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These Are the Greatest Law & Order Episodes with Detective Green — aka Jesse L. Martin — of All Time
Before Jesse L. Martin solved crimes on The Irrational, he played one of Law & Order’s legendary detectives for nearly a decade.
Jesse L. Martin is not the stereotypical grizzled detective we usually see on TV: His approach is much more interesting, infusing his performances with real warmth.
Long before taking on the intriguing role of Alec Mercer, a psychology professor who solves crimes in the upcoming NBC drama, The Irrational, he played one of the most famous detectives in TV history: Ed Green on Law & Order.
For almost 10 years and nine seasons, Detective Green delighted viewers with his street smarts, smooth voice, and disarming no-nonsense style. Sure, he was a gambling addict and often broke the rules, getting into trouble more times than we can count. But through it all, we knew he had a heart of gold.
Jesse L. Martin as Green navigated his way through murders, cults, carjackings, kidnappings, and serial killers — not to mention several detective partnerships. Full disclosure: Our favorite investigative duo was Green and Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach).
Because there are so many classic scenes starring Martin, and he had such an impact on the Law & Order franchise, we've narrowed down the scope and collected nine of our favorite Detective Green episodes.
“Gunshow” (Season 10, Episode 1)
Ed Green’s character debuts in the Season 10 premiere, and it’s a doozy. This controversial episode was ahead of its time, tackling the hot topic of gun control. After a mass shooting in Central Park, DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) goes after the gun manufacturer for selling modifiable semi-automatic weapons. We glimpse some Dirty Harry-style tactics from Green when he doesn’t hold back during an interrogation (he actually makes the killer cry).
Though brand new to the squad, Green is a force to be reckoned with — and he gets the confession.
“Marathon” (Season 10, Episode 6)
Detective Green is still new to the 27th Precinct, and the dynamic duo of Green and Briscoe are still acclimating to each other in “Marathon." In a memorably tense scene, the two come to blows during a heated argument over the mishandling of a difficult murder case near a housing project. After lobbing insults at each other, Briscoe demands a new partner. Good thing they both calmed down and, in the end, nabbed their man.
“Brother’s Keeper” (Season 11, Episode 21)
In this episode, Law & Order tips its hat to the real-life story of the twin Bulger Brothers: one was a notorious criminal, and the other a Massachusetts State Senator. In a similar plot line, Green investigates a gangster accused of murdering his corrupt business partner, who has help from his identical twin brother, a seemingly upstanding citizen. The scene where Green bonds with a victim’s family member shows his softer side and illustrates his conversational approach to detective work.
“3 Dawg Night” (Season 12, Episode 9)
Many of Law & Order’s best episodes involve celebrity cameos and nerve-wracking plot lines. In this one, Green and Brisco investigate a shooting inside a packed club, and no one is talking. By this point on the show, Brisco and Green have found their groove together. Thanks to Green’s key insights and dogged persistence, they successfully worked the case. Bonus: Idris Elba and Kerry Washington make cameo appearances.
“Couples” (Season 13, Episode 23)
“Couples” brings the drama big time with three murders and one kidnapping, all on the same day and all involving domestic disputes. Going from one crime scene to another, the episode ends with Green and Briscoe talking down a suicidal jumper — perhaps the most jam-packed day for any Law & Order detective ever.
In one scene, we see Green calling out a racial stereotype (in this instance, a “Latin Lover”), an admirable action that defines his character throughout the series.
“C.O.D.” (Season 14, Episode 24)
Heralded by hardcore Law & Order fans as one of the best episodes of the franchise, it’s no surprise that iconic duo Briscoe and Green are at the center again, but this time it’s an emotional goodbye. The episode closes out the 14th season with the retirement of Detective Briscoe, which profoundly upsets Green. Spoiler alert: They win their last case together — a plot hatched by two married women to murder each other’s husbands.
“Gunplay” (Season 15, Episode 5)
After an illegal firearms sting backfires and two officers are killed, Green poses as a gun dealer to lure in the suspects and get justice for their families. A classic example of Green’s penchant for risk-taking, he volunteers for this dangerous undercover mission before Lieutenant Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) even has a chance to ask him. Many fans loved the dynamic between Green and his new partner, Detective Joe Fontana, played by real ex-cop Dennis Farina.
“Tombstone” (Season 15, Episode 10)
Audiences were shocked when Green was shot while escorting a reluctant witness to the courthouse in the aptly titled “Tombstone.” He survived his injuries but was temporarily pulled from the field and assigned desk duties for the rest of the season. Green finally re-emerged in the field in Law & Order Season 16 with a new title and promotion to Senior Detective.
“Burn Card” (Season 18, Episode 14)
Detective Green’s last show on Law & Order shocked audiences, and our list would be incomplete without it. The tables turned on Green after he shoots a murder suspect and becomes the center of an NYPD investigation, ultimately standing trial for homicide. His troubling backstory emerges as we learn Green had a gambling addiction and once owed money to the man he killed. Though in the end, Green was exonerated, he left the force out of shame — a controversial ending to his time on the show.
Watch Law & Order on Peacock and on NBC.
The Irrational premieres Monday, September 25, at 10/9c on NBC and the next day on Peacock.