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Sam Waterston's Real-Life Daughter Appears in a Solid 'Law & Order' Season Finale

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 19, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 19, 2023 |


Last season, the first of the OG Law & Order revival was clumsy as hell because the writers relied too much on ripped-from-the-headlines cases and too often amped up the melodrama because they forgot what we loved about the series for the first 20 years: Its staidness, its formula, and the cases themselves. It was reliably good comfort television. That first season was not good.

This season, however, the series quickly course-corrected and reverted to the old, comfortable formula, and even when the series does rip from the headlines, it doesn’t Xerox the real-world events. Last season, the series also dabbled in the personal lives of the characters with little success, but this season, they’ve managed to work their lives into the cases both frequently and successfully.

For instance, they worked the 2022 NYC subway shooting into an episode, and ADA Hugh Dancy was there to witness it. Nolan Price was also at a crime scene when a public defender — and Price’s friend — is murdered. The personal life of Detective Frank Cosgrove was involved in a few cases as well: He had to turn on an old mentor because he planted evidence, and his daughter was friends with a high-school kid on trial for murder and had to testify against him. The best episode of the season, however, involved Detective Jalen Shaw, who discovered just how loyal the NYPD is to itself when he reported two police officers to IA for profiling him.

This week’s season finale, meanwhile, not only covered the topic of gun violence but brought in another personal touch: Jack McCoy’s daughter. McCoy has been on the show for 17 seasons, and even for a series that doles out personal details sparingly, we’ve gotten to know a little about McCoy’s personal life: He’s twice divorced, he had affairs with three ADAs, and he has a daughter, Rebecca, from whom he is largely estranged.

Rebecca McCoy appeared in the episode as a defense attorney, and she was played by Sam Waterston’s real-life daughter, Elisabeth Waterston (the likeness is hard to miss). It’s a gun violence case with a few twists, beginning with the fact that Rebecca is defending Derek Quinn, a man suspected of murdering a Senator. Actually, there is very little doubt, and Rebecca doesn’t argue that he didn’t shoot the Senator but rather a form of temporary insanity. Derek shot the Senator for voting against gun control legislation — the Senator was the swing vote.

It seems like a fairly open-and-shut case until we discover what prompted Derek to shoot the Senator. Derek was a schoolteacher. Many of his students were shot and killed in front of him during a mass shooting. Derek was suffering from a form of PTSD. ADA Nolan Price, while prosecuting the case, realized that he, too, was suffering from PTSD owing to the subway shooting to which he was a witness earlier in the season.

Consequently, Price wants to cut a deal. Jack McCoy is reluctant to do so because he doesn’t want anyone to suspect him of impropriety in the shooting death of a Senator because his daughter is on the other side of the case. Price, nevertheless, convinces him to allow him to offer Derek a deal for 15 years. Rebecca, however, rejects the deal and takes her chances with the jury, which finds Derek guilty.

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He’ll spend his life in prison because Jack cared more about the perception of impropriety than justice, much to the dismay of his daughter, who is old enough now to have a child — Jack’s grandchild — who is about to enter Columbia Law School. Rebecca, meanwhile, seems as though she’s set to return to the estranged relationship she had previously with her dad.