Law & Order star leaves show after 400 episodes – and this is how he said goodbye

Law & Order bid farewell to one of its veteran cast members on Thursday (22 February) as they left the show after 20 seasons and over 400 episodes.

Sam Waterston, who has played District Attorney Jack McCoy since 1994, said goodbye to the courtroom in a send-off episode on NBC that viewers called a “fitting end” to his journey.

The 83-year-old actor, who received an Oscar nomination for The Killing Fields in 1985, announced he would be leaving the show to pursue new opportunities earlier this month, reassuring fans he had no plans of retiring from acting yet.

He joined Law & Order in season four and stayed until the Emmy-award winning show stopped in 2010 before returning for the reboot in 2022.

Tony Goldwyn (who plays Nicholas Baxter) is set to replace Waterston’s character as DA, and remarked that he had “some very large shoes to fill”.

In his final episode, McCoy is aptly back in the courtroom to argue a final case against tech billionaire Scott Kelton (played by Rob Benedict) who is accused of the sexual assault and murder of Veronica Knight, found dead in Central Park.

When the mayor’s son is implicated - as he is friends with the defendant and was present on the trip where the assault took place - the mayor Robert Payne (played by Bruce Altman) intimidates the DA’s assistant Nolan Price (played by Hugh Dancy) as he tries to press charges.

In his final scene, Jack McCoy looks up at the courthouse after saying, ‘it’s been a hell of a ride’ (NBC)
In his final scene, Jack McCoy looks up at the courthouse after saying, ‘it’s been a hell of a ride’ (NBC)

“If you subpoena my son, I will bury you. I will pull my support for McCoy, and use my immense power to make sure his opponent is elected. And the very first official act of this new district attorney will be to fire you in a very public and demeaning manner,” he threatens.

McCoy takes over the case and ultimately secures a conviction against Kelton. However, in a last self-sacrificing move, he chooses to resign rather than let the mayor take out his rage on the DA’s office.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” McCoy tells Price. “It’s time. It just is. Look, the mayor is a vindictive son of a b***. He’s going to call in every chip he has to make sure my opponent wins the election. and he will succeed.

“And he’s going to bury everyone who wronged him, including you. If I step aside now, the governor will be able to appoint someone. Someone with integrity.”

He lifts up his glass and says, “It’s been a hell of a ride”.

In his final scene, McCoy takes a walk outside the courthouse and takes a reflective look up at it, as the show ends.