Law & Order: UK - Discussion For Episode 1.7, "Alesha" - Jamie Bamber News
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Law & Order: UK - Discussion For Episode 1.7, "Alesha"

"Alesha" written by Catherine Tregenna

For those watching Law & Order: UK for the first time, "Alesha" was the final episode of Series 1 on ITV. You lucky folks don't have to wait for Series 2 episodes for months to debut or to sporadically turn up online. ;)

I'm curious as to what everyone thought of "Alesha". While the episode played well in some respects - and took the series in an unexpected direction - I found aspects of the episode problematic.

"Alesha" is difficult to discuss as well as to watch. I was spoiled for the episode before it aired on ITV back in April 2009 and, once I heard about the subject matter and how the story unfolded, I delayed watching the episode. I didn't actually see it until I purchased the DVDs.

I thought the actors, especially Freema, did a wonderful job in handling extremely difficult subject matter and the subsequent emotional repercussions. There was not a single false note from the characters and all acted, and reacted, as I would expect them to within the situation. James was obviously pained by what happened to Alesha and concerned for her welfare, yet had to remain an objective prosecutor. Matt became a bit too emotionally involved. Natalie was as angry as any of them, yet needed to adhere to the rules. And George keeps his distance.

But while I appreciate the writing nailed the emotional beats, the story itself hinged on Alesha acting, I hate to say, stupidly, not once, but twice. It also didn't help that the way events unfolded was confusing. In the opening, I wasn't sure if Alesha had an actual medical problem to contend with (we don't learn until late in the episode she was seeking a second opinion) or if she was already investigating the doctor because of an attack on someone she knew. (And, the more I think about it, did Alesha not ever mention to Diane that she, too, was seeing Dr. Merrick? If so, wouldn't Diane have tried to stop her?)

As a woman, I can understand why Alesha was so passionate about stopping Dr. Merrick from abusing any more women. She couldn't have been the first victim and if someone didn't speak up, the abuse would continue. But while Alesha couldn't foresee being drugged and rapped, I am unable to fathom putting oneself in the position of being molested for a second time. Even George commented, "Why did she go and have to get herself raped. How stupid could she be?" At the same time the remark made me cringe (I know George wasn't blaming the victim, but, still), I felt he had a point. I really hate to say it, but she did provide the defense with a defense - if she believed she had been assaulted before, then why go back?

But perhaps an even bigger problem for me was failing to disclose to James, who was prosecuting an extremely difficult case on Alesha's behalf, that she had a friendship with one of Merrick's other patients, a patient the police suspected was another victim. I was as dumbstruck as James when the connection was made in court. His simple, "You should have told me", was the perfect response. He surely didn't want to make Alesha feel worse, yet she made him look bad in court and damaged the case.

Ultimately, Alesha failed to ever look at the case from the perspective of the smart prosecutor we know she is. It's not that I'm criticizing her for allowing her emotions to become involved in the case, but, at the same time, I don't think it's too much to ask that she not be so careless when it came to the investigation, especially when the cause meant so much to her.

Other issues I had:

It was up to Alesha whether or not the nurse remained in the examination room and she chose to have her leave in order to get Merrick abusing her on film (and it makes me uncomfortable just typing that statement). In the US, it's standard practice with male doctors to have a nurse remain in the room during a gynecological exam. It's as much for the doctor's protection (in a lawsuit happy country) as for the patient's. If I had a doctor not ask the nurse to stay, I would be suspicious. I'm wondering if medical standards and practices in the UK are very different from those in the US?

While every defendant deserves a defense, and I understand why a rapist chooses to hire a female attorney, I still was appalled by Phyllis's acceptance of the version of events Merrick gave her. Not that I would expect her to tip her hand to the prosecution, but I would have preferred to see some small hint that she was doing her job, yet did not completely buy her client's story.

I question the legality of arresting someone - and on camera - when no new charges have been filed, but, as George said, happily it worked out for them.


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zegeekgirl From: zegeekgirl Date: November 16th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC) (Link Me)
I also have deeply mixed feelings about this episode. First things first...

