Cue the "duh duh" sound. Season 23 of Law & Order: SVU is here, and things are not going the way fans expected. Incredibly, by the end of its two-hour premiere on Sept. 23, 2021, which included episodes “And the Empire Strikes Back” and “Never Turn Your Back on Them," two cast members were written out of the show. Fans had anticipated the change, but it still stung.
Longtime fans of the police case drama, which first aired back in 1999, were shell-shocked when it was announced that Deputy Chief Christian Garland, played by Demore Barnes, and Detective Katriona “Kat” Azar Tamin, played by Jamie Gray Hyder, would no longer be a part of the Law & Order universe. The two were promoted to series regulars in Season 22. But apparently, that was one big "psyche!"
All good things must come to an end, but fans were left fuming at the character connected to Garland's untimely departure in particular: Chief McGrath. So who is Chief McGrath? The character, played by the convincingly vile Terry Serpico (we know it's not your fault, Terry), a Law & Order veteran, has SVU fans everywhere grinding their teeth.
Kat's departure from the NYPD is related to a shooting that almost took her life, an anxiety-inducing event that went down during the Season 23 premiere. “We’re not in the same place. I don’t have 20 years invested. I gotta get out before I get too deep. I am so happy for the victims’ sake that you’re here, I just can’t stay," Kat, SVU's first LGBTQ officer, told Olivia Benson, famously played by Mariska Hargitay. But how did everything play out with Garland, aka SVU's first Black deputy chief?
Who is Chief McGrath, and how did he play a role in Garland's departure?
While the Kat storyline is fairy simple, Garland's storyline goes a bit deeper, connecting to impatient and borderline gross Chief Tommy McGrath's distaste for him. The hardheaded police chief, who made his debut in the Season 22 episode "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing," seems to just butt heads with Garland, who is much more sentimental and personable in nature.
See, in “Guardians and Gladiators,” Jayvon Brown, a Black man, was arrested for assault despite the evidence being minimal, causing him to sue the NYPD. Understandably, this put Garland in a difficult position, but he went ahead and apologized for the systemic racism that was partially to blame for the false accusations against Jayvon, as well as his arrest. This started a firestorm with the bosses, including Chief McGrath, who felt as though Garland was not loyal to the department.
From there, Garland was essentially cold-shouldered by his peers and in danger of losing his job. “Whatever they try, I’m not going to go quietly," he told Benson. In the Season 23 premiere, things only got worse for Garland. In the episode, McGrath is ready to take down Congressman George Howard, who is allegedly connected to sex crimes involving men taking advantage of women living in public housing.
Congressman Howard is ultimately proven to be the criminal trash Chief McGrath thinks he is, as he later roofies a 16-year-old intern at a fundraiser. But when Mcgrath holds a press conference concerning arrests made in the Howard case, Garland's heart sinks when he realizes that he was purposely not notified. Chief McGrath's explanation that it all boiled down to a miscommunication is disingenuous and shady at best.
Garland's a smart dude, so he knows it's better to resign early rather than bite his nails waiting to get fired. Now that Garland has resigned, McGrath will temporarily be the commanding officer of the SVU. Oh, did we mention he suggests to Benson that the SVU focus on "real rapes" from now on? What a slimy dude.
The social media reaction to Chief McGrath's reinstatement (temporary though it may be) was swift and definitely not great, as you can see by the tweet above. Perhaps the SVU creators and casting directors should keep an eye out for more comments such as this one.
Season 23 episodes of SVU air Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. EST on NBC.