“Business is murder” can often be taken too literally.
After a case involving a school shooting and parental responsibility, Law & Order tackled a murder that seemed to be based on a major public figure.
But Severance soon took an unexpected direction for a case giving Price more than one headache before its conclusion.
A brutal business murder
In a small apartment, Alexis Morphew (Elena Ricardo) seemed nervous while talking to some co-workers, telling them she had something important to announce the next day. She then answered her door to someone she knew.
The cops were called to her place to find Alexis strangled to death. With her jewelry and laptop around, it wasn’t a robbery, and the door being opened showed Alexis knew her killer.
Alexis’ co-worker Colin Baker (Tate Ellington) related that she was the CFO for QuestArc, a huge electric car company run by Ethan Merritt (Christian Campbell).
Some emails indicated Alexis was trying to talk to Merritt, who praised her work and understood his desire to save the world. He claimed to have been asleep early during the murder and believed Alexis was having problems with Terry Bellantoni (Stephen Reich).
Bellantoni had sent threatening emails, upset Alexis was promoted over him, had a history of abuse with his girlfriend and, to top it off, they found a video of him angrily confronting Alexis on the street.
Bellantoni admitted sending the videos, but that was all. He claimed Alexis pushed him out over a lack of women in the company and Alexis had rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
Alexis’ assistant believed she was seeing a married man as she’d been going on some secret meetings. The man was Robert Fletcher (Chris Wendelken), a reporter working with Alexis to expose Merritt’s horrible treatment of women and workers.
Given reporting on Merritt’s horrible behavior could wreck his public stance, that was a good motive. Cosgrove argued a man acting up wasn’t worth kicking him out of his company, while Dixon wanted to see if was guilty of murder.
Merritt claimed he wouldn’t look well by murdering Alexis and admitted he was dating an employee at the time of the murder. His alibi checked out and his DNA wasn’t a match for the crime scene.
The case runs into some headaches
Merritt pointed the cops toward Gus Imelski (Noah Kierserman), the CEO of a rival tech company who was about to get a big payday until Alexis called off the deal. A video showed him at a bodega near Alexis’ home, but he claimed she wasn’t home when he visited. But he had run into Colin on the way home.
Colin was wary as he talked to the cops, changing his story and becoming upset when they pressed him. The detectives noticed deep scratches on his arms that matched defensive wounds to arrest him.
At his arraignment, Baker pled not guilty with his lawyer, Diana Marcus (Francie Swift), saying he suffered severe migraines and had to be treated at home. Baker suffered one in court with Maroun and Price convinced it was an act to get released.
Marcus tried to have the DNA test suppressed, arguing Baker couldn’t remember signing the okay to have it done. The judge agreed, so the DNA was out.
Price argued that Baker killed Alexis to hide how he’d overvalued Imelski’s company which could have him fired. Imelski testified seeing Baker by Alexis’ home that night with Marcus trying to imply he did it.
Baker became upset, yelling at Imelski while claiming his innocence and had to be dragged out of the courtroom. Marcus immediately filed a new defense on Baker having “Havana Syndrome,” which resulted from being subjected to a sonic attack while serving at the U.S. embassy in Cuba years before.
Dr. Eva Wright (Ellen Lancaster) told Maroun it was very possible Baker was affected enough to kill in a rage.
A final breakdown on the stand
While the condition might be real, Price was doubtful it was the real reason Baker killed Alexis. However, Maroun warned him a jury might believe him as she got word the defense had subpoenaed Grant Fisher (Josh Clark), the deputy director of the CIA.
Fisher met with McCoy, saying this was a witch hunt to make the government look bad and he couldn’t testify. McCoy suspected something bigger was up but tried to work a plea deal for Baker.
Price wasn’t happy about a possible plea as the facts still pointed to Baker. McCoy pointed out a jury might be inclined to blame the government over Baker, and “you have to play the hand you have, not the hand you wish you had.”
Dr. Patrick Grady (David Dean Bottrell) testified that the sonic attacks gave Baker a condition not unlike CTE as his impulse control was affected, so he didn’t understand what he was doing. Price argued that didn’t excuse murder.
Baker’s wife testified his condition had worsened over the years and changed him. Price gently but firmly talked of how Baker had always put his career over seeking treatment for his supposed condition.
Baker claimed he honestly couldn’t remember killing Alexis but didn’t deny doing it. He stood up to Price’s questioning to blame the government for not helping him, while Price said that didn’t excuse Price’s actions. To his surprise, Baker agreed with him and wished he could take back what he did, breaking down crying on the stand.
The jury found Baker not guilty by reason of mental disease. Price told McCoy he still thought Baker was making it up as Jack brought up Adam Schiff’s old words on “lawyers who need to be right lose more cases than those who don’t.”
It was one of the stronger episodes yet of Season 21, with intriguing turns to show not every murder is as cut and dried as it seems.
Law & Order Season 21 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.