamic, fabulous, well-written bad guy. And the other thing I liked is at the very end of the episode, when he's been exonerated and they let him go, that it almost felt like classic superhero meets villain confrontation: "Mu-ha-ha-ha! You'll never get me!"You almost expect him to start twirling his mustache or something.

Kor: It sounds like you think this is Larry Miller's episode.

Kitt: Definitely. Also, one thing that I think we want to mention here is we're looking at these L&Oepisodes as being fabulous in general, and we're rating them against all of the other Law & Order episodes, not against, say, ER. That said, in this particular epsiode I was not impressed with Mike Logan. I felt that by this point, in season 5, that you can see the strain on the character, that he's not the same brash person as when he started. Which is fine, but I don't find him to be very colorful. He is overshadowed by their bad guy. And Mike Logan fans might not think about it, but you can see that the character is not reacting in certain ways, the way he might have reacted to before. I felt that the Mike Logan character in this episode was washed-out. Although I have to admit that I'm in favor of any scene that has the cops butting heads with the lawyers. And there's that fabulous scene --

Kor: The ham sandwich.

Kitt: The ham sandwich one, exactly, where Mike and Jack get into it: "Are you giving me attitude?" I love that. We want more and more of that. We want them to be as pissed off at each other as possible. I also love learning that Jack's father was a cop for 31 years, and I love the scene where McCoy and Kincaid learn they've been had -- watching the videotape -- the expressions on their faces are just precious.

Kor: I have to agree with your comments on Mike Logan. I had the unfortunate experience, so to speak, of "Cruel and Unusual"being the episode on my tape just before this one. "Cruel and Unusual" is a good episode, but it's also a very strong Mike Logan episode in a lot of ways. Watching that and then watching "Coma," definitely showed me a difference there was between a good Mike Logan episode and a not so good one. In this one, you're right, he's very washed-out. I'll make a very superficial comment here -- this was not a very good hair episode for Mike. I agree with everything you say about Larry Miller's perfomance. And what struck me was that he was so sarcastic that you had no problem believing that he did it, yet at the end, you don't know. And that's what was so amazing to me. We're going along, assuming this guy did it, and we just have to figure out how to get him. And then, at the end, you still think he did it, but you're not sure. Although, in the second episode, Lennie was pretty convinced, when they do "Encore," [the sequel to "Coma," where Dobson returns, having killed his next wife] Lennie says, "This is the guy who killed his wife the first time." But we're left wondering. I liked the integration of the Law and Order parts. On the one hand, I like the separation, where you have one half hour for Law, and a half hour for Order. But I don't necessarily think that's realistic. I like seeing the Law and the Order mingle, like they did here. I like seeing Claire work with the cops, because I think that's part of what she would do. They would come to her with their assessment of the case, and have to convince her that this is what she should do. I felt this was a very, very strong Claire episode. The scene of her with the judge, where she goes to get the search warrant from the judge, and they have this great back and forth. They go back and forth, and you see her lawyering, with this judge, in the way you usually see Ben and Jack do. And then she says, "With all due respect, your honor, should he receive the benefit of the doubt because she can't tell you herself how afraid she was?" And the judge sits down and gives her this look and says, "Touche, that's exactly how I would have argued it," and signs the search warrant. It's a very triumphant moment for her.

Kitt: You're right on the mark there.

Kor: Especially comparing her to season 4 Claire, where she was very timid in many ways, not very self-assured. This season has her really coming into her own, and a lot of times I found myself wondering if that had to do with Jack, because in the scenes that she has with Jack, because her interactions with Jack are different. But this is a scene where she stands all by herself, and she does a very good job of being a good lawyer. She convinces me that she is an able attorney. There's a Jack and Claire moment in this episode, too, when Jack grabs her shoulder.

Kitt: Right, where they're sitting outside. Yep. Oh, yeah.

Kor: It's one of those moments where you go, "Okay, what's up between these two! Ben would never do that!" So it's one of those things that stands out for Jack and Claire fans. Also, there was less window-dressing in this episode. A lot of scenes with Adam and Anita make them seem like window-dressing -- talented window dressing -- but window dressing. For example, Anita just points the cops to look at something which, if they were competent investigators, they'd be going to do anyway. She's almost a plot device to tell us that's why they're going to a place. But this time, she brought up the reason for Dobson's motive -- she wants to get a divorce, but did Dobson know that? If she's looking for a safe deposit on the side...

Kitt: She knows the female side of this. She's not just there to move them in that direction, she helps them connect the list of banks to the safe deposit box.

