Law & Order Toronto recap: Condo shootings and cold cases

Law & Order Toronto recap: Condo shootings and cold cases

A very Toronto breakdown of episode two, “Good Neighbours”

Graff and Bateman in a wood panelled office, with a border of caution tape

In Toronto’s war on crime, the worst offenders are pursued by the detectives of a specialized criminal investigations unit. Now, some of those investigations are getting the television treatment with Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent, a new, super-local and somewhat verbosely titled expansion of the famous franchise, airing on CityTV.

Though each story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event, many of the cases and places on screen will feel familiar to Canadian true-crime fans. But will they pass muster with the people who know the city best? Each week, we’ll weigh the evidence, consult the experts and issue a verdict on what the show got right and wrong about Toronto, the Canadian legal system and what we believe to be the IRL headlines behind each episode.

This week’s episode bears a striking resemblance to the real-life Vaughan condo shooting. In December 2022, Francesco Villi killed five of his neighbours at the Bellaria Residences before being gunned down by police. So, sadly, the broad strokes of episode two’s storyline—multiple murders motivated by tensions between condo residents—ring all too true (+3). The tragedy made global headlines due to the fact that mass shootings are still rare in Canada, though clashes between condo residents are quintessentially Toronto (+2).

Related: Law & Order Toronto episode one—crypto kings and con artists

The episode opens with a shot of a mid-rise condo building on Rosedale Valley Road. As Pravat Doshi, the perfectly sleazy project manager from Pinecorp, a real estate development firm that we learn is trying to buy the building, puts it: “It’s a pile of crap sitting on a goldmine.” In other words, exactly the kind of spot a developer in 2024 may want to flatten (+3). The only problem is Dennis Embers, the sole resident who plans to vote no to the buyout.

Next, we see an unnamed resident sipping a martini on his balcony. At first, it seems like it’s shaping up to be a classic Toronto patio hang (+1), including a fireworks display (we can only assume it’s a holiday [-1]). That is, until blood starts dripping into the resident’s glass from the deck above—a bit of heavy-handed imagery, even if the city is going through a martini renaissance (-1). It turns out the fireworks were masking the sound of gunfire. Just above our cocktail-slinging friend, Dennis and several members of the condo board have been shot and killed in Dennis’s apartment.

Graff and Bateman inside Dennis Embers apartment after the shooting

Despite being a victim, Dennis shares some characteristics with the real-life condo killer, who spent years harassing the members of his building’s board before he went on his rampage. Like Villi, Dennis suffered from mental illness, which played a significant role in exacerbating his frustration with his neighbours. And, also like Villi, Dennis claimed he was being tormented by noises in his unit that nobody else could hear. In a way, Dennis being a victim rather than the perpetrator of this fictional spree makes some sense, since people living with mental illness are 12 times more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators (+2). Plus, it wouldn’t be much of a Law & Order episode if we knew who the killer was in the first five minutes. 

“Does this sound about three semitones off to you?” Graff asks Bateman while tickling the ivories on Dennis’s piano. So we can add perfect pitch to Graff’s growing list of expertise, which also includes weather patterns, high-end art, martial arts and luxury watch appraisal. Sure, homicide detectives often develop an array of seemingly unrelated expertise. Still, the musical savant thing feels like a stretch (-1).   

When our dynamic duo interviews Pravat at the offices of his development firm, they learn that Dennis had actually changed his mind about the buyout at the last minute—after Pinecorp sweetened the deal with a bag full of unmarked bills. An Ontario developer participating in shady behind-the-scenes back-scratching, you say (+4)? 

Dennis’s girlfriend, Eden, works at Total Yoga on Isabella Street—which is exactly the kind of job someone named Eden would have (+2). Though, in 2024, it’s more likely that she’d be joining the Reformer Pilates craze (-1).

Related: Meet the showrunner behind the new Law & Order Toronto

The detectives also talk to Dennis’s golden-boy older brother, Carl, a brain surgeon who did his undergrad at McGill and wears the hell out of his white coat. He’s inherited his brother’s condo unit and buyout vote, and we learn that he intends to vote against the sale (honouring what he believes to be Dennis’s final wish). When Bateman and Graff first meet him at Harbourfront Memorial Hospital (+1), he tells them about the summers he and his brother spent at Camp Rosseau, which sounds a lot like the infamously bougie overnight camp Muskoka Woods (+2). But who was footing the bill for the brothers’ five-star summer camp if they grew up with a single mom (-2)? We also learn that, twenty years ago, Dennis worked as an usher at Roy Thomson Hall (no way—that guy had Masonic Temple merch boy written all over him [-2]).

