Law & Order Special Celebrities Unit Case File No. 2: Idris Elba
There are a few things that we as a society can come to a cordial agreement upon. They are as follows:
- Walking around in wet socks is an indescribably awful feeling
- Nobody's favorite Starburst flavor is orange
- George Harrison was the best Beatle
- Someone will read this list and insist that their favorite Starburst flavor is, in fact, orange
- Idris Elba is one of the most handsome men who has ever lived
Because social media is powered by both unrequited crushes and righteous indignation, there's an excellent chance that an argument will be made that walking around in wet socks is really not that bad, but George Harrison was worse than Hitler. Absolutely no one will argue that Idris Elba was not created in some underground laboratory somewhere, GloboHandsomeDyne Industries, pure testosterone grown in a petri dish and brought to glorious, foxy sentience. To be clear, he's not so handsome you can't look at him for very long, like Armie Hammer. No, quite the opposite, when he's on screen he's all you can look at. Idris Elba is so good looking that you forget he's not the hero protagonist of Pacific Rim, that was bland not-Hemsworth Charlie Hunnam. He made Thor: the Dark World, the least essential movie in the Marvel Universe, worth watching. He could read grain futures and make it sound like the best kind of "for women only" erotica. What am I trying to say is that he is really, really easy on the eyes.
However, he is mortal, believe it or not, and like all mortals, at least those in the acting business, he appeared in an episode of Law & Order. Season 12's hilariously named "3 Dawg Night" was one of Elba's first appearances on American television, just a year before he began playing Stringer Bell on The Wire, the role that would make him famous. A particularly bold ripping of the headlines, the episode is inspired by the 1999 nightclub shooting involving Sean "Puffy" Combs and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, and, like the previous installment of L&O: SCU, it's actually a two-for-one, guest starring Scandal's Kerry Washington in an early role. It features everything that made Law & Order so great: Jerry Orbach looking like someone broke wind in front of him, insufferably smarmy defense attorneys, and white TV writers managing to make "street culture" both scary and a little silly.
The episode opens with a shooting inside a nightclub called, implausibly, Megafly, resulting in the death of Jerome Cabey, a drug dealer/aspiring DJ. Elba, playing club manager Lonnie Liston, makes his first appearance on screen almost immediately, and, please, remain seated while I tell you this, he's slightly less good looking than he is presently. Now, when you're the warm, nourishing light of the sun sculpted into the shape of a man, that's not really that much of a step down, but I must be honest. I gotta keep it real, and it feels as comfortable typing that as Jack McCoy sounds saying "We got dissed" at the end of the episode.
Compensating for the fact that he's merely incredibly handsome as opposed to astonishingly handsome here, Elba speaks with his own London-born accent. Luckily, the only thing better than looking at Idris Elba is listening to Idris Elba. Hearing his voice is like being slowly lowered into a scented bath by two shirtless Idris Elbas. Lonnie tells Detectives Briscoe and Green that he neither saw the shooting, recognized the victim, or knew how he got into Megafly. However, a witness tells the detectives that Lonnie had an argument with the victim just before the shooting took place. Brought in for questioning and threatened with the closing of his club, Lonnie admits that he had a confrontation with the victim, but didn't see the shooting take place. He also reveals that present at Megafly that night was superstar rapper G-Train, and his actress girlfriend, Allie Lawrence.
I regret to inform you that, barely ten minutes into the episode, Idris Elba does not appear in it again. I know, I know, I was grievously disappointed too.
"Even I've heard of G-Train!" grumpy gramps Briscoe exclaims, and that gives you a taste of how silly this episode is, as out of touch white people continuously appear aghast at the lengths young black people will go to in order to create a certain show business image. G-Train, who looks disconcertingly like Eddie Murphy, denies shooting anyone, and seems content to let the cops pin it on his bodyguard, while his bodyguard, who must be receiving one heck of a benefits package, is willing to take the fall. Testing for gunpowder residue on the bodyguard's clothes proves that, while he didn't shoot anyone, someone standing right next to him did. G-Train being the most likely culprit, he's arrested for murder.
Represented by the law firm of Smarm, Smug, & Arrogant, L.L.P., G-Train goes on trial. McCoy begins to doubt that G-Train is the shooter, and brings him in for a chance to exonerate himself. G-Train says that, while he wasn't the shooter, he's okay with going on trial, possibly being found guilty, and facing the rest of his life in prison, because that's what his fans expect of him. "They tell me I have to be hard to sell records," he says, as if he's talking about appearing in a celebrity boxing tournament rather than being convicted of murder. McCoy has an idea who he's protecting, though--it's Allie Lawrence, who admits to shooting the victim after he groped her at the nightclub. However, because her admission takes place during an off-the-record conversation, and her attorney advises her to not make an official statement (which seems kind of unethical, especially when he says it right in front of McCoy), everybody walks and no one is convicted of the shooting. G-Train doesn't entirely escape punishment, however--when his fans find out that he didn't actually kill anyone, sales of his album start to decline.
So yeah, this is a pretty goofy episode, playing hard to the "these kids and their violent rap music" contingency, but hey, how about that slab of prime beef just dropped from the heavens during the first ten minutes, huh? I found myself hoping there'd be some way that Idris Elba would show up again in the episode, even just to testify in G-Train's trial. But alas, it is not to be, and maybe that's best, because his appearance would be far too distracting, as not just Jack McCoy, but the entire courtroom, looked upon him with awe, like when Derek Zoolander finally revealed Blue Steel to the world.