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Nightmare Fuel / Law & Order

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Law & Order, as being one of the Trope Codifiers of the combined police and law procedurals, has many intense and horrifying moments to its name. Here are several of those moments.


All spoilers are unmarked. Proceed with caution.

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     Season 1 
  • "Indifference" (ep. 9): Easily the creepiest episode of the series. It is so obviously inspired by the Lisa Steinberg case that it concludes with a long disclaimer both displayed and spoken about how the real case differed from the story just shown. It is easily the creepiest moment of the entire series considering they used the same title sequence narrator, reading white text on a pure black background to tell the audience that the horrific case and the depraved criminals involved have some basis in real life. The fact that such sickos exist to make their children living in virtual hell for all their short, terrified and miserable lives in North America behind respectable doors will shake your soul to the ground.
  • "Prisoner of Love" (ep. 10): It begins with two policemen uncovering two unknown men running from a warehouse and upon going into the building to investigate, they locate unsettling, avant-garde artwork of mannequins dressed in BDSM outfits posing in front of photographs of said designs. While odd, it truly doesn't become horrifying until they discover a dead man hanged and suspended in an unusual way left Dies Wide Open. The eerie, surreal Background Music not unlike The Dark Palace and that the camera took pictures as he was dying only makes it worse.
  • "Mushrooms" (ep 17): Responding to a shooting in the projects, Logan and Greevey are going about their usual banter, going back and forth on basketball. All chit chat comes to a halt when they see that the victims were children and that this crime scene is particularly horrible—an infant swing is just behind the bullet riddled door, splattered with blood. Greevey even takes his hat off upon sight.
    Greevey: Mother of God.
  • "Life Choice" (ep 12): Regardless of how you feel about the issue the episode deals with, it's hard to deny how creepy and just plain off the two pro-life co-conspirators are. It culminates with the leader giving an absolutely batshit insane rant when she takes the stand in the courtroom:
    Defense Attorney: Ms. Schwimmer, did you conspire with Celeste McClure to bomb the Chelsea Women's Choice Center, as well as seven other abortion clinics?
    Schwimmer: Yes, I did.
    Defense Attorney: Then you're guilty of the charges leveled against you?
    Schwimmer: Not before God.
    Defense Attorney: Can you explain why you're innocent before God?
    Stone: Objection, this case is being judged on the temporal plane, Your Honor.
    Schwimmer: How dare you object, Mr. Stone? We've done our homework. You were baptized. You go to communion, and you prosecute me?! All the abortions in that clinic are murder, and you know it. It must stop! Mary Donovan's death was tragic, but if it prevents one abortion, the scales are balanced. Abortion must end! Are we a nation who can tolerate the abortionist sticking his hand in a mother's womb and strangling God's creation?!

     Season 2 
  • "Aria" (ep. 3): While on the surface, the episode may not seem that scary at first, the dynamic between the victim and her mother is quite disturbing. An aspiring young actress ends up being Driven to Suicide and her classmates discover her in the death throes, mumbling that she didn't want to do "it". Through the investigation, the detectives learned that she had a sociopathic Stage Mom who was so obsessed with controlling every aspect of her life, that the "it" that she was so ashamed of was being forced into participating in pornographic films. Even at the woman's trial where the victim had taped a final goodbye to her mother in the form of a soliloquy about suicide, while everyone else (including the girl's older sister who was estranged from her family) is genuinely disturbed by the lengths of her despair and desperation, the mother instead reacts with pride at her "performance".
  • "Heaven" (ep. 10): The usual "finding the body/ gunshots down the street" opening is a much more íntense scene this time, as fifty-three people die in a nightclub fire. Two passersby walk right by the building, hear faint voices screaming and pounding... and only when an upstairs window breaks can the full shrieks and cries of the victims be heard as smoke pours out of the building. The FDNY responds as we continue to listen to the patrons on the other side of the wall die. By the time the beginning credits roll, the first twenty corpses are already lined up on the sidewalk, and Logan and Ceretta are both horrified at the sight.
  • "In Memory Of" (ep. 7): In addition to the victim's Waiting Skeleton in the remains of an old hotel, who had been missing since 1960, it's discovered that he was only a small boy and the fact that his best friend was molested by her father throughout her childhood and that she walked in on said father brutally murdering the boy in the family's bathroom and washing his blood off of his hands.

