On April 1, we collectively lost our minds after seeing Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler reunite onscreen for the first time in 10 years. The Law & Order: Organized Crime crossover event gave us insight into what Elliot Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni, has been up to since leaving Special Victims Unit and reintroduced viewers to a few familiar faces, including Kathy Stabler, who is played by Isabel Gillies.
Kathy, who is Elliot Stabler’s wife and the mother of his five children, first joined the series in Season 1 and stuck by Elliot’s side through both his literal and figurative trials and tribulations.
It’s been almost a decade since her husband’s sudden exit from SVU and after Law & Order: Organized Crime’s season premiere, there’s a good chance that we’ll never see Kathy’s character again. But what happened to Kathy Stabler?
What happened to Kathy Stabler on 'Law & Order: Organized Crime'?
In Episode 1 of Organized Crime, Kathy and Elliot return to New York from Italy, where Elliot has been working as an NYPD international liaison for the last few years. As the couple is preparing to surprise Benson, played by Mariska Hargitay, at a ceremony in her honor, Kathy is involved in a car bombing that leaves her hospitalized.
Although Kathy is able to escape before the car sets fire, her injuries resulted in cardiac arrest, and she ultimately died in Mercy Hospital. Kathy’s death has triggered an overwhelming response on social media. Although many were happy to see Elliot Stabler and his family come back, they weren’t happy that his return was at the expense of his onscreen wife.
Social media criticized showrunners for “fridging” Kathy Stabler’s character, which is a somewhat outdated creative device that uses the death of a woman to motivate the male protagonist.
The term was originally coined by writer Gail Simone, who created the first list of "fridged" women on the website Women in Refrigerators.
One user wrote, “Yep, I can’t help but think of @GailSimone while watching #LawAndOrder. This is one of the absolute most egregious examples of Women In Refrigerators that I’ve seen in recent memory. It checks every single box off the list.”
They added, “I was looking forward to Stabler’s return since it was announced, and these are my first episodes watching in a few years, but the fridging has taken me completely out of it."
Showrunners Ilene Chaiken and Dick Wolf defended their decision to kill Kathy off on the series. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Illene explained, "When I joined this show, it was a fait accompli — a premise I was given to work with. I wasn't in any way put off by it — I was immediately drawn in."
She continued, "When you tell a story about a character who's been gone for many years, a question you have to answer is 'why now?' [Kathy Stabler's death] as a storytelling catalyst is one of the best 'why nows' I could think of."
In the past, Dick revealed that Christopher’s character in Organized Crime won’t stop until he finds the villains who killed his wife. He told THR, "These are going to be really bad guys that give Chris a constant source of energy, outrage, belief in justice, and a different way of pursuing criminals than we have before.”
You can watch new episodes of Law & Order: Organized Crime at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.