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Law & Order: SVU ended on a game-changer in Season 17 when the Special Victims Unit lost one of their own. The death of Mike Dodds was a departure from the usual way that SVU ships off its detectives, and Season 18 will see the team dealing with the loss. New showrunner Rick Eid has big plans for how Benson and Co. move on from Dodds' death. Eid had this to say about where Season 18 picks up:

It's maybe a month or so; we're not super time-specific, so it's not like it's time-coded, but maybe a month or so after the death of Mike Dodds (Andy Karl) in Season 17, that's how the finale ended. That is still weighing heavily on the SVU team and certainly the character of Benson. We pick up from there. It's not the day after, some time has passed, but obviously the tragedy has not passed. So we pick up emotionally from that place.

Andy Karl was only on board with Law & Order: SVU for Season 17, so fans likely won't have to mourn him as much as they would have if Stabler or Munch had left the show in a bodybag rather than for personal reasons. Still, the emotional impact on the SVU crew should be devastating, and it's promising to know that the show plans on exploring what his life and death means for the unit moving forward. The fact that the series won't be picking up in real time with months having passed means that we should get to see the fallout rather than business as usual right away.

Of course, Benson and the others in SVU won't be the only ones reeling from Mike Dodds' death. His father will have more reason than ever to clash with Benson over the direction of the Special Victims Unit. Rick Eid went on in his chat with EW to tease this about the Season 18 premiere:

It's a big episode. It's an exciting and emotional and very topical [episode]. You'll see Chief Dodds and Benson at odds over the direction of the case, and at the same time, you'll see them exploring this complicated chapter in their life, the death of Mike Dodds.

The Season 18 premiere was inspired by the San Bernardino mass shooting, so Rick Eid certainly wasn't kidding about the episode being topical. The stakes should be incredibly high for the characters both as law enforcement officers on a tough case and as people who recently lost somebody close to them.

Season 18 will be Rick Eid's first as SVU showrunner. He'll replace Warren Leight as the head honcho. Leight had been tasked with the end of an SVU era after the Season 12 departure of Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler; only time will tell if Eid is as successful as his predecessor at picking up a show that already has more than a decade of stories that have already been told.

Law & Order: SVU returns to NBC on Wednesday, September 21 at 9 p.m. ET. Check out our fall TV premiere schedule to see when your other favorite shows will hit the airwaves in the near future.

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