     Season 3 

     Season 4 
  • "Apocrypha" (ep. 7) was already bad enough with a religious cult encouraging a woman to outright commit a public bombing in the name of an incoming apocalypse. The man in charge is Obviously Evil, and even with them fighting the case it's satisfying that they ultimately manage to sack such a conning sociopath. Then a phone call comes in that leaves Stone horrified after the leader got sentenced. Cut to the church the man preached his rhetoric in, where Briscoe and Logan have to come to face-to-face with the entire cult having killed themselves over their "shepherd".

     Season 5 
  • "Second Opinion" (ep. 1): A dying woman is brought into the ER as the doctors and nurses try desperately to save her life only for them to, one by one, begin passing out while using the defibrillator on her. Turns out, the poor woman had died of breast cancer and her body became so toxic from the bogus drugs that a quack doctor had given her that anyone coming into contact would get sick. None of her attending physicians ended up seriously hurt, but Paranoia Fuel is still in effect. The worse part of it all? It was based on a real case!

     Season 6 
  • "Bitter Fruit" (ep. 1): A little girl is found murdered and dumped in a vacant lot. If that wasn't bad enough, as Kincaid was giving a summary at the suspect's arraignment when a loud "BANG!" is heard as blood in splashed onto the shaken ADA's face as the girl's mother had shot him dead then and there. However, what had first seemed heroic quickly turn horrific as it comes out that the woman paid the man to kidnap the girl out of revenge to the ex-husband, who had sole custody of their daughter due to her drug problems, and the girl died during the commission of the crime.
  • "Angel" (ep. 8): A baby girl goes missing and her overly pious mother is terrified by it all. Soon, as detectives realize that she was somehow involved, Curtis was able to appeal to the woman's maternal instincts and faith in God to get her to show him where the girl was. To his, Briscoe and Van Buren's shock, horror and disgust, the woman leads them down to her church's furnace and the woman only tearfully whispers, "She deserved the best, you know?"
  • "Aftershock" (ep. 23): What a way to cap off a season—Claire Kincaid's Bus Crash. The worst part is that moments prior she and Briscoe were talking regularly about things, only for a drunk driver to sideline them within the span of mere seconds, showcasing how chaotic a traffic accident can be. Briscoe himself is horrified when he manages to get out and checks on Claire—only to see her lie limp in her seat, covered in her own blood, and her entire side of the car crunched in from the direct highspeed hit.
    • The episode itself also showcases this for the cast on the premise alone, what with the main cast watching the execution of a criminal they themselves brought to justice. For all everyone does in the name of the law, few police or prosecutors have what it takes to stomach actually seeing a death penalty unfold, and Briscoe's so stressed out he goes Off the Wagon in response.

     Season 9 
  • "Agony" (ep. 5): Matt Bergstrom, a serial killer, who committed at least six torture-murders in New York (and other states), confesses to Abbie.
    Bergstrom: I cut her. And she screamed. I burned her and she screamed louder. I pushed my fist into her and she passed out. I made her say she admired me. I had total control. Total.
  • In "Refuge" (ep. 23-24), the Russo-Columbian mob team-up manages to try to utterly screw over the authorities at every turn from attempting to assassinate a ten-year-old boy (and succeeding with his mother and a district attorney watching over them) for testifying against them, to outright trying to bomb the precinct for payback. The only reason it doesn't have the chance to go off is because a staff member stumbled upon it early by complete accident.
    • It also showcases how pissed the authorities can get and how much barely contained rage and horror McCoy and the rest can feel when their enemies target innocent lives and even children never mind fellow officers, highlighted when Briscoe and Curtis downright slam and kick the shit out of one of the suspects to make an arrest and engage in the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique without hesitation. And that was entirely for the assassination attempt, prior to the bomb threat.

     Season 10 
  • "Mother's Milk" (ep. 12) reaches a nasty fear when two young and ignorant parents that can't even handle their child has the baby seemingly kidnapped with blood trails throughout their old apartment by their father. When the detectives go to the father's parent's house, they find it under the dirt in a bag - and it had died from starvation and negligence under the mother's watch by sheer negligence while the father had been so busy with work and horrified as he attempted to hide the body to protect her. The episode doesn't revisit the crib past the initial sight, but it's absolutely filthy from the brief glimpse of it, and caked with the mother's own blood that she never bothered to clean up.
  • "Stiff" (ep. 23): The victim is in an irreversible waking coma (put there by spiked insulin). The episode ends with the doctors' Hail Mary attempt at reviving her failing. The clear implication is that she'll be like that for the rest of her life.
  • In "Fools For Love", the details of what the victims endured are gruesome enough, but the female half of the Outlaw Couple's utterly matter-of-fact, detached recitation of them is even worse. Even as she claims to be "excited" to watch her boyfriend rape and sodomize her little sister, she says it in the same tone of voice as if she were deciding what to have for breakfast.

