Saying goodbye to a beloved character is never easy, especially one who has graced our screens for three decades.

The good news is that Law & Order Season 23 Episode 5 didn’t end by killing Jack McCoy. That would have been too heartbreaking to bear.

Instead, McCoy left on his own terms, standing up for justice one last time before handing in his resignation. If we had to say goodbye to him, this was how to do it.

I’ve recently complained that McCoy has been limited to sitting behind a desk and asking Nolan if he can win the case of the hour. But McCoy’s swan song changed that.

This time, the roles were reversed. Nolan wanted to plead out Kelton’s case, while McCoy wanted accountability for a senseless murder and didn’t care who stood in his way.

That was the Jack McCoy I’ve known and loved since the early 90s. I wish he’d had the opportunity to fight for justice more often since the reboot.

But he was right that it was time to move on; that last case he tried proved unequivocally that he did not belong in the administrative role rather than fighting the good fight in the courtroom.

If I step aside now, the governor can appoint someone new. Someone with integrity. It’s been a hell of a ride.


McCoy is not the kind of person who has a stomach for politics, at least not when it comes to his job. He wasn’t interested in looking the other way because a defendant donates a lot of money to the mayor’s political campaign, or the mayor wants his son left out of it.

The mayor’s never been on-screen before, which made McCoy’s decision to resign feel somewhat like a split for the sake of drama. I’d rather the political problems have been built up throughout the reboot.

Still, the mayor was a perfect antagonist. He was the worst kind of politician: the kind who uses his money and influence to silence inconvenient truths.

His insistence on leaving his son out of it was so intense I expected a Perry Mason-like twist in which Jordan confessed to the murder on the stand!

I have nothing but respect for Jack McCoy, but if you subpoena my son, I will bury you. I will pull my support for McCoy and use my immense power to get his opponent elected, and that new DA’s first act will be to fire you in a very public and humiliating way.

Mayor Payne

But no, the mayor’s concerns were merely political. If Kelton goes to jail, the city loses revenue from his businesses, and the mayor’s office loses significant financial support.

This is why the current donation system is problematic; people with lots of money can set up super PACs and donate unlimited amounts, translating into undue influence.

The mayor’s plan failed because McCoy wasn’t about to be intimidated out of getting justice. If anything, the mayor’s threats fired him up more than he has been in a long time.

Not everyone is meant to be the top guy, and McCoy probably would have been happier if he’d stayed an ADA and tried cases until he was ready to retire. But at least he could use his position to protect Nolan from the mayor’s wrath.

It was rather genius how the man who hates politics used political understanding to defeat the power-crazy mayor at his own game.

I would have liked more of a retrospective in honor of McCoy, but that’s not Law & Order’s style. Significant characters often resign or are killed in the middle of challenging cases, giving the audience a lot to ponder as the credits roll.

Still, Sam Waterson has been such an iconic part of this series. For many fans, he IS Law & Order, and the news that he was leaving the show was heartbreaking.

It wouldn’t have been as powerful to end with a retirement party rather than McCoy looking up at the courthouse one last time. But as someone who is a sucker for nostalgia, I wanted flashbacks in tribute to this legendary actor and character.

That was a minor disappointment because this case was one of the strongest stories we’ve had in a while.0

I love stories where the good guys stand up to powerful institutions or people at significant personal cost, so I found McCoy’s dilemma riveting.

The police side was decent, though it was silly that every suspect pointed to someone else with a different hat.

In some ways, that’s realistic, especially in New York City, but it seemed somewhat strange. It was also convenient that there was only one suspect who fit the profile of the guy with the Princeton hat, so the cops found Scott right away.

Still, the cops did an excellent job of investigating this case despite the tired TV trope of the therapist being unable to share what she knows about a dead patient.

I’m conflicted about the therapist’s decision not to testify even after getting consent from her lawyer and the victim’s sister. I understood what she said about other patients feeling ill at ease, but I thought it could have been handled differently.

This is always a problem if a therapist is court-ordered to testify for any reason. But in this case, perhaps some context would have helped the therapist’s patients.

The victim’s sister consented, which was by proxy the same as the victim consenting.

So the therapist could have explained that as well as the idea that if a patient doesn’t want her to break confidentiality in the event they are killed, the patient could give power of attorney to someone and make sure that person will honor their wishes.

I”‘m probably being overly idealistic — people receiving treatment for mental health issues don’t necessarily think rationally about such things — but it annoyed me anyway that the therapist backed out of testifying for this reason.

What did you think of Sam Waterson’s final episode, Law & Order fanatics?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know!

Law & Order airs on NBC on Thursdays at 8/7c.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.

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