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The Best Episode From Law & Order Season 3, According To IMDb

"Law & Order" has a history like no other show. Over the course of 21 seasons, the series has seen a variety of characters come in and out of its world while inspiring numerous spinoffs. There's so much material ripe for binging at this point, and so many varying characters standing over dead bodies and arguing in courtrooms, that it's easy to forget some of the earliest seasons of the show — back before Dick Wolf had made that theme song recognizable to every person on the planet.

Some of those early seasons contain top notch "Law & Order" material, though. Season 3, for instance, was a signature season, even introducing the longest running detective on the show, Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). It also starred faces modern fans may not even realize were "Law & Order" cast members, like "Goodfellas" star Paul Sorvino as Detective Phil Cerreta and Larry Cohen regular Michael Moriarty as ADA Benjamin Stone. 

It's also a difficult season to stream on the internet, unfortunately. Nonetheless, these early episodes — before the days of texting and Twitter — still air in syndication on channels like BBC America, and they're a treat when they pop up. They not only serve as a time capsule, but also display an entirely different "Law & Order" from what the series ultimately became. And according to IMDb, the favorite Season 3 episode for many fans was one that completely changed the series. 

Fans love Prince of Darkness, in which Cerreta is shot

On IMDb, the highest rated episodes of "Law & Order" Season 3 are "Helpless" and "Prince of Darkness," both rated 8.3 out of 10, though "Prince of Darkness" has inspired more fan ratings. 

"Prince of Darkness" is the eighth episode of Season 3 and it marks one of the last Paul Sorvino appearances. Cerreta and Mike Logan (Chris Noth) are investigating the murder of a Colombian businessman, eventually suspecting a Cartel assassin is the one who pulled the trigger. The detectives make a fairly quick arrest, but need to set up an undercover black market gun buy when they are told they don't have enough evidence. It's during this deal that Cerreta is shot twice. 

To make matters worse, Cerreta later agrees to let Stone make a deal with his shooter, lowering his charge in order to get testimony against the murderer in the Cartel investigation. The deal doesn't matter as the assassin is later shot outside of the courthouse, as the Cartel attempts to clean house. 

It's a dark episode with no happy ending, but the cast knocks it out of the park, especially Sorvino. The episode marks the second to last appearance by Sorvino as Cerreta explains he's transferring to a different precinct for a desk job. In the next episode, "Point of View," Briscoe is introduced as his replacement, and he had a slightly longer run, appearing on the show until 2004, when Orbach sadly passed away.