     Season 11 
  • "Hubris" (ep. 9): A jewelry store robber executes four people in the store, including a young child. A store security camera video shows him dragging the victims off to the back room to their deaths. He gets a hung jury before he's killed by the juror he manipulated.
  • "Teenage Wasteland" features the horrific death of a delivery driver, wrapped up in a heavy blanket, bludgeoned repeatedly, and then his head smashed in with a block of cement so badly even Greene and Briscoe are disturbed. The reason? A bunch of teens wanted to get free food by mugging him, but their leader was such a sociopath he decided to kill him just in case he saw their faces... and it's implied the victim didn't even get a look at any of them.

     Season 13 
  • "Open Season" deals with a Neo-Nazi and his union group assassinating District Attorneys that attempt to prosecute them, to the point that when he's finally convicted at the end thanks to a good poker face and ploy by McCoy, the man's own former attorney in Danielle Melnick gets near-fatally shot by one of his followers for selling him out. As Jack and the others feel, no one is safe if a particularly spiteful group decides to kill anyone that stands against them.
  • "The Ring" has detectives learning the true fate of a woman who supposedly died in the 9/11 attacks (even though it was believed that she died in the towers and her arm was discovered, two boys discovered her skeletal remains in Hell's Kitchen). At the trial of her lover, when her fiancee is on the stand, the defense attorney shows him a picture, causing him to cry out in disgust. The judge and McCoy then view the picture themselves—that of a crudely severed forearm lying in rubble—which infuriates them as the former calls out the defense attorney and rules it inadmissible.

     Season 14 
  • "Blaze" (ep. 5): The episode begins innocently at a rock concert inside of a club. One moment, two patrons are in the restroom griping about everyday life and worrying about missing what they think is the beginning of the performance, and, the next, the door swings open to reveal a wall of fire and people screaming and piling in the room trying to escape the flames. Even worse, as they try to get out through the only available window, they discover bars and a metal screen are attached to it. Twenty-three people die, and we see the bodies being laid on the sidewalk in various stages of burns and even some only partially being covered. Also, a witness (who turns out to have accidentally been responsible for the fire) explains to the detectives that when trying to escape that she grabbed a girl's wrist to try to help pull her to safety only for the poor girl's flesh to come off in her hand.
    Police officer: (to Briscoe as he views the various dead and burned bodies laid out on the sidewalk) Just another Saturday night, huh?
    Briscoe: Yeah, perhaps in Tel-Aviv.

     Season 16 
  • The returning antagonists of Lorraine and April from Special Victims Unit are amoral as it is during "Flaw", but then we find out the literally-buried truth as they're finally hit with Laser-Guided Karma. April had a baby at fourteen, and saw he had a sunken face as a birth defect, so she went into the woods and buried the child, with no answer if he was still alive when she did it. At first she seems horrified when this is brought up and deflects it onto her lover at the time, but then it's obvious that her usual con tactics won't work.. and her voice drops straight back to a flat, mocking deadpan with absolutely no care for what she did in the past. Both of them are The Sociopath, but the flip is practically right out of Criminal Intent instead.

