Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Go ahead — say something in Lesbian

On tonight's Law & Order episode, the producers showed Elisabeth Röhm the door. The closet door, that is.

In her final line on the series, Röhm's character, Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn, revealed to the audience that she was a lesbian. In a remarkable display of restraint, the episode's writers did not have Fred Dalton Thompson, as DA Arthur Branch, reply, " don't look like a lesbian." They also did not script Branch saying, in response to Southerlyn's tearful inquiry whether she was being fired because she was gay, "No, Serena. It's because you're a lousy actress."

Aside from the grand orientation revelation, Röhm's departure wasn't a surprise. Her exit was announced before the season began, and her replacement, former soap star Annie Parisse, will step right into the L&O revolving cast door next week. Even the manner of Serena's sayonara — she was fired by Branch for letting her emotions get in the way of her prosecutorial judgment — came as no surprise, as Serena's growing dissatisfaction with the DA's office, and her superiors' growing dissatisfaction with her job performance, has been telegraphed in almost every episode this season.

The Sapphic shocker, however, winged in from left field. L&O has always made a point of showing as little of the recurring characters' personal lives as possible, but there had never been any hint of Serena's sexuality in her three and one-half seasons on the program. (Never a hint of her personality, either, but that seemed due more to Röhm's limitations as an actress, and the fact that the writers never seemed to find an interesting hook for the character, making Serena the least engaging of all the myriad personnel who have wended their way in and out of the venerable procedural drama.)

At least we can suppose that Jack McCoy, the Executive ADA (played by Sam Waterston) with a reputation for bedding his female associates, never made it to first base with Serena.

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