"In New York City's war on crime, the worst criminal offenders are pursued by the detectives of the Major Case Squad. These are their stories."
Created and produced by Dick Wolf, this gripping and very entertaining Sherlock Holmes like series was the third TV show established under the umbrella of Dick Wolf's crime dramas, the first two being Law and Order, and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU). Law and Order was a crime drama featuring street detectives finding the perpetrator/offender and then showing the court trial and the aftermath. Law and Order; SVU dealt with cases dealing with the variety of abuses suffered at the hands of another, that sometimes left the victims dead, or sometimes traumatized.
Law and Order: Criminal Intent took the viewer into the operations and cases of New York's Major Case Squad that zeros in on solving the worst of the worst murder crimes, catching those responsible, and hopefully getting a statement of guilt or enough information from the witnesses or the suspects themselves to build a rock-solid case to convict. It was different from other cop shows in that it studied the viewpoint of the criminal, often using this reasoning to catch the guilty party. Law and Order:Criminal Intent had a ten year run, and provided great entertainment.
This series got established and enjoyed a strong following because it started off with a bang, offering the building blocks of a long-running series: interesting and involving stories with some humor added; (thanks to the head writer, executive producer and show runner René Balcer); great pacing and equally entertaining performances from a very talented cast.
The main detectives that were the heart of the successful run of the series, and first captured the enthusiasm for this show as they solved crimes for the first four seasons and afterwards as well, were the partner duo of Detective Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Senior Detective Alexandria Aimes (Kathryn Erbe).
Junior Detective Robert Goren was brilliantly portrayed and brought to life by Vincent D'Onofrio. Lead Detective, Alexandria Aimes, was portrayed very effectively by Kathryn Erbe, with a strength and style that complemented D'Onofrio's. Their combined skill sets created dynamite chemistry, as their characters grew and evolved throughout the ten year run of the show. The loyal audience for Law and Order: CI grew, producing strong ratings, as people were enjoying the performances of these two main stars, backed up with a strong supporting cast of characters that added so much to the mix of what made this series so special.
Vincent D'Onofrio was first noticed for his performance in the movie, "Full Metal Jacket." Like other interesting characters he has portrayed, such as the alien bug in Men in Black, D'Onofrio performance as Det. Robert Goren came through brilliantly, endearing himself to many a female audience member, and men as well, adding some humor and interesting perks to a serious, crime-drama. In each episode of Law and Order;CI from the first year to the last 10th year, Vincent brought some new aspect or mannerism to his role as Det. Robert Goren in a variety of situations; as a sleuth, as a partner, as a deep thinker; able to figure out motives and criminal psyches, as an interrogator, as a man with emotional baggage and being a bit rebellious of authority.
As a professional on a crime scene, Detective Robert Goren was very much like Sherlock Holmes, with a discerning eye for details, and a nose for identifying various odor and smells as well, sure to catch any clue left behind. Goren was fast to notice patterns in evidence and people's behavior too. Goren also had a formidable instinct to enter a psyche of a criminal to see his or her point of view, and had a mind that can figure out just the right strategy on how to proceed; becoming a brilliant closer inside and sometimes outside the interrogation room. Some would say his style was eccentric and a bit creatively odd, but it got the job done.
Goren was also a master of knowing how to talk to people to get information; who may know more than they think they do, including: the mentally ill, the traumatized teenager, children, homeless people, average folks, the well-to-do, and lesser criminals involved with the case. When he discovered a vital clue, Goren always said, "Aimes!" When a piece of the puzzle was discovered by searching a scene or through an interview, sometimes the detectives exchange a knowing glance. Goren and Aimes learned to work together as an unbeatable team, as their trust of each other and loyalty to each other grew with each episode.
Kathryn Erbe's portrayal as Alexandra Aimes added so much to the show, as she grows to understand how her partner works; professionally and emotionally. She evolves as well as a detective, able to keep up with her partner and becoming an anchoring force, contributing her own skills and experience, to the task at hand. Her toughness as a detective was evident from the beginning as she was well up to physical moves and fast reflexes.
