Spoilers ahead for Episode 4 of Law & Order Season 21, called “Fault Lines.”
Law & Order delivered a case that initially seemed like the case of a famous tennis player deciding to murder a judge, but it became clear that there was a lot more going on with the woman who did the deed. In the course of Lucy McDaniel’s trial after she changed her plea to “not guilty by reason of insanity,” Price and Maroun discovered that she hasn’t had control of her own life for a long time for a reason that undoubtedly sounded very familiar to any viewers who followed the “Free Britney” movement for Britney Spears: a guardianship.
Price and Maroun learned that the star tennis player was under her father’s guardianship, and he was using his legal power over her to control her finances for his own gain. He even recruited the judge who was ultimately murdered to help guarantee that Lucy never even knew that she could free herself from the guardianship, and would remain under his control to make money to line his pockets. He was willing to gamble on Lucy being found innocent – which was far from a sure thing – because he’d make more money if she got off.
The case unfolded to reveal that Lucy had been forced to get an IUD (which echoes a claim that Britney Spears made during her efforts to be freed from her father’s conservatorship) and wasn’t allowed to marry her boyfriend. Lucy approached the judge to try and convince him to let her get married; when he refused, she snapped and beat him to death with a fire extinguisher.
Clearly, “Fault Lines” didn’t exactly copy what happened with Britney Spears and her efforts to free herself from her father’s conservatorship. She won the case against her father after a long court battle, and there were legions of fans in the “Free Britney” movement who supported her every step of the way over more than a decade. In the months since winning the case, she has opened up about what her father told her about taking over her life, and is planning on marrying fiancé Sam Asghari. The L&O episode had a more tragic ending.
Although Maroun (with an assist from Anthony Anderson’s Kevin Bernard) managed to find a way to get the plea deal to Lucy despite her father’s efforts to deny her even knowing about it, her best-case scenario was pleading guilty to manslaughter and going to jail for 15 years for killing the judge. Rolling the dice at trial would have meant potentially going down for murder rather than manslaughter, and a guilty verdict from a jury would have meant life behind bars.
She does have hope for a free life eventually after taking the plea deal, and her boyfriend confirmed that he still loved her, so it wasn’t as tragic an ending as it could have been if she’d been convicted of murder because her father cared more about her money than her freedom. Law & Order didn’t quite rip the Britney Spears case from the headlines, and Lucy the tennis star’s backstory is a far cry from Spears’ as a pop star, but there were clear elements of Spears’ conservatorship case and claims in Lucy’s guardianship in “Fault Lines.”
The shows of the L&O franchise have ripped from the headlines for literal decades now, with SVU carrying that torch after the original series was cancelled. Now that the original is back, NBC has a full night of L&O action on Thursdays, starting with Law & Order at 8 p.m. ET, continuing with Law & Order: SVU at 9 p.m., and finishing with Law & Order: Organized Crime at 10 p.m. in the 2022 TV schedule.