The high standard remains – was this the best ever cast combo in the history of the show? Everyone is very comfortable in their roles, the show is at the height of its powers.
There’s a few more serial strands in this one: Van Bruren is suing the department for discrimination, Ray’s wife gets MS and starts suffering badly, Lenny’s daughter is involved in a drug deal and gets killed (apparently because Jerry Orbach wanted a scene where he hugs his dead daughter’s body), Adam Schiff faces a tough re-election battle, Jaime has a custody battle and gets remarried. This was to prepare the way for some of them leaving, apparently – although in the event, only Carey Lowell did.
There are some great episodes: an abortion that goes horribly wrong; a dodgy doctor (Michael Nouri) who pinches organs; a terrifying militia with an arsenal under the stairs; a black man who passes as white (this was particularly brilliant); some female genital cutting; impregnated comatose women; a mob boss who plays dumb; a woman who claims to be stalked but is pooh-poohed by the cops – then she ends up dead. Alec Baldwin gets a co-story credit for the episode “Tabloid”, and episode 15 has an Aussie character, an author (I didn’t recognise the actor). There’s also a cross-over episode with Homicide: Life on the Streets – part one is an official Law and Order ep, with credits and shot in Law and Order style; part two is done as a Homicide episode, in their style. (This was repeated in the next season.)
Guest stars include Tony Roberts, Jill Clayburgh, Michael Pitt (acting just like he would later on in Boardwalk Empire), John Slattery. We have semi-recurring guest stars, including JD Simmons (who’s replaced sexy Carolyn McCormack as the shrink), the fat black haired cop (he’s been on the show for years now), and my favourite, the bald, fat, wise-cracking judge.