- I know WE know Dr. Merrick is a sleazebag. And I know that, really, Derek Riddell (the actor who plays him) is not at all an unattractive man. Maybe he's just not my type or the tone of the scene as it begins is really on-target, but even with that first flirty patient leaving the office, I'm going "Really?" I just never could comprehend why all these women were so charmed. Just... ew. ;)

- Some more great teamwork on the part of our cops, as well as the moments where they are brilliantly at odds with each other. Oy Matt, such a white knight - idealistic and, one gets the sense, kinda aching to protect the honor of all the women in the case. Alesha first and foremost, but you can tell he feels for the other women they question too. (well, most of them anyway.) He almost carries it a bit TOO far w/ the idealism this time. But still... bless. ;) Meanwhile Ronnie maintains sympathetic objectivity and Natalie holds the investigation up to the looking-glass checking for all the cracks. And she finds them, esp. the BIG cracks w/ regard to Merrick's dead wife in particular, leading to the little Matt vs. Natalie shouting match which is one of the best moments in the episode. It should be so very cut and dry, but it's NOT. And it's important that Matt makes that crucial "As a woman..." mis-step and Natalie shoves back "As a woman, I'd like to cut off his dick with a rusty hack-saw and ram it down his throat!" Classic, and Bradley's reaction shot, too. (Although points OFF to BBCA for bleeping the word "dick"; they also bleeped "tits" later, which struck me as odd as I don't think they've bleeped the curse words AT ALL so far w/ this show. Is it because of the subject matter of this one? Double standard? Hmm.)

- Big irritant for me in the otherwise well-handled first half: Donna Miller. I don't want to criticize the actress too harshly as she may have been directed in a particular way, but the saucy-sassiness she projects with all of her dialogue just drives me batshit. "Love in the stirrups" is an awkward enough line on its own, you have to be able to make it work and every time she opens her mouth, she's so camp it's like nails on a blackboard. (I do love Ronnie's line about "She'd cut your knackers off, spray them gold and flog them as baubles for 90 pound a pop" - LULZ! - but again, I don't really buy it because she doesn't quite seem authentic, even for a minx with serious kinks.)

- By contrast, the other interviewees were great, esp. Laura Todd (the pregnant woman who was the unfortunate victim of the OMFG OUCH laser treatment. Urrrrrgh... but she plays it so realistically, the scene really works.)

- Every moment between Alesha and the others - particularly Matt in the rape center recovery (Jamie's reactions when he's steeling himself to go in the room to face her: spot on, lad) and James in her office later - is excellently pitched, played with tremendous sublety. Even in and around the moments when Alesha flies off the handle . (Something about the way Freema's voice cracks when she raises her voice is really endearing too. ;) A wonderful authenticity in her outrage.) The thing is, in light of what we find out in the second half of the episode, on subsequent viewings I have to view every single interaction from her first sit-down at CID onward in a different light. The boys who are going to bat for her don't really know everything they need to know, because...

zegeekgirl From: zegeekgirl Date: November 16th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC) (Link Me)
- ...of Diane Perkins. Alesha essentially undertaking this entire crusade on Diane's behalf, which IS a noble undertaking (though clearly, also, reckless)... still, I could conceivably buy the recklessness, even in spite of the fact that she ended up blind-sided by her second visit to Merrick resulting in something far more horrific than she expected. She wildly underestimated him, certainly. The original L&O ep - "Helpless" - focused on Dr. Olivet, the resident psychologist, as the victim of rape.In theory, shifting the storyline onto Alesha in this case shouldn't be a big deal and the episode should still work, harrowing though the subject matter might be. The thing is... it doesn't. As she is a prosecutor, I still have a tremendously hard time believing that she would fail to realize the danger she puts the proscecution in by keeping mum. Not disclosing her relationship with Diane to James and the cops should, well in advance, be easily identified as a semi-truck sized hole in the case that the defense could just careen through like an attendant-free toll booth. Which they DO. (And Phyllis Gladstone is back, and Lesley Manville is awesome even as she is thoroughly reprehensible, and it's just so ugly to watch.)