     Season 17 
  • "Deadlock" (ep. 9): The episode starts with nightmare fuel and continues all the way through. First, a mass-murderer escapes using a plastic weapon and key for his handcuffs, stabbing two officers onscreen. The police follow a trail of his friends and family, ending with a dead body, and a now armed mass murderer. He's finally caught after taking a school of girls hostage, and ultimately killing everyone of them in the room. Not to mention the fact that he threatens the ADA, and says every day in court gives him another chance to escape. When the father of one of the girls he shot kills him on the courthouse steps, you'd come close to cheering.
    • Also, the people against him aren't as clean. Green becomes a lot more brutal with people harboring the fugitive, slamming people against cars and walls, and even threatening to put a woman's son in foster care. And when he has the guy cornered, despite him being unarmed and handcuffed, he is clearly contemplating shooting him before coming to his senses. It's chilling to think that he would have done so if there hadn't been any witnesses. The lawyer of the man who shot him plays with the man's life (getting him charged with murder instead of manslaughter to make the state look bad) to propel her career, and aiding in the murder.
  • "Over Here" has a moment where McCoy and Rubirosa are touring a veteran's hospital in the hopes of finding out why one deployed veteran killed another. After having a door held open for them by a wounded soldier, he then whispers in Jack's ear to check out one of the closed wings, to which they do only to discover the absolutely deplorable conditions of it: moldy walls, asbestos-infected ceilings, the horrid stench of fecal waste inside of the filthy restrooms and the floor itself being covered with rat droppings and dead roaches. Even though Jack ended up in serious trouble later in the episode for sharing all of this at the man's trial after he was instructed by the government not to, can you blame him for speaking up about it?
    • Even worse, the entire time Jack's followed by a hospital staff member who is all warm smiles and pleasantries—and then immediately gets irritated and starts trying to pester him to stop going off the tour path, protesting the entire way to this nightmarish ward. The staff were aware and complicit in the incident, and instead of apologies and shame, this person treats it like an invasion of privacy because of the damage it could do to them, highlighting just how little the place cared for such a problem.
  • "Avatar" begins with a young boy looking online at a Facebook/Myspace expy with a picture of a brutally murdered woman dressed as a prostitute, left tied to a chair and Dies Wide Open in an abandoned warehouse and the only picture profile of the assailant who put the picture up with a mysterious man with a large, distinctive scar on his face. The man turns out to be a psychopath who eventually kidnaps and rapes the woman's teenaged daughter, only to learn that she was the one who set up her mother to be murdered because of their very troubled relationship and had initiated several people through sex into killing her.

     Season 18 
  • "Personae Non Grata" seems like a fairly open-and-shut murder over love case, up until the cast realize that Donna, a seemingly-innocent mother caught up in the collateral because of her daughter, was the one doing all the messaging under her daughter Chrissy's name, masterminding the case. When Bernard and Lupo decide to figure out what happened to Chrissy in her supposed disappearance, they check the last place that could lead to her and end up uncovering her bones, stripped of flesh. Murdered and buried by her mother years ago, and her identity stolen for manipulation purposes. McCoy himself calls Donna a sociopath and the woman seems to show absolutely no qualms about any of this once people see past her false innocence act.
    • How Cutter gets the murderer to comply with testifying against Donna is pretty dark as well. He chats it up with Bob, who was willing to go to jail to defend Chrissy from prosecution with his own life, and gets him thinking comfortably about all the details the two had shared together from their chat logs, including a chipped tooth and an arm break from childhood. Then Cutter pulls out the arm bone and her skull, and highlights these two exact damages to Bob, who initially goes from being shocked and confused to utterly horrified when he realizes the girl he fell in love with was Dead All Along in such a terrible fashion.

     Season 19 
  • "Skate or Die" starts with a trio of homeless brutally murdered, one of them having their face downright unrecognizable. Then it gives way to a strange Mood Whiplash of the "Bipolar Roller", a super eccentric roller skater that simply can't stop moving his body and is seemingly high off of his gourd. Turns out he's a schizophrenic, and murdered nine people prior while unable to think straight or keep his thoughts together. When he actually is given the medication to help him think better, he realizes what he caused and, as he puts it about his brothers who had committed the copycat killings at the start hoping they had found and murdered him, wishes they really had just killed him too to prevent him from causing more murders himself.

     Season 20 
  • "Doped" has a mother get into a horrible car accident. Her young children and nieces were in the car with her, and her son is ultimately the only survivor. A bottle of alcohol was in her car, and her BAC was high, so she's assumed to have been under the influence, but the truth is much worse; she had been drugged with Propofol. By her own boss. He immediately regretted what he did, planted the alcohol in her car and called the police from a pay phone to try to get her pulled over, but it was too late. After Lupo and Bernard confront him, he excuses himself to the bathroom… where he attempts suicide by stabbing himself in the neck with a ballpoint pen.
  • "Steel-eyed Death" has Lupo and Bernard stumbling across an entire family's gruesome murder, children included, and another person's own death with his corpse left to bloat and rot for a week. If that weren't bad enough, the two have to browse gore sites to find out where the killer might be - something that shakes Bernard hard. And just for an extra scare, one of the killers tries to bum-rush him from behind with a hatchet.
  • "Boy on Fire" has the nasty, nasty burned corpse of a high-schooler as the episode opener, plus the unveiling of other kids torching and beating him to death in the first place. When someone is thought to have spoken up about who did it, they then proceed to beat and rape her to get her to shut up.