Aftershock (Law & Order)

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Law & Order episode
Episode no. Season 6
Episode 23
Directed by Martha Mitchell
Written by Michael Chernuchin
Janis Diamond
Original air date May 22, 1996 (1996-05-22)
Episode chronology
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List of Law & Order episodes (season 6)

"Aftershock" is the 134th episode of NBC's legal drama Law & Order, and the season finale of the sixth season. It originally aired on 22 May 1996.

"Aftershock" is notable because it abandons the typical Law & Order story structure of the police-procedural followed by legal proceedings. Rather than chronicling an investigation, the episode accompanies each of the characters in the aftermath of an execution.


Jack McCoy, Claire Kincaid, Lennie Briscoe and Rey Curtis attend the execution of a man each had a part in helping to convict for a serial killing years ago. Kincaid and McCoy fight briefly while driving back to the city. Kincaid, ill with a cold, decides to take a sick day, while McCoy returns to the office. Briscoe and Curtis have the day off, but Curtis decides to finish up some paperwork.

Curtis has a scuffle with a disrespectful man in a holding cell and is ordered by Anita Van Buren to take the day off. He proceeds to meet a graduate student (Jennifer Garner) downtown and spends the day flirting with her while ignoring his wife's phone calls. He eventually spends the night with her.

Briscoe visits an off track betting facility and meets some acquaintances with "inside information." After losing some money, Briscoe meets with his estranged daughter and they go to lunch.

Kincaid visits her former law school professor (who is later revealed to be her stepfather) to discuss her concerns about capital punishment, and more broadly, her feelings about the legal profession and her role in it. She then has a late lunch with Van Buren and discusses the morality of capital punishment.

After dispatching a few plea bargains and lunch with Elizabeth Olivet, McCoy goes to a bar and meets some blue collar workers where they play darts and talk about their fathers. McCoy initially speaks highly of his father, a former police officer. However, after getting drunk, he reveals that his father demanded perfection from him, and would beat him and his mother for the slightest failure. He also states that he "never talks about these things."

Briscoe's talk with his daughter does not end well. He walks into the same bar that McCoy is at and orders a club soda, as he is a recovering alcoholic. After McCoy leaves in a cab, Briscoe seemingly becomes depressed and orders a vodka. Kincaid, whom McCoy had earlier called to get a ride home and now recovered from the sickness she suffered, meets a drunken Briscoe at the bar and offers to take him home.

While driving home, Briscoe laments the state of his relationship with his daughter, and says that he would have liked to have a child like Kincaid. As she tries to comfort him, a supposed drunk driver slams into the side of their car, killing her.

The episode ends with a dazed Briscoe wandering in the accident scene, bursting into tears at the sight of Kincaid's dead body, as Van Buren reads part of a letter she has been writing to her mother about the execution in a voiceover:

A crowd of people stood and cheered when he raped her. They were supposedly good people and they did absolutely nothing. Then he beat her to death with a tire iron, and today the State of New York got its revenge. It's not enough, and it's too much.

Initially, it was not made explicitly clear that Kincaid was dead, with Jill Hennessy stating in interviews that she hoped to return to the series. However, a later episode ("Sideshow") in which McCoy is called to the witness stand to testify on his own behalf in an investigation, confirmed that Kincaid was killed in the accident.