Exploring Literary Focus

The original Law & Order television program was a fascinating study in focus that was, in fact, a hybrid of both the Patriarchal and the Matriarchal structure within it, which may explain its longevity and the fact it could watched out of order (and which may explain why its popularity took off once the cable channel A&E showed those episodes randomly as they were standalone episodes, making the show seem more like an anthology than a unified program).  The Patriarchal element was the exploration of a single murder, but the Matriarchal was front and centre in its title.

Because the single murder was explored in two parts: The first, was the police investigation, and it was a pure whodunnit. Who killed the person we see dead before the opening credits? It was twists and turns as the police followed the clues, interviewed people, and put their case together.  It was Patriarchal, but it took us straight to the halfway point in the show, where the focus suddenly shifted.

Now that same murder was up before the courts and it was up to the prosecutors to make the case given their limitations and obstacles. It was never a slam dunk: very rarely would they have the wrong killer; what they had was the task of ensuring the right person was found guilty.

This was no whodunnit anymore: this was a different sort of quest to ensure justice was done, and hence,a new element was brought in exploring the same crime through a different lens.

It was a Matriarchal way of telling a story, reminding viewers there were two endings to consider, not one.

But the characters from both sides interacted with one another, making them main characters in their half, but supporting players in the other.

Finally, each episode could be watched alone to have a complete story, but if they were watched together, subtle storylines appeared.

The Matriarchal approach allows for shifting focus without confusion. The unifying thread was a single act of murder, but with a dual focus, we have to interconnected stories to enjoy.