Back to the original script - Dr. Olivet, though she consulted on many court cases obviously, was not a lawyer. She could plausibly oversee such conflicts of interest that would damage the case and not think through the ramifications of keeping quiet about such a thing. Meanwhile, however young and (relatively) inexperienced Alesha might be, this is still her arena. Not only is she a prosecutor, but it's been established in the six episodes prior that she is smart AND intuitive, so it just feels so out of character for her not to have given up her ruse and told them the whole truth before she gets on the witness stand. Plus, according to the "doink doink!" title cards, it's a little over four months between when Alesha is raped and when Merrick's trial begins. She's had LOTS of time to think about this! It's just terribly hard for me to reconcile that behavior with what I've come to understand about the character. *sigh* (I will add that, to be perfectly fair, it's probably wrong to entirely blame Catherine Tregenna's writing for this shortfall in the adaptation; could be that it was not purely her call to make w/ regard to which script was chosen and how it was integrated into the LOUK context.)
elzed From: elzed Date: November 16th, 2010 10:23 am (UTC) (Link Me)
Agree with your assessment of Alesha's foolishness; just to add, quickly, that I'm not sure it's standard practice these days to have a nurse stay in the room here in the UK. (I usually see my female GP so it's less of an issue!)

I am pretty sure that when I was examined by male doctors some years ago for antenatal appointments it was one on one; and I was very surprised when one of the doctors at my GPs refused to examine me because there wasn't a nurse available to be a chaperone (I had to go back and queue for one of the female doctors, which considering I was on an emergency appt and had already been waiting over an hour, made me very annoyed). It happens, but I wouldn't say it's standard practice, (not helped by staff shrotages, obv.) Certainly I wouldn't expect a doctor to ask a nurse to stay, and I wouldn't be suspicious in the slightest!
asta77 From: asta77 Date: November 17th, 2010 05:26 am (UTC) (Link Me)
Interesting. Having a nurse in the room with the patient is a more recent development. I can recall exams in my younger years when it was just the doctor (and I've almost always had male doctors). Cases where doctors abused their position are rare and even more so now. The idea is to protect the patient, but there have also been cases where doctors have been falsely accused by patients looking to make some money so having a witness can protect the doctor as well.
(Deleted comment)
asta77 From: asta77 Date: November 17th, 2010 05:32 am (UTC) (Link Me)
Also, with the solution in the end, I was all "hey, they couldn't arrest him on-camera BEFORE Alesha got raped?" How come no one came up with that idea first?

Good point! Though she seemed quick to go ahead with her plan and didn't give them much of a chance to come up with a Plan B.

ETA: Also, isn't having sex with your patients, regardless of whether it was consensual or not, a total no-no for doctors? So even if Merrick's allegation that Alesha insisted he have sex with her were in fact the case, shouldn't he be disbarred for that and for the Donna Miller thing ANYWAY?

Again, maybe this is a situation that is handled differently in the UK? I mean, if it was considered unethical why wouldn't Matt or Ronnie or James bring up going to a medical board and stripping him of his license?

Hopefully, BBCA is showing Series 3 & 4, right after 1 & 2. They did buy rights to all 26 episodes that were filmed.

Edited at 2010-11-17 05:32 am (UTC)
copper_kestrel From: copper_kestrel Date: November 17th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC) (Link Me)
Also, with the solution in the end, I was all "hey, they couldn't arrest him on-camera BEFORE Alesha got raped?" How come no one came up with that idea first?

I also had to wonder whether they had any 'right' to arrest him the second time, given that they had no new evidence against him, or whatever? It worked because all the women Merrick had raped did speak up, but otherwise weren't they arresting him on, in the eyes of the law anyway, no evidence?

lemurling From: lemurling Date: November 17th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
They were absolutely arresting him unlawfully, it was a huge risk. That's why James went to Matt first (and a symptom of just how much Matt was upset, that Mr. So-squeaky-clean-he-will-nick-his-friend went along with it immediately).

