In Season 19, Episode 13 — “The Undiscovered Country” — the series bids adieu to Raúl Esparza’s wildly popular A.D.A. Raphael Barba. Rather than give him a nice, meaty case to sink his teeth and talent into, the episode sees Barba tried (and, rather unrealistically, acquitted) for proactively causing the premature death of a terminal infant in a vegetative state.
Though the courts have yet to rule on whether or not the mother Maggie (Abigail Hawk, of “Blue Bloods”) has the right to end her child’s prolonged suffering, Barba takes the law into his own hands and unplugs the infant from life support (because, as we learn, he has feelings about keeping his father alive despite him suffering). All this happens after the baby’s father (Joe Tapper) kidnaps the infant and holds Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) at gun point.
Meanwhile, Sam Waterston’s legendary Jack McCoy returns to deliver the eulogy of A.D.A. Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty), a character no one has seen or heard from since Season 1 of the original “Law & Order,” but who viewers are gaslit into thinking has some relevance in the “Special Victims Unit” universe. Stone’s funeral introduces audiences to the incoming A.D.A., Philip Winchester’s Peter Stone (Ben’s son), who viewers are prompted to accept based solely on his (again, series-irrelevant) lineage. It’s an episode overflowing with melodrama, pathos-for-pathos’-sake (so much so that viewers found it hard to watch), absurd leaps in logic, and in-your-face tension, and no one is more clearly aware of the hot mess nature of the episode than its writers.