Long-running procedural Law and Order: Special Victims Unit continues to make history with its 22nd season that recently returned to NBC. But when SVU returned from its break, it came back with a beloved former member of the cast. Christopher Meloni, who played Elliot Stabler from Seasons 1 to 12, returned to his SVU family, just before he made the jump to his own series, Law & Order: Organized Crime.
His return brought up some mixed feelings for Mariska Hargitay's Captain Olivia Benson, as well as a traumatic (and controversial) experience for the squad. Ever since, Benson has been appearing in both of the Law & Order series, leading some to be concerned that she's planning to ditch SVU and head to Organized Crime alongside her old partner permanently. But do fans really need to be worried?
Is Olivia Benson leaving 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit'?
In the "Return of the Prodigal Son," fans got to see Benson reunite with Stabler. When Benson heads to a crime scene, she stumbles upon Kathy Stabler being loaded into an ambulance after a car bombing, leading Olivia and Elliot to have to face each other for the first time in 10 years.
Once Kathy wakes up, even she can't believe that the former partners haven't spoken since Stabler left. Afterward, the two sort of make up, following a rather painful discussion.
“Are you sorry for leaving, or are you sorry for walking, for not giving me the courtesy of telling me?” Benson confronts Stabler.
“Both,” he replies.
Benson tells him, “You were the most, single-most important person in my life, and you just disappeared."
Stabler's excuse for not telling her that he was leaving and then never contacting her? “I was afraid if I heard your voice, I wouldn’t have been able to leave.”
Since that first return, Benson has been hopping between SVU and Organized Crime to assist her old partner and also to be a part of his life again. The upcoming fourth episode of the new series will see Benson join a Stabler family gathering, hopefully bringing back some normalcy during this incredibly painful time in Stabler's life, and also hopefully revealing to fans what was in that letter Stabler gave Olivia after his return.
Moreover, with Kathy no longer in the picture, fans believe that Law & Order is (finally) gearing up for a Benson-Stabler romance. However, that doesn't mean that Benson will permanently be jumping to Organized Crime so that ship can finally sail.
Actress Mariska Hargitay, who’s been with the show since its inception, is on the record saying that she’s “in it for the long haul.” While we will likely continue to see Benson on Organized Crime intermittently (and Stabler is expected back on SVU), we shouldn't expect that Mariska will be leaving the show she's been a part of for 22 seasons to have Benson go date Stabler. If that relationship is coming, it'll likely play out on both shows.
Mariska's told the show’s current showrunner, Michael Chernuchin, that if he keeps up the quality writing, she would stay on for 25 years. NBC is equally committed to Olivia and the show, saying that they want to continue to have SVU on air as long as Mariska stays on.
Is this the last season of 'Law & Order: SVU'?
If you're worried that SVU is coming to an end to make way for more Organized Crime and for a Benson-Stabler relationship on the new series, fear not. SVU is confirmed for Seasons 23 and 24.
Catch new episodes of Law & Order: SVU every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST on NBC, followed by Organized Crime at 10.