Graff and Bateman talking to Carl Embers in the hospital where he works

Graff and Bateman then discover an undisclosed romantic relationship between Pravat and the still-living head of the condo board, Jessica Lewis. Graff clocks dog hair on Pravat’s suit and later spots Jessica walking her golden retriever. Not exactly a smoking gun, but the moment hits home for anyone who has ever owned a golden retriever—or tried to secretly date someone who does (+2).

Back at the crime scene, Graff and Bateman find a device that was planted in Dennis’s air duct. It emits a high-pitched ringing that’s usually detectable only by teenagers, with their younger ear hairs (of course Graff is an expert in otology [+1]), but audible to Dennis because of his cochlear implant. So that incessant mosquito noise he’d been complaining about was not a paranoid delusion but the product of a concerted attempt to get him to sell.

Such devices do exist. “Convenience store owners use them to deter loitering teens,” Bateman says. They’ve also been used in Toronto parkettes (+3). However, the decision to validate Villi’s conspiracy theories, even via his fictional counterpart, feels ethically dubious—especially since L&O has the condo board president admit to having planted it there to harass him. In the real-life version of events, the condo board president, John Di Nino, witnessed Villi shoot his wife, Doreen, in the face (she was the only victim of Villi’s shooting spree to survive), and no evidence was ever found to back up Villi’s noise complaints (-4).

After the corpse of a teenage girl turns up buried in a concrete flower bed on the roof of the condo building, the plot veers sharply away from its tentative resemblance to the Vaughan shooting. Now we’ve got a cold case on our hands. Graff and Bateman identify the body as Maeve Waters, whose 2003 disappearance was never solved. They’re able to figure this out based on her helix piercing, which she probably got in the basement of the Eaton Centre (+2). 

Graff and Bateman standing next to a slab of concrete that turned out to be hiding a skeleton

More importantly, they decide that the condo killer was probably targeting Dennis because of his last-minute reversal on the Pinecorp buyout. If the building remained, the body would stay in its concrete coffin. A demolition, on the other hand, would ruin the attempted cover-up. 

When the investigation leads our dynamic duo to 789 Yonge Street, Graff doesn’t miss a beat in IDing the address as the Toronto Reference Library. “What? They have great events,” he tells a surprised Bateman. Yes, they do (+3).

Bateman and Graff visit the deputy crown attorney to discuss the case. Forrester is eating fries, which he obviously got from one of the food trucks that have been parked outside city hall since time immemorial (+2). But wait—his sandwich appears to be just two slices of bread (-2).

The cops seem to be getting closer to solving the case as Carl’s cool exterior starts to crack. First, he shatters a piece of glassware while making the decision to sell his brother’s condo after all (which checks out when we get a glimpse of Carl’s massive house—that mortgage has got to be hefty [+1]). Then Graff and Bateman discover that Carl and Maeve Waters had been dating at the time of her disappearance. After they’d broken up, Maeve and Dennis had a run-in-turned-romantic-evening that Carl had accidentally walked in on—which is when he strangled Maeve and forced Dennis to help him bury the body. Finally, Carl’s resident confesses to helping cover up the doctor’s absence on the night of the shootings in Dennis’s condo. 

As in the inaugural episode, Bateman and Graff elicit a dramatic confession from their killer, who cops to both murders after getting a rundown of the case against him. It’s true that several decades-old cold cases have recently been solved, including a Scarborough murder case from 1982 (+1). Usually, though, the perpetrators are found thanks to DNA evidence and advances in forensic genealogy—not through an artful interrogation conducted by the golden children of Toronto’s homicide division (-3).

Graff and Bateman interrogate Carl at the station, where he confesses to both murders


Accuracy Score: +18
Judge’s notes: When the plot takes cues from debunked conspiracy theories, perhaps the writers are spending too much time on Reddit.
Best Toronto cameo: CityTV news playing on the big screen at the Pinecorp offices was a smooth plug from a show on the same network.
Worst Toronto cameo: Yoga girlie culture, as evidenced by Eden’s leather yoga-mat bag and decision to wear a necklace to her workout.
Most meme-worthy line: “It’s hard to cry in a Ferrari.”