Aftershock (Law & Order episode)

Aftershock (Law & Order episode)

"Aftershock" is the 134th episode of NBC's legal drama Law & Order, and the season finale of the sixth season. It originally aired on 22 May 1996.


"Aftershock" is notable because it doesn't have the typical "Law & Order" story structure of the police-procedural followed by legal proceedings. Instead of following a murder investigation, the episode is character-driven and follows each of the characters in the aftermath of an execution.

Jack McCoy, Claire Kincaid, Lenny Briscoe and Rey Curtis attend the execution of a man each had a part in helping to convict. Kincaid and McCoy fight briefly while driving back to the city. Kincaid decides to take a sick day, while McCoy returns to the office. Briscoe and Curtis have the day off, but Curtis decides to finish up some paperwork.

He has a scuffle with a man in a holding cell and is ordered by Anita Van Buren to take the day off. He proceeds to meet a graduate student (played by Jennifer Garner) downtown and spends the day flirting with her while ignoring his wife's phone calls. He follows her home and kisses her while listening to music and drinking.

Briscoe visits an off track betting facility and meets some acquaintances with "inside information." After losing some money, Briscoe's daughter finds him and they go to lunch while discussing their recent difficulties.

Kincaid visits her mother's husband and former law school professor to discuss her concerns about capital punishment, and more broadly, her feelings about the legal profession. She then has lunch with Van Buren and discusses the morality of capital punishment.

After dispatching a few plea agreements and lunch with Elizabeth Olivet, McCoy goes to a bar and meets some blue collar workers where they play darts and talk about their fathers. At first, McCoy speaks highly of his father, a former police officer. However, after becoming drunk, he also becomes darker, revealing an abusive past.

Briscoe's talk with his daughter does not end well. He walks into the same bar that McCoy is at and orders a club soda since he is an alcoholic. After McCoy leaves in a cab, Briscoe seemingly becomes depressed and orders a scotch. Kincaid, whom McCoy had earlier called to get a ride home, meets a drunken Briscoe at the bar and offers to take him home.

While driving home, Briscoe laments the state of his relationship with his daughter, and says that he would have liked to have had Kincaid as a daughter. She tries to comfort him, but just as Briscoe gives an exasperated declaration that he will never know his own daughter, a drunk driver slams into the side of their car, killing Kincaid.

The episode ends with a dazed Briscoe wandering in the accident scene, crying at the sight of Kincaid, as Van Buren reads part of a letter she has been writing to her mother about the execution in a voiceover:

A crowd of people stood and cheered when he raped her. They were supposedly good people and they did absolutely nothing. Then he beat her to death with a tire iron, and today the State of New York got its revenge. It's not enough, and it's too much.

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