While Goren and Eames were the core of Criminal Intent, as the show progressed and Vincent D’Onofrio preferred less screen time due to a heavy shooting schedule, other detectives were introduced beginning in season five. In their own way, the back-up teams were all interesting. The scripts for their characters were excellent. However, some stood a bit above the crowd, while others never really had a chance to shine.
I wanted to rank the detective teams, as Goren and Eames are impossible to separate and team rankings provided symmetry, but I realized to do that would be slighting the highly underrated Julianne Nicholson, who appeared with two different partners and worked well with both, and has gone on to roles on Boardwalk Empire and The Good Wife.
In my personal order of preference, then, the other detectives of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, most of whom could (and sometimes did) carry the show on their own.
Mike Logan (Chris Noth)
My top choice is invariably colored by my love of Logan on the original Law & Order. Logan and Briscoe are the gold standard for L&O teams, the cynical detective and the hot-headed young turk.
But when Logan joined Criminal Intent, he was older, a little wiser, more in control and much more world-weary. He brought something new to CI, something far different from the quirky detective skills of Goren and, later, Zach Nichols.
Highlight episode: “Senseless”
The murder of three young people leads to a lot of soul-searching and lives ruined, despite catching the murderer. In one of the bleakest CI episodes overall, Logan carries the weight of the darkness on his shoulders.
Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson)
Wheeler was a breath of fresh air in the precinct, no-nonsense and yet sometimes impish at the same time. The L&O franchise tends to cast good-looking supermodel types in many female roles. In contrast, Wheeler is a freckled redhead used to being underestimated because she looks young and naïve. She played off her two partners beautifully, skewering Logan’s attempts to pigeon-hole her and also managing to be unimpressed with Nichols’ attempts to wow her with his intelligence.
Wheeler is also appealingly human, especially when revealing a crush on an aging rock star they’re investigating, or in her fondness for a once-famous child star who is mixed up with the wrong people.
Highlight episode: “Blasters”
When a former teen star is murdered, no one notices at first, but his identification leads to a case involving the Albanian mob and another former teen star who’s never moved on. Wheeler’s disgust is perfect.
Det. Zach Nichols (Jeff Goldblum)
Unlike Logan, who was clearly intended as a contrast to Goren, Nichols served more as a replacement Goren. He had the same lightning quick ability to size up people and to spot the smallest of clues but, unlike Goren, who used his physical size to intimidate, Nichols was more laid back and more likely to intimidate suspects verbally. I suspect one’s view of Nichols is entirely based on how much a viewer enjoys watching Goldblum. I’m one who enjoys Goldblum, so while I pined for more Goren and Eames during the ninth season, I stuck around to spend time with Nichols.
Highlight episode: “Three-In-One”
The episode guest-starred F. Murray Abraham as Nichols’ estranged father, who thinks his son is squandering his life as a police detective. The crime isn’t memorable but the father and son pairing is wonderful.
Det. Lola Falacci (Alicia Witt)
The most hard-headed of the group, so much so that Logan says he enjoys being “the voice of reason” when partnered with her. She’s very direct, intense, and has little time to spare for anyone getting in the way of the investigation. (She’s Logan’s partner in “Senseless.”) It would have been great to see her paired with Goren, just to see his reaction to her take-charge nature but she only stayed on for half-a-season, which is why she’s so low on the list. I wanted more.
Highlight episode: “Lonelyville”
A dead women is found tied up in a hotel room, clues lead to a writer, but his girlfriend is not what she seems and neither is her lawyer.
Det. Serena Stevens (Saffron Burrows)
She’s low on the list because Stevens, unfortunately for her, was more of a sounding board rather than a partner to Nichols. I found one fan video on YouTube that alluded to the chemistry between Stevens and Nichols, so the team has some fervent fans, but while their lone season together built toward a partnership, Stevens never had a real chance to shine. Instead, there were glimpses of her past, such as partner who was killed in action. If CI ever rebooted, it would be nice to see the Nichols/Stevens partnership again, with Stevens allowed to take more of the spotlight.
Det. Carolyn Barek (Annabella Sciorra)
Maybe it was a case of being too much alike. Barek was the detective first paired with Logan when he joined the show in season five. She’s as cynical as Logan and she seems even more of a loner. The chemistry might have been lacking but there are some absolutely stand-out episodes during her tenure, including “The Healer,” in which two women are wrapped in plastic, and “The Good,” in which a suburban couple is bludgeoned to death in their homes but the first suspect, their drug-addicted son, is by no means the last.
Highlight episode: “To The Bone”
When Logan and Barek investigate a series of robberies which feature murder by machete, Logan ends up accidentally shooting another police officer. Barek, though new as his partner, stands by him.
Not a rotten apple in the bunch but I’d jump at the chance to see Goren, Eames, Nichols and Wheeler all work together again. (I omit Logan because his leaving of the police force seems very final.)
The odds against that seem long, as the show wrapped with season ten (and the entire series) and there’s no sign of a movie on the horizon, though Kathryn Erbe (Eames) has guest-starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
But I still hold out hope. Perhaps one of the detectives on this list will pop into Chicago Fire, another Dick Wolf production, somewhere down the line.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.