Kor: And she also reminds them that the woman was going to surprise her husband with this, so how did he know? Where did he get the idea that she was planning to leave him. Adam has the same kind of problem usually, but not in this episode. He had a quote where he says to Jack, "I understand you've been promoted from Assistant DA to Supreme Deity."And that is classic Adam, where he says a lot with a thrown-off remark. They use that scene to show that there are other interests here than just the interests of getting Dobson. What about this woman who's going to die because of this? And then, she does die.

Kitt: That's one of the things I like about Law & Order. Yeah, we're not usually invested in the victim, even if she is the reason this whole thing starts. But Law & Order writers aren't afraid to kill 'em off. You know? They're not going to be all Touched By An Angel -- an angel came in and took the bullet out of her head. Here, she dies.

Kor: That's true. This is more like reality. I also thought it was interesting that Claire thought they had a good enough case to take to the grand jury, and she outlines why, in the interrogation room scene. Then they go in and arrest Dobson. And the next scene is the one you were talking about with the ham sandwich -- Jack does not think, at that point, that they have a case. And I wondered to myself how that might make Claire feel -- she authorized them arresting him and bringing it in front of the grand jury for indictment, and there's him going, "At least there's meat on a ham sandwich!"But later, even after the bullet doesn't match, Jack is convinced enough to go ahead with the case. He's so fully invested in the case. And part of that, I think, is they made this decision to take the bullet out of this woman's head --

Kitt: They don't want to look stupid now!

Kor: Right, and the defense attorney brings out the reason that maybe the reason the sister is so convinced that Dobson is guilty is that she killed her sister. And I found it interesting that Jack was against this case in the beginning, or certainly arguing that it wasn't that strong of a case, and then turned so gung-ho, even after the bullet matched.It's like once they decide to go ahead, that's it. Which is a flaw people say really exists in the process. Once the police decide you're guilty, you're guilty, and they don't go looking for someone else. And once the District Attorney's office decides you're guilty, you're guilty. And one other thing, I think in the beginning, they're talking to that wonderful forensic guy -- he's sarcastic, but not so much that you can't stand being around him. That's another thing I like about Law & Order -- the bit players are always so wonderful, too.

Kitt: And we had a Profaci sighting!

Kor: Right, he brought in her purse, and made some funny remark! But the forensic guy was talking about the fingerprints -- they found Dobson's fingerprints in the car, in a position that indicated he was the one who pulled the jewelry off, and that's where the fingerprints were!Then, they find the gun at the end, when they find the gun and the jacket in the junkie's apartment, but they still haven't explained away how Dobson's fingerprints got in the car.

Kitt: But they do explain at the time that there are a lot of other reasons why his fingerprints would be in the car.

Kor: Well, what they do say is, "It's his car," and the forensic guy says, "Then his prints would be all over, and they're only in this one specific place."

Kitt: But there are a lot of other reasons why your fingers would be there.

Kor: But I don't know if they could be there and not be anywhere else in the car. So that was something they took great pains to point out, but then all of a sudden they have this other killer so they ignore that. But it made me bring up this image: Did he kill her, and then give this stuff to Robin, the junkie, to make it look like, down the line...because Robin was dying anyways....that he was the one who did it? It's one of those things that has no resolution. There's a hundred things it could be.

Kitt: I found one particular mistake.

Kor: Other than that Mike Logan was wearing an ugly jacket?

Kitt: Besides Mike Logan's fashion mistakes, yes! When they go to interview the boss at the newspaper she's working at, the slate they paste up between scenes with the "ka-chunk" sound reads, Manhattan Weekly Reader. Then, a scene right after they leave the newspaper office, Mike walks in --

Kor: Right, with a copy of the paper in hand --

Kitt: -- and tells Anita that the woman was working part time at the West Side Sentinel.

Kor: Right. Oh! I didn't notice that.

Kitt: I didn't catch it the millions of times I've seen this epsode, but since I was taking notes this time....

Kor: And it's not like she worked at two newspapers.

Kitt: So there's a mistake you wouldn't notice until you're paying attention to it!

Kor: I never catch those little things. But sometimes, the slates are strange. Like sometimes, they'll just say "Executive District Attorney Ben Stone." So, what, they're holding a meeting inside Ben Stone? It should say Ben Stone's office!

Kitt: Just goes to prove that no matter how cleverly-written the episode is, insane fans like you and me will always be able to nit-pick until oblivion!

Kor: That's why they pay us the big bucks.

end


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