Aimes found Goren to be a handful, and didn't always appreciate Goren's quirky style, and investigation methods, but the more they worked together she began to value him as a partner appreciating his approach to the goal at hand, as he appreciated her skills, especially under stressful conditions. She had a dry sense of humor, and entertained the show's viewing audience with her clever one liners and amusing observations. Her terrific coping skills and inner strength helped her overcome not only the transition with this unusual partner, but also with the harder, grittier cases that sometimes hit close to home; her own kidnapping ( Season 6), and her own emotional baggage. Each season, her character filled out as more aspects of her life and her personality came to light.
In the first three seasons, she was always learning in every episode something new about her partner, a man of many interests, when Goren wasn't discovering a clue that she didn't see. As the seasons rolled on, she too began to understand the clues as well, catching on faster, becoming a more dynamic personality.
Sometimes Aimes and Goren used the play-acting skills they developed as former under cover cops, pretending to be someone else, which was also very entertaining as well. Whether individually or as a couple they effectively got the information that they were after.
Especially entertaining, was seeing how Aimes and Goren put the clues together, how Goren finds a unique way to cajole, confront, and appeal to either get a reluctant witness to admit they know something, to remember and testify. His skill at peeling the guilty party like a grape, was always fun to watch, as the strategy was always different. In some episodes, Aimes and Goren with the help of the other cast members set up circumstances to actually catch the guilty party.
Guest stars were also entertaining, and had fun portraying the criminals, or the witnesses or suspects, having such great actors to play off of, bringing out their best performances.
A reoccurring guest role in four episodes over the seasons was the arch-nemesis of Detective Robert Goren, Nichole Wallace, played by Oliva d'Abo. Nichole Wallace was a mastermind and a rather damaged individual who often killed the men she got involved with, and anyone else who got too close to her or in the way of her plans. She was an equal opponent, and slippery as an eel.
During the process of telling the story, and solving the crime, there were the inevitable everyday conflicts and annoyances among the detectives and the other characters in the cast. Other cast members, that offered side stories and conflicts and support of the main characters as well were Jamey Sheridan as Captain James Deakins, Courtney B. Vance, as Ron Carver; the Assistant District Attorney, Leslie Hendrix as Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers; Assistant Chief Medical Examiner. The character of Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers also crossed over and was on Law and Order episodes, playing the same character, as well as appearing on all four series of Law and Order shows.
During the first five seasons, Captain James Deakins was the police captain on the show, doing a balancing act between supporting and directing his detectives and worrying about letting something happen that would cause problems for the department, or even threaten his pension. His leadership often pointed the detectives in the right direction in search for evidence.
Ron Carver, the Assistant District Attorney, had his own frustrations with the detectives' hunches that had no proof behind them, and the sometimes insubordination of Goren, though most of the time Carver did his part to get behind the plans to catch the perpetrators. Carver often pointed out what evidence he would need to issue an arrest warrant and a conviction.
After Season 4, cast members began to change, bringing in new detectives, new captains, and the usual steady stream of dastardly to colorful villains, and other supporting cast. By the end of Season 4, Erbe and D'Onofrio wanted to get off the constant, long hours of filming the show, so for Season 5 of the CI series they shared the episodes with two other detectives, played by Chris Noth and Annabella Sciorra, who worked under the same Captain Deakins as Goren and Aimes. Each pair of detectives were in half of the episodes, giving a break to the performers and adding new interest and personalities to the story-lines, bringing even more entertainment to the loyal viewers.
Enter the character of Senior Detective Mike Logan, a character that was first seen in the early years on Law and Order, who was a troubled, street-wise cop portrayed with energy and zeal by actor Chris Noth. Logan is first introduced in one of the last episodes of Season 4, when he helps Goren and Aimes with a difficult case. Despite his issues, Logan had a fun personality, droll sense of humor, acted on impulse and instinct, and was known for having the uncanny sense of spotting the crook in the room.
Season 5 begins with Mike Logan being accepted into Major Case after Captain James Deakins pulls strings to get him reassigned from Staten Island, where he was sent for punching out a political official. Then, Goren and Aimes working with the two new detectives, Senior Detective Mike Logan and Detective Carolyn Barak; (Annabella Sciorra) in a two hour special in a fascinating hunt for a teenage womanizer suspected in murder.
