"How do you do it?" detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin) asks his boss, Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) on tonight's "Law & Order."
"One foot in front of the other, for 30 years." Van Buren replies.
While Merkerson's tenure on "L&O" has only been 15 years, that question and answer resonate tonight as Martin makes his final appearance in a nine-year run on the series. ...
The door revolves nonstop on various "L&O" shows, but the mothership has seen a ton of it. After all, it has been on the air since 1990. Producer Dick Wolf has never been averse to tinkering with casts; like life, people come and go from their jobs. (Mike Logan, the detective played by Chris Noth, did five years on "L&O," left, returned for a TV movie and most recently landed on "Criminal Intent.")
And five years is a pretty long run for an actor on a single show. Youngish actors in particular get restless. Martin already took one break from "L&O" to do the big-screen version of "Rent," so his departure isn't entirely unexpected. And tonight's show suggests that things will get very interesting in Green's wake; you'll see his replacement, played by Anthony Anderson, working as an Internal Affairs investigator in tonight's show.
But getting back to Martin, he has a good send-off tonight; often known for its acting understatement, "L&O" lets Martin remind people of his chops by putting Green into a mess that leads to criminal charges and a lot of talk about his past. I don't buy the resolution of the case; for a show where canny defense lawyers make nothing seem certain, this one tidies up too quickly. But I very much liked what Martin did, not only with pain and desperation, but with a weariness that may have had as much to do with his own readiness to move on as it did with Ed Green's despair.