The moment fans have been waiting for has finally arrived: ADA Dominick “Sonny” Carisi Jr. (Peter Scanavino) and Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) went up against each other in a courtroom showdown for the ages. What are fans saying about Barba’s return to the courtroom in Law & Order: SVU? We have all the details.

Season 22, Episode 4 ‘Sightless in a Savage Land’

The new episode of SVU is focused on a murder after a 13-year-old girl named Nydia Davis (Vanessa Carrasco) comes up missing on New Year’s Eve. She is dropped off on the sidewalk of an ambulance bay and is brought to the hospital. The detectives learn that Nydia was sexually assaulted by her foster parent, Ajay Sharma (Bhavesh Patel), and he’s done it before with previous foster kids.

Nydia was pregnant, but Ajay gave her medications to make her have an abortion. Her father, Mickey Davis (Brett Parks), is a combat veteran who fought in Afghanistan on six individual tours and was wounded. After Ajay’s arraignment, Mickey waits for him to be put in a transport car, and he shoots and murders him while he’s outside the courthouse.

Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Sergeant Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice-T) ask their old friend and colleague, Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza), a previous ADA of the squad, to take the case and plead him out. But when Barba goes to talk to Carisi about things, he chooses to take the case and represent the client in court.

The showdown in court

The two go head to head in court, showing off their skills and experiences. Barba tells the potential jury members, “But I’m not gonna be nice during this trial. Sometimes I’m gonna be loud, angry, sarcastic when I cross-examine witnesses from the ACS, VA, and NYPD. Who as you will hear, failed to do their jobs. Anyone have a problem with that?”

But Carisi makes it clear it is only about “the facts and the law.” Carisi calls the evidence “overwhelming” considering they have video evidence of the murder.

Barba and Carisi take turns with people on the stand, including with Fin, whom Barba grills over his behavior after Mickey killed Ajay, as well as the girls who were sexually assaulted by Ajay. At one point, he argues with the judge saying he’s fighting for his client just like he fought for his country.

But when Mickey goes on the stand, his comments help lead to his conviction when he admits he would knew where he was at the time and he would kill Ajay again. He gets convicted with second degree manslaughter and must serve three and a half years in prison.

Fans react to Barba’s explosive return to court

Reddit was recently buzzing about the return of Barba, and fans didn’t hold back. The character has been a fan favorite for years, and he was on the series from season 14 to season 19 until he left after a case. According to his Fandom page, he was involved in a difficult case and turns off life support to a child with MDDS. After being indicted on murder charges but eventually cleared, he walks away from his job. His return was highly anticipated amongst many fans. This is the first time Barba has physically been back, although he is spotted in a video call with Benson in season 21, episode 13, called “Redemption in Her Corner.”

Fans expressed their thoughts in an episode discussion thread. Some weighed in about Barba in the courtroom against Carisi, someone he used to work with on a daily basis. One fan thinks Barba messed up the cross examination, and he should have objected when Carisi “started yelling.”

“… I didn’t appreciate the showmanship and the ego trip,” a fan mentioned on Reddit in regards to Barba. “Barba f***** up the cross, let his client hang dry and let Carisi to push him to confession. What did he expect? Why didn’t he object when Carisi started yelling? …”

One fan was hoping for more between Barba and Carisi in the courtroom scenes that were shown, and they think the promos for the episode itself “made it seem” like the two opposing sides would really go head to head.

“… It was annoying that it didn’t seem like Carisi and Barba actually got to spar in the courtroom like promos made it seem like they would,” a fan said. “It was also annoying that the courtroom scenes were just … that? I literally said, ‘Oh, that’s it?’ when Mickey confessed.”

A fan calls Barba “very full of himself,” especially when he was addressing the potential jury. “‘I consider myself a nice guy.. I will be this, I will that. Do you have a problem with that?’ Well yes. It’s. Not. About. You,” the fan said.

During the courtroom appearance, Barba is extreme when it comes to the case, and he even argues with the judge. But a fan doesn’t think Barba’s “defense” of his client was all “that great” in reality.

“… Barbra’s defense wasn’t that great…I don’t get why he was so invested in this case,” a fan said.

A viewer thinks Barba was really reaching with going for a not guilty verdict. They call Barba’s defense of Mickey “weird/bad/sloppy.”

“Yeah, Barba didn’t make sense to me,” another fan said. “He’s done reaches before, but this was so clearly premeditated that going for not-guilty made no sense. I’m sure members of the jury agreed with Mickey’s actions, but they’re not there to debate if they think he was justified or not, so Barba’s attempt at defense was just … weird/bad/sloppy.”

Rafael Barba returned to Law & Order: SVU, and it was an explosive episode to say the least. 

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