A lot of people did a lot of wrong/stupid/uncharacteristic things in this episode, but for me it worked because they just cared so much about Alesha, they were that crazed, that they just went for it and somehow it worked out in the end. Sort of.
lemurling From: lemurling Date: November 17th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
Also, with the solution in the end, I was all "hey, they couldn't arrest him on-camera BEFORE Alesha got raped?" How come no one came up with that idea first?

As I read the episode, they really couldn't do this before Alesha was not only raped, but lost her trial. Because arresting someone without evidence, hoping to fish out other victims is really really really not ok. It's false arrest, false imprisonment, in the U.S. at least, it would be a crime. I saw the 'arrest him on camera, hope it turns out' thing as a last gasp of pure frustration and outrage and flailing about for something, anything, to get this guy for Alesha because they'd all failed her (and she had helped) and no one could stand to let him get away. This is classic James pushing the envelope of what is right to get 'justice' and I can't see the coppers, well, Mattie at least and probably not Natalie, going along with it for anyone else.
copper_kestrel From: copper_kestrel Date: November 17th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC) (Link Me)
Partially knowing what was coming in this episode - though I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers, it was a bit hard to miss that Alesha got raped this episode - it... wasn't what I was expecting at all (though it was just as difficult and uncomfortable to watch as I thought it would be).

Much as I thought everyone acted it brilliantly - like everyone's said above, the emotions portrayed were incredible - it didn't really make sense that Alesha would decide that going to see Merrick herself - especially after her first visit - would be the best way to get him prosecuted. Given that they ended the episode by arresting him in public, I would have thought that the gang might have come up with that before, but then I guess they didn't have all the facts, because Alesha didn't tell them, which really didn't gel with anything we've learnt about her character over the first six episodes!

I found that really jarring, that the whole episode was basically predicated on Alesha being illogical, which bothered me vaguely the whole time I was watching.

In all, I thought that the 'emotional writing', and of course the acting - especially in the scenes between Matt & Alesha and George & Alesha, and all the copper scenes <3 - was very good, but the 'plot writing' rather let the episode down. This probably isn't an episode I'll rewatch, though that does have a lot to do with the 'eek' factor of it as well...
lemurling From: lemurling Date: November 17th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
I really liked this episode. My husband was so disturbed by it that he had me shut it off during Alesha's rape scene, and we haven't watched L&O|UK together since. :(

It startled me because I didn't find it all that disturbing, which ... well, probably says a lot about me. I don't know what the UK figures are, but somewhere between 1 and 3 and 1 and 6 women in the US will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life, and as a member of that statistic, I guess I'm both slightly desensitized to the ugly fact of Alesha's rape, while being perhaps oversensitized to how being sexually assaulted can mess with your head.

I completely agree with everyone who has pointed out that Alesha did stupid things, held back information she shouldn't have, should never have gone back, compromised everyone's chances of a conviction, completely, completely agree it is not how a smart young prosecutor should act. But it didn't ruin the episode for me because I had a lot of sympathy for Alesha's headspace, and how betrayed and frustrated and alone she must have felt when there looked like no way to prosecute Merrick after her molestation, and then after the rape itself... it was a very bad one, so much wrong there, combined with the guilt.... I give Alesha a pass on doing anything rational.

For all that we've seen hints of it affecting her in later cases, I think there's a strong case to be made that she will never completely recover from this incident, and that it would be affecting her behavior in dozens of small ways from this point forward.

I do have one problem with the believability of Alesha's reaction, that that's the unusually long delay before trial (a more realistic timeline, but unusual for the show-- why does it always come down to timelines with me?). I do think that several months would have given Alesha enough time to come to grips with things, and realize that she needed to be completely honest with James, no matter how ashamed she was, that she had put herself in this position because of her friend. If they'd rushed the trial, that aspect of Alesha's screw-ups would have made more sense.

Folks have already commented on the superb acting, the best reason to rewatch this episode (I've seen it six or seven times, and still get affected by certain parts). I think it's interesting how the rape episode was more disturbing to most people (me included, I found the episode disturbing, just not to the point of discomfort) than even the ones with the little kid victims and perpetrators. Maybe it is because it was more graphic.

