Long-running procedural Law and Order: Special Victims Unit continues to make history with its 22nd season that recently returned to NBC. As is custom for the show, the season's first episode revolved around a ripped-from-the-headlines plot that involved a number of the past summer’s major events, including COVID-19, protests against police brutality, and a particular incident of racism in Central Park’s Ramble, where a white woman called the police on an innocent Black birdwatcher back in June.
But when Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) gets named in a suit against the NYPD for racially discriminating against the fictionalized Black man on the show, she gets called into internal affairs and has the spotlight thrown on her own implicit biases. With all the changes happening in the world at large, many fans saw this scene as a possible harbinger of Olivia being ousted from the squad.
But is Olivia Benson really leaving SVU? Keep scrolling to find out.
Is Olivia Benson leaving 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit'?
In the premiere episode of Season 22, Olivia and Fin (Ice-T) are investigating a rape in Central Park in the same area where a white woman has just called the police on a Black man for “scarring [her] son.” When the man, whose name is Jayvon (Blake Morris), refuses to cooperate and Olivia and Fin see that he has two outstanding warrants, they decide to cuff him and take him back to the precinct for questioning.
But after Jayvon quickly clears his name of the crime, he sues the NYPD for wrongful arrest and names Olivia and Fin specifically in his complaint. Before an internal investigation starts, Chief Garland (Demore Barnes) ominously warns Fin that there’s a “purge” coming and that no one is safe: “Not me, not you, not Captain Benson.”
When Olivia speaks with an officer from Internal Affairs, who is Black, she is forced to confront her own implicit biases when it's pointed out that she never thought to run the white woman’s priors in the park, only the Black man’s. Additionally, it turns out that Olivia was involved in a stop-and-frisk with Jayvon years before, when she was looking for a serial rapist.
Olivia is visibly upset as her interviewer tells her that there are two types of cops: the openly racist kind and the kind who think of themselves as allies, but refuse to work on dismantling their own biases. As Olivia later tells Garland, “I’m reeling.”
Is this the last season of 'Law & Order: SVU'?
But will this investigation ultimately lead to the departure of Olivia Benson? In all probability, no. 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.”
Plus, the show is confirmed to run through Season 23.
She'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.
That’s not to say that she won’t go through a reckoning this season. As it’s done in the past, SVU has incorporated recent issues facing the world, and the events of this summer are no exception.
As actor Ice-T said in a discussion ahead of the season’s release, “You're going to see a lot, a lot of issues that we've been dealing with over the past six months tackled directly by Law & Order: SVU because they choose to, and the writers are writing incredible spirit based on a lot of these issues.”
Catch new episodes of Law & Order: SVU every Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.