When the news broke that Vice President Joe Biden, Obama’s perpetually grinning, ice cream and choo-choo train-loving boy Friday, would be appearing on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, our imaginations went into overdrive. Would he hit the mean streets of NYC with Ice-T? Be the crucial cog in solving an elaborate rape case? And might it rival his memorable turn in Parks and Rec as Leslie Knope’s “precious cargo?”
The episode, “Making a Rapist,” doesn’t air on the peacock until Sept. 28, but The Daily Beast caught an early glimpse and it’s a doozy.
Biden’s cameo, however, isn’t all that. “Making a Rapist” opens with the VP honoring Lt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her team at SVU for making their way through thousands of backlogged—and untested—rape kits. Since introducing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to Congress in 1990, Biden has been focused on putting an end rape and other violence acts towards women. In 2014, he helped create the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, making the epidemic of campus rape a focal point of his VP tenure.
“My Dad used to have an expression. He said, ‘The greatest sin any person can commit is an abuse of power,’ and the greatest abuse of power is rape,” Biden announces to the precinct. “It takes women a long time to heal. And when the victim isn’t believed, when she goes through the invasive process of having a rape kit put together, and then it’s stuck on a shelf somewhere, and then the rape kit is never ever tested, well, we fail. We fail her. We fail so many women.
“I’m proud to say today we did not fail,” he adds, before congratulating “my friend here, Lieutenant Olivia Benson of SVU.”
Lt. Benson then takes the podium, announcing that her team at SVU has begun to “clear the national rape kit backlog” and in the process “righted a terrible wrong.” That “wrong” occurred 16 years ago, when Sean Roberts (Henry Thomas, of E.T. fame) was convicted of a rape in New York City that he didn’t commit. By testing an untested rape kit found in Detroit, they were able to extract the DNA of the actual rapist, and let Sean go free. He’s since befriended his former accuser and her family, and is in the midst of suing the NYPD for $30 million for the blunder. But before you can chant DUN DUN, the young daughter of the woman Sean was unjustly convicted of raping is found raped, strangled, stabbed, doused in bleach, and burned. She later dies in the hospital.
The primary suspect is Sean, who was heard by the girl’s mother chatting with her in their apartment hours before she was found violated to within an inch of her life. If this sounds like the plot of the acclaimed Netflix series Making a Murderer, well, it basically is.
And as this is SVU, there are a coterie of other wacky suspects. There’s the girl’s rich douchebag boyfriend, Zach, who’d recently gotten into an argument with the victim, as well as Charlie, the creepy son of her neighbor, who regularly played peeping Tom to the girl from a little tent on his apartment’s roof filled with condoms, lube, women’s jewelry, and… a bloody knife. He’s also very creepy toward Det. Rollins (Kelli Giddish), the striking ex-gambling addict with a love child.
Without giving away the patented SVU twist, it’s Sean who ends up headed to trial where it’s revealed that he’s still haunted by the physical and psychological trauma of prison, where the meek young man was repeatedly raped by his fellow inmates.
And with Lt. Benson and her SVU team on the case—including Det. Tutuola (Ice-T), the cop who arrested Sean 16 years ago—there’s one thing you can be damn sure of: justice will be served.