Spoilers ahead for the Season 20 premiere of Law & Order: SVU.
Olivia Benson has been facing the worst of the worst criminals for a couple of decades, and the Season 20 premiere may have indicated that she's going to find herself on the bench in the not-too-distant future. The premiere was a gigantic two-hour event that started off as a horrifying rape case and then transformed into a school shooting case, perpetrated by the victim who was denied justice after a court failure by the still-mourning A.D.A. Peter Stone. Olivia was struggling with an issue she hasn't really had to face before, and it didn't have anything to do with the heinous sexually-based offense she investigates. She found herself getting winded and falling short when trying to chase down suspects.
Normally, one of the SVU detectives getting winded in a chase sequence wouldn't really be that big of a deal. They do a lot of running and jumping and tackling when trying to apprehend the bad guys, and they're only human. In the Season 20 premiere, however, Olivia got winded more than once, and she was clearly bothered by it. The second time she had to take a bit of a break, there was a collision with a civilian who ended up with a broken leg. She kept quiet about her concerns until she got a moment alone with Fin, who has been on the job in Special Victims for nearly as long as her.
Because Fin is a great friend to Olivia, he assured her that getting winded and slowing down is simply part of getting older while working an intense and physically demanding job. He obviously doesn't believe that Olivia needs to be benched just because she's not able to do everything that she once was, and she appreciated what he had to say. That said, Law & Order: SVU showrunner Michael Chernuchin recently dropped some comments that point toward this being an issue that Olivia deals with beyond the Season 20 premiere.
According to Michael Chernuchin in a chat with EW, Olivia will be "facing her own mortality" in Season 20, which seems to indicate that SVU isn't done exploring Olivia's concern about her own stamina. Now, even if SVU does decide to keep Olivia out of the action and on the figurative bench more often in Season 20 and beyond, that doesn't necessarily mean less of Mariska Hargitay. SVU undoubtedly wouldn't have lasted as long as it has if not for Hargitay as leading lady, and she has said that she's not done playing Olivia just yet.
Besides, back in the day when Cragen was in charge at Special Victims, he generally was not out on the streets chasing bad guys, and he was still a key part of the show. Olivia wouldn't have to be any less important of a character even if she's not physically tackling criminals on the streets of New York City. It would potentially open up some new stories for Olivia (and Mariska Hargitay) as well. After the end of the episode that saw Noah rebel against his mom in a couple of gestures that quite clearly troubled her, Olivia may want to spend more time with him. She certainly seemed regretful that she missed one of his games earlier in the premiere, and her enthusiasm for Amanda's unexpected pregnancy proves that her maternal instincts are going strong.
Amanda's pregnancy could also mean that SVU needs more detectives who can chase criminals across New York City, and neither Olivia nor Fin may be able to keep up with the especially young and spry bad guys. Amanda won't be able to if she keeps that bun in the oven, and we can't expect Carisi to do all the running! We'll have to wait and see. New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air this fall on Thursdays at p.m. ET on NBC.