Bittersweet ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’ Series Finale Airs Sunday

Guest Star James Van Der Beek and Vincent D’Onofrio on 'Criminal Intent' (Photo: USA Network)

Guest Star James Van Der Beek and Vincent D’Onofrio on 'Criminal Intent' (Photo: USA Network)

Law & Order: Criminal Intent” will air its season finale Sunday on USA, bringing the number of active “Law & Order” series back down to one, with “SVU.”

The final episode, “To the Boy in the Blue Knit Cap,” features James Van Der Beek in a story about a website facilitating hook-ups, one whose members may have something to do with recent murders.

The finale should be bittersweet for fans of the brand, who have been forced to cope with unceremonious series endings of late. The first year “Law & Order: Los Angeles” – later renamed and retooled down to just “Law & Order: LA” – didn’t even make it through the season. Poor Alana De La Garza was brought in from New York to continue her Deputy D.A. Connie Rubirosa character, only to have her show shelved – again. De La Garza was part of the “L&O” mothership cast when it was unceremoniously canceled by NBC in 2010 with no chance for producers to wrap up.

The series finale of “Criminal Intent,” on the other hand, has been planned since the swan song tenth season began seven episodes ago. Forget last season with Jeff Goldblum’s Detective Nichols, to say good-bye USA brought back the originals, Detective Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Detective Eames (Kathryn Erbe). (Somewhere, mothership vets Sam Waterston and S. Epatha Merkerson are feeling jobbed.)

“Criminal Intent” has dodged death before, being rescued from the NBC bin by the friendly lower-budget confines of cable on USA in 2008, and creator and “Law & Order” overlord Dick Wolf made no secret of the fact he hoped the show would skate by again in an interview before the season. Wolf made what he called “a naked plea” to the network, saying: “Being the unbridled optimist that I am, I still have a hope that this is a victory lap, not a swan song.”

Erbe expressed the same hope for return in a recent interview with TV Guide. “I know that I would be there in a heartbeat. I’m fairly positive that Vincent (D’Onofrio) feels the same way. Everyone was really hoping that, in the 11th hour, we’d get some word,” she said.

“Whether the fans are able to muscle us back or not, who knows. They have amazing power.”

This season’s ratings would seem to help the case, averaging 3.81 million viewers over the seven episodes compared to last season’s 3.05 million.

But regardless of whether USA reverses course and renews the show, Erbe was grateful for the chance for a proper good-bye. “I just know that these eight episodes were like a gift. To be able to come back and have closure with the crew and the cast and everyone,” Erbe said. “If you lose something, when you get it back, it’s just a different perspective. So we all came back rested and fresh and ready to have fun and do good episodes.”

The “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” series finale will air at 9 p.m. Sunday on USA.

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