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Reid Scott’s Character on Law & Order Has a Dark Past That Was Just Revealed

The past comes back to haunt Detective Vincent Riley, played by Reid Scott, in the latest Law & Order episode.

By Jill Sederstrom

Vincent Riley may be Law & Order’s newest detective, but he comes with his own troubled history. 

How to Watch

Watch the Season 24 premiere of Law & Order Thursday, October 3 at 8/7c on NBC

Riley’s surprising backstory was revealed in Season 23, Episode 3 after his credibility as a detective took center stage during the trial of a suspected serial killer.

RELATED: Reid Scott Made Law & Order Debut as Det. Vincent Riley With Deadly Consequences

Who is Detective Vincent Riley on Law & Order?

Riley, played by Veep’s Reid Scott, joined the squad at the start of Season 23 to team with Detective Jalen Shaw (Mehcad Brooks) after Jeffrey Donovan, who played Detective Frank Cosgrove, didn’t return.

At red carpet event before the season premiered, Brooks hinted to NBC Insider that although “having a new partner is fantastic,” there could be more than meets the eye to the new partnership. 

‘There’s a little more comedy, a little more conflict, and there’s some secrets,” Brooks said of the new pairing. “He’s [Detective Riley] kind of on a redemptive track and he has some things to make up for and Shaw finds out a little late and that doesn’t go over too well, but we love conflict.”

Law And Order 2303 Det Vincent Riley Det Jalen Shaw

What secret was revealed about Detective Vincent Riley’s past?

Law & Order fans learned in Season 23, Episode 3 that Riley's troubled past included knocking out an NYPD police captain and getting a six-month suspension. As it turned out though, he was defending a colleague during the incident and going through some tough times in his personal life.

RELATED: A New Detective in Town! Reid Scott Plays Vincent Riley on Law & Order Season 23

After a bit of a rocky start, new partners Riley and Shaw seemed to be hitting their stride as they tried to track down a man who violently choked a woman to death on the streets of New York City. The killing fit the same pattern as three earlier cases — one of which had once been Riley’s case at another precinct.

Riley was the lead detective on what was then considered a missing persons case, but there wasn’t a body or much to go on at the time. The woman’s body was discovered after he was transferred out of his old squad.

His history with the case came into question during the trial of suspect Bruce Elliott. Riley was called to testify for the defense, who praised him for being one of the city’s top detectives. The defense attorney then pointed out that her client had been interviewed by Riley years earlier in connection with the first case but was cleared as a suspect by him, suggesting the defendant must not be guilty.

ADA Nolan Price talks to the courtroom on Law And Order Episode 2303

Fearing that their case against the suspected serial killer was disintegrating, Assistant District Attorney Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) felt that he had no choice but to impeach Riley’s character as a detective on the stand to undercut the damaging testimony.

Viewers learned that Riley had been suspended for six months just weeks after interviewing Elliott in the initial case.

Price turned to Lieutenant Kate Dixon (Camryn Manheim) to find out more about the circumstances of the reprimand, but she wasn’t exactly a willing participant and urged him to find “another way” to win the case. 

“Look, he had a really rough go," Dixon explained. "His father was dying, he couldn’t bear the thought of putting him in a home so he worked all kinds of crazy overtime just to pay the caretakers. And then, in the middle of all that crap, his wife and his kids left and he tried to cope, like we all do, pretend that the traumatic things that were happening weren’t really happening."

Lt Kate Dixon sits at the witness stand on Law And Order Episode 2303

Why did Detective Vincent Riley knock out a police captain?

Riley’s problems only grew after he overheard a “huge argument” Dixon was having with her captain, a man she called a “sexist son of a bitch” who called her “something he shouldn’t have.” 

“Vince walked in and he knocked his ass out — one punch,” she said. 

To make matters worse, Riley had been drinking, leading him to receive a six-month suspension. 

Despite the mistake, Dixon has remained staunchly in Riley’s corner, giving him an opportunity for a clean slate on her squad.

RELATED: Check Out Who's in the Law & Order Cast for Season 23

“I had to fight like hell to get him over here. I called in every single favor I had so I’d really appreciate it if you just take it easy on him, ok?” she told Price. “He threw a punch for me, who does that? And as stupid and as reckless as it was, I appreciate what he did.” 

Although he clearly felt torn, Price challenged Riley on the stand, forcing him to re-live his past in an attempt to explain why he may not have been giving the initial case his full attention.

After the brutal exchange, Riley stopped by Price’s office and made sure he knew there were no hard feelings.

 “I get it. You did what you had to do,” Riley told him, before handing him an envelope with photos of all the victims wearing jewelry later recovered from the suspect’s house.

The evidence was enough to earn the conviction — and maybe even restore Riley’s reputation in Price’s eyes

To find out what happen's next in Detective Riley's world, tune in to Law & Order Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC or stream it the next day on Peacock.