During Chris Noth/Mike Logan's time on this series, he had two other partners, that complemented his style and temperament, creating entertaining episodes, in the established style of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. In Season 6, Logan worked with Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson), through the first episodes of Season 7, when Julianne was temporarily off the show on maternity leave. Nola Falacci (Alicia Witt) was the temporary replacement, who was a handful for Logan, who found himself being the more conservative, sensible one for a change. Chris Noth left the show at the end of season 7.
By the end of Season 5 of the series, Jamey Sheridan wanted to leave the show completely. The producers of the show were willing to meet the needs of their cast, as they most of the time wrote great story lines to write a character out of the series, or to give them temporary write outs for personal circumstances, like pregnancy: (Kathryn Erbe and Julianne Moore.) The tale of the leaving of Captain Deakins begins with an episode and ends with another episode later in the season. However, both episodes were related.
Captain Danny Ross, played by a talented actor, Eric Bogosian, started in his new promotion as Captain of Major Squad at the beginning of Season 6, with a semi-hostile attitude toward Goren, warning Aimes to keep an eye on him, as Captain Ross didn't want to loose his hard-won position. He evolved from there after working with Goren and Aimes, becoming accepting of Goren's ways and appreciating their success record.
Season 8 introduces the character, Senior Detective Zack Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) who is paired with Det. Megan Wheeler, solving the crimes in half of the episodes, while Goren and Aimes rallied forth despite emotional upheavals in Goren's life that began to effect his mind and job performance.
In later seasons; (5-9), the format and the writing changed. In the later years, Season 4 onwards, the side stories within the plot began to evolve from everyday conflicts and annoyances among the detectives and the other characters in the cast, to showing the audience some emotional and or personal conflict within the detectives. There were two story lines; one dealing with the case to be solved and the other involving the personal struggles of the cast; Struggles that were hinted at and mentioned in prior episodes were developed and fully shown to the audience.
Goren grippingly portrays a man battling aspects of his past and emotional baggage. Because of the situations he struggled with in his difficult childhood with his parents, he is prejudiced against dead-beat dads, is very sympathetic toward the mentally ill, and understands gambling issues. His family members all had problems that still affected him. Finally, Goren's personal life experiences tragedy, and revelations of the truth devastate him for a time, pushing him over the edge, effecting his professional work, and relationships with his fellow officers especially Aimes. Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe are only in the first two episodes of season 9, as they were written out of the show, but come back together as a team solving crimes for the last season, as a parting gift to their loyal fans.
Aimes' personal struggles are also revealed in the later episodes. Besides suffering from the effects of being kidnapped by a torturer and her escape, we learn through some episodes some of her emotional issues due to her past that color how she overreacts to the investigation at hand, but Goren is there to help her as they solve the cases. She is prejudiced against drunks due to childhood experiences with a drunk aunt. She was married. Her husband was also a cop that was killed in the line of duty. One episode involves solving the murder of her late husband's partner. In the process, Goren discovers that the wrong man was convicted of her husband's death. Uh oh!
Season 9 was the year for cast changes, that happened in the special 2 episode Season 9 premiere. Captain Danny Ross was killed in an undercover sting, and the plot resulted in the dramatic exit for Robert Goren and Alex Aimes as well. When the dust settled, the cast of Law and Order: CI, was completely new. The show reverted to having just 2 detectives, Senior Detective Zack Nichols (Jeff Goldblum), and Detective Serena Stevens (Saffron Burrows). The Captain for just Season 9 was Captain Zoe Callas, (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.)
Season 10 - Captain Joseph Hannah (Jay O. Sanders) who had worked with Detective Goren before, became the captain in charge and Goren was reinstated with Aimes once again as the Senior Detective. The drama was rolled back a bit, and the old style of writing the scripts returned to be more of a Sherlock Holmes type story.
In this season, besides solving cases, the second story line, though often brief, and often reserved toward the end of the episode, often dealt with Goren's mandatory sessions with Doctor Paula Gyson, (Julia Ormond), a police psychologist that he had to see as a condition of his returning to the Major Case Squad.
This series, Law and Order:Criminal Intent remains very popular with its loyal fans, who still buy all ten seasons on DVD, or streamed on Netflix. Various cable channels still replay various episodes.