One of the lingering questions about Dennis Farina’s time on Law & Order was how was his character was so wealthy. Detective Joe Fontana wore tailored suits, expensive watches, and Gucci loafers, and he drove a Mercedes. How did he do this all on a police officer’s salary? It was such a point of contention that it split the Law & Order fan base as some began to believe he was a dirty cop. One Reddit user came up with a theory to explain the cash and keep Fontana’s hands clean.
Dennis Farina joined Law & Order in season 15 as a replacement for Jerry Orbach who left because of health issues. He became a fan favorite right away. Farina added back a lot of things that Law & Order lost when Orbach left. Det. Fontana had a lightning-quick wit and a dark sense of humor. A former Chicago cop, Fontana moved to New York after a falling out with one of his bosses. Farina, who was a former Chicago police officer, gave the character credibility.
The questions about his wealth started as soon as he made his debut in the Law & Order season 15 premiere. The series never addresses it, but the show makes subtle nods to the idea that Fontana could have some connection to the Chicago mafia. The detective grew up in the Little Italy section of The Windy City and spoke fluent Italian. But there was never any direct connection between his money and the mob during Farina’s two seasons on the show.
One Reddit User posits that Det. Fontana may have mob ties but could also be a good and honest police officer.
‘Law & Order’: Connecting Det. Fontana and the Mob
Th3ChosenFew posted a theory that she and a friend came up with while watching an episode of Law & Order recently. Like the rest of the fandom, Th3ChosenFew was always curious about Det. Fontana’s money. The show constantly references it but never explains it.
So, the Redditor came up with an idea to merge the best guesses the audience has used over the years — a Unified Farina Theory, if you will. Her guess: Fontana came from a family of mobsters, but he wasn’t about that life.
“He may be a rat b*stard, but he isn’t dirty,” she wrote. “He’s old money from Chicago, descended from 1920s mafia dons who made it big on the alcohol trade. He’s a trust fund kid that comes from a rich family and instead of getting a business degree like a respectable citizen, he became a cop because he liked the Dirty Harry movies and wanted to play the hero.
“His weird attitudes towards a lot of people or how he passes off his car as merely ‘alright’ can be explained by the idea that he grew up in extreme privilege and doesn’t see the world like other people.”
The Law & Order subreddit had mixed feelings about this idea. Some thought it was plausible, and others had theories of their own. The show never addressed it and likely never will. Farina left the show in 2006 to focus on other offers. He died in 2015 of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 69.
The Law & Order reboot returns to NBC on Feb. 24, and Farina’s Det. Fontana would have been a good character to revisit for an episode or two.