When Law & Order began on NBC, Michael Moriarty drove the show. The entire cast was strong but it was Moriarty, as dedicated prosecutor Ben Stone, who gave the series its idealistic spirit. For Ben justice was a calling — and Moriarty played him with an emphasis where every time he stepped on screen was important and everything he had to say felt deeply sincere. With the series returning for season 21 in February that energy needs to come back, too, and there’s one clear way to honor it.
Dick Wolf and Co. were very cunning when they expanded the One Chicago universe with Chicago Justice. They named the lead prosecutor Peter Stone — and then decided that Philip Winchester’s character was, in fact, the son of the legendary Law & Order lawyer. After Justice‘s shocking cancellation in 2017, Peter was migrated over to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to replace Rafael Barba as the new ADA. Yet the character was never done justice (no pun intended) there and ended up being written out after a season and a half. He didn’t get a proper ending but that can be rectified by bringing him home to Law & Order.
As it stands, Law & Order Season 22 doesn’t have much of a connection to the series’ storied past. Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson are the only cast members returning and Anderson was only on the show for the last three seasons. New characters are getting the bulk of the spotlight, including in the District Attorney’s Office where Hannibal star Hugh Dancy is portraying the chief prosecutor. Dancy will probably be great, but the appeal of bringing Law & Order back is that it’s Law & Order. The history matters in this revival so there ought to be more than two characters who connect to that history. Having Peter Stone guest star would bring fans back to the very beginning.
There are easy ways to incorporate him into the revival. If it keeps the self-contained nature of the original series, Peter can have transferred to another part of the District Attorney’s Office and drop in to consult on one of the cases. Hugh Dancy and Philip Winchester in the same scene would be pretty awesome and probably similar to how Dancy bantered with his Law & Order predecessor, Linus Roache, when both were on Homeland. Fans know the D.A.’s Office has more than one team working there and why not team up two outstanding actors?
Or maybe Peter’s gone back to Chicago — since episodes of Chicago P.D. established that his colleagues Mark Jefferies and Anna Valdez are still there — and a case requires him to make a New York trip. Wolf and Co. probably wouldn’t pass up a chance to promote their other NBC franchise. (They can’t do their usual trick and have Peter return as a defense attorney; that would be antithetical to his entire character, because he’s as passionate a prosecutor as his father was.)
While nabbing Philip Winchester would be a great boost for the Law & Order revival, it would also be much-needed closure for Peter Stone. The character didn’t mesh with the way Law & Order: SVU is constructed and in trying to make him fit in, the writing changed him to where he wasn’t the same hero. Winchester did everything to keep the character compelling but his talent couldn’t change the fact that Peter felt like a plot tool rather than a protagonist, if he was in an episode at all. His exit storyline — where he quit because he was overly influenced by working with Olivia Benson — was more about Benson than him. He deserves a proper swan song that’s his alone, or at least gives him back some of the command presence he inherited from his dad.
The franchise has no problem relying on the Stone family history; it used Ben’s past for an SVU Season 20 episode that didn’t work either. So why not do a Law & Order where the prodigal son returns to help his colleagues? Peter gets his prosecutorial mojo back, viewers get to enjoy some great actors working together, and longtime fans appreciate one serious nod to the character that helped make the series so watchable that it got to 21 seasons. Plus, there’s something special about Peter Stone appearing on classic Law & Order. It would be perfect to give this undervalued character — and an incredible actor in Philip Winchester — a part in the revival and have everything come full circle.
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