Law And Order: SVU Boss Talks Benson And Carisi's Big Changes In Season 21

Law and Order SVU Mariska Hargitay Olivia Benson Ian McShane Sir Tobias Toby Moore NBC

(Image credit: Virginia Sherwood / NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 21 premiere of Law & Order: SVU!

The showrunner of Law & Order: SVU is dishing on Benson and Carisi’s significant changes in Season 21. Do not worry, Benson has not gotten benched. Both characters have undergone a great deal of transition in their respective careers as they kick off the milestone season. Benson has been promoted from Lieutenant to Captain, while Carisi has gone from detective to Assistant District Attorney.

Now that you are all caught up on where Benson and Carisi are in their careers, the series’ showrunner is ready to weigh in. Law & Order: SVU’s record-breaking season is going to be an eventful one, as anyone who has just learned about those career changes might have guessed. Speaking about the “why” behind the transitions in Season 21, Warren Leight told E!:

Thematically, it's a year about passages and changes. I don't think nobody at the start of the season will be in the same place at the end of the season. People's titles will change, people's roles in the squad room will change, people's domestic life—turning 21 is a major passage in life, so it should be for the show as well. With any luck, the special victims unit will still be up and running by the end of the season, but people will go through a lot of personal and professional changes, I think.

Did you catch that? None of Law & Order: SVU’s characters will end Season 21 in the same place they started. If you thought that the Benson and Carisi changes were a lot, there should be more in store for them, and everyone else.

If all of that change has you nervous for the future of the Special Victims Unit, it sounds like it should be safe. Law & Order: SVU’ showrunner indicates that it should still be running at the end of Season 21. As for Benson’s promotion from Lieutenant to Captain, Warren Leight talked about that too. It does not come without a cost. Leight said:

So, it's a promotion for her, but with an emotional cost as well, because I just think that's how things work. But she's the captain now.

Fans of the long-running crime procedural should take heart. They will get a chance to see how that emotional toll plays out throughout Season 21. Law & Order: SVU is not going to end anytime soon, according to Mariska Hargitay. So, there could be many more seasons to explore Benson’s Captain promotion, beyond Season 21.

How Carisi’s career changes will impact him sounds quite intense. Carisi is going from being a detective to working in the District Attorney’s office. Taking on a prominent case solo will not be the first thing he does in his new job, although the Season 21 premiere certainly threw him into the deep end as an ADA. Law & Order: SVU showrunner, Warren Leight, explained saying:

What does it do when you take an experienced detective out of a small unit? It kind of throws everybody off a little bit. What does it do for Carisi? It gives him a little challenge. But he's not ready at the start of the season to go in there and go all Barba on people, he's got to earn his shot to get a big case. We put him through the ropes certainly the first eight or nine episodes of the season. He's doing grunt work in the DA's office under a boss who's not overly empathic.

Do not expect Carisi to be knocking out high-profile all on his own cases right away. According to what Law & Order: SVU’s showrunner is saying, it will be a slow burn. Warren Leight indicates that Carisi will work to prove himself for what is going to be a considerable chunk of Season 21. Based on Leight's stats, Carisi will be doing so for nearly half the season.

Fans will undoubtedly be around to tune in and see how it shakes out. Thankfully, Mariska Hargitay has stayed with the show and will continue to, for a pretty hopeful amount of time. While she nearly quit once, Hargitay and Law & Order: SVU are still going strong! Talk about a lasting partnership!

New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air, Thursdays, at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. The debut of Season 21 has been one of this fall’s premieres.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.