Law & Order: SVU, which is about to go into Season 21, is now the longest-running, live-action, primetime series that's ever been on television. The drama has been nominated for and won countless awards, dealt with ripped-from-the-headlines stories of sexual abuse and rape like no other show and yet, there's just one thing that fans can't stop talking about: Whether or not we will ever see Christopher Meloni's Elliot Stabler on screen again.
SVU showrunner Warren Leight recently spoke about the chances of Christopher Meloni coming back to the series, even if it's only for a tiny bit of screen time to help really wrap his storyline up for fans. And, while there isn't exactly no hope of this happening, it does sound like we will have to wait a while.
Look: I assume that if some year, some decade, couple decades from now, we get to the last SVU, [Meloni] would have to come back before we do the last episode or before the show signs off. However, I don’t think we’re at that point in the show’s run.
OK. Everyone just calm yourselves for a bit, so that we can talk about this rationally. I know that you want Christopher Meloni and Stabler back on SVU like, five seasons ago. But, clearly, you're just going to have to wait. And, possibly wait a lot longer. Warren Leight makes it sound like there's definite potential in having Meloni return to SVU, but that if this miracle of casting does occur, it will only be in the last little bit of the series as a whole.
As I mentioned earlier, Law & Order: SVU is showing no real signs of slowing down, even with its twenty-first season on the fall TV horizon. Star Mariska Hargitay has said that she's in the SVU game for "the long haul" and has no plans on leaving the show behind, so as long as ratings hold and fans still have the flagship star showing up every week and giving it her leading lady all, we could easily see SVU last through Hargitay's actual retirement from acting.
This, of course, would mean that we likely have many, many long television seasons ahead of us before there's any real hope of watching Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson reunite on the small screen.
Christopher Meloni, who was an original cast member, left Law & Order: SVU after Season 12, and he hasn't been seen on the show since. A contract dispute led to Meloni deciding to leave his long-time job behind, but the suddenness of his departure meant that there was no lead up to it for fans, with the Season 13 opener simply telling everyone that Stabler retired from the police force off-screen. But, with each passing season, viewers wonder (quite vocally) if Meloni and SVU will ever be able to give them a better sense of closure.
For his part, Meloni has said in the past that he'd be willing to appear again, but only for the last few episodes of the series, which is exactly what Warren Leight told TVLine, and has, himself, said before. A source also told the outlet that Meloni is said to be interested in returning for up to six episodes, but, again, just to wrap up his character's arc for fans at the very end of Law & Order: SVU.
While this is all good news, and it's also good that Meloni and Hargitay appear to still be buddies in real life, Leight did bring up the challenge of actually giving fans their greatest wish and bringing Benson and Stabler back together.
It would be tricky, because it’s now been eight years since the characters were seen together. So how’d they get in touch? We haven’t seen it. Where has he been? How do you explain that? There are storytelling challenges to it.
Leight makes a very solid point. Not only was Stabler's exit super quick, but, considering how close he and Benson were, there's been no indication from the show that they've had any contact since 2011, which seems odd. And, as I mentioned before, by the time SVU decides to dim the precinct lights for good, it will be even longer. How do the writers come up with answers for why Stabler left, what he's been doing, why he didn't keep in touch with anyone, etc.? Especially (and this is a big one) in a way that will satisfy the fans who've wanted him back since he left?
Well, I suppose we can at least rest assured knowing that Warren Leight and his team have plenty of time to think about those answers, since Law & Order: SVU will probably be on TV long enough for us to have it beamed directly into our brains, no television or streaming device necessary.
Law & Order: SVU will return for Season 21 September 26, at 10 p.m. EST on NBC. For everything else you can catch in the coming months, check out our 2019 fall premiere guide.