As my husband was an example, this was an episode that seems to have been too much for some folks, while I would love to see more that were just as dark, and disturbing, and personal. I guess I like to torture the main characters more than I like seeing the torture of the day players, but that's not L&O, alas.
asta77 From: asta77 Date: November 24th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC) (Link Me)
I think it's interesting how the rape episode was more disturbing to most people (me included, I found the episode disturbing, just not to the point of discomfort) than even the ones with the little kid victims and perpetrators. Maybe it is because it was more graphic.

I think the graphic nature of it plays a part in people's discomfort. I have watched other series where characters have been raped, but we usually see the victims before and after the attack. And, in this case, what bothered me most was having to watch James, Matt and the rest view what happened to Alesha. Not to minimize at all what happened to her, but I can imagine how incredibly difficult it would be to have to watch something like that.

While I've always been equally upset by violence against children, since my friends had a baby and I've spent a good deal of time with her, I've found it much more difficult to watch the L&O:UK episodes involving the deaths of infants. The grief I see from the friends and relatives, I can understand that kind of pain better now. :(
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 17th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link Me)


No matter what Alesha did or didn't do, she's not the rapist. Dr. Merrick is the bad guy.
Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women's daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you're alone, if you're with a stranger, if you're in a group, if you're in a group of strangers, if it's dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you're carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you're wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who's around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who's at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn't follow all the rules it's your fault.
asta77 From: asta77 Date: November 17th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link Me)

Re: Victim-blaming

No one here called Alesha a rapist. Nor does anyone see Merrick as anything other than the bad guy deserving of punishment for his crimes. If you had read my initial post carefully and the subsequent comments you would see we are discussing - and criticizing - the script. While rape is a serious and important issue, it doesn't mean the writing is off limits to scrutiny.
lemurling From: lemurling Date: November 17th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link Me)

Re: Victim-blaming

Do you not have an LJ? Anonymous scolding is a bit off-putting.

There is a vast difference between the ordinary life of women going about their business, wherein what we say/wear/do/live/walk etc. etc. should not have to be bounded by strategies to avoid being raped, and the actions of this fictional character, in a very specific situation, putting herself willingly into the power of someone she knew was a sexual predator.

First, going back to Merrick did not mean that Alesha deserved to be raped, but that doesn't mean she doesn't feel guilt over it happening. That's natural, we always, when anything bad happens to us, rape, an accident, any painful injury or loss, as thinking human beings question how it could have been avoided and feel guilt, however unfounded, for whatever we perceive could have been done differently.

Speaking as a rape victim myself, I think it is possible to acknowledge the ways in which I put myself in a bad situation, without in any way diminishing the responsibility of the person who raped me. And that process of establishing what was and wasn't under my control was pretty crucial to healing completely from the experience.

Second, I think it's important to the reading of this episode that Alesha is not asking for pity or sympathy for what Merrick did to her, but instead for justice. She is not saying 'how could he do this to me' but instead 'how can we stop him from doing this to others'. To read her rape the same as that of, for example, her friend Diane, to me drastically takes away the power that Alesha came into the situation with. Both rapes were equally wrong. They were not equally unavoidable, but avoiding being raped wasn't Alesha's priority, justice was, and it's not blaming the victim to acknowledge that.

Third, it is also not blaming the victim to point out that what Alesha did, at key points in the episode, -was- stupid. Neither of the examples that come to mind now have anything to do with the fact that she got raped:

She did not tell anyone about her connection to her friend, the whole reason she went to Merrick in the first place.

She took it upon herself to perform two separate 'undercover' investigations of Merrick, without backup, without even telling anyone.

The fact that during the second investigation she was raped, is really besides the point, except that I would imagine any sort of sting that was trying to catch a serial sexual predator would be set up to minimize the risk to the 'bait'.

Thank you for your reminder that rape is an uncomfortable subject, and too often, the focus is on what the woman should have done to avoid it, and that focus is used to constrain the lives of women. Certainly strains of just that 'rape culture' problem are explored to an extent in this episode. But "Alesha" is not an example of blaming the victim, and I don't believe our discussion of it was either.
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