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law and order svu nbc elliot stabler olivia benson

By now all of you Law & Order: SVU fans know that, after almost a full decade away, Christopher Meloni is coming back to portray Elliot Stabler in his own show on NBC. It scored a series order from the network, and was given 13 episodes for its first season, but while fans have been waiting for years to hear that the character would be back, we now know that plans were being put in place to reintroduce Stabler by the end of SVU's record-breaking 21st season. Audiences would have been treated to a return of Stabler's family, and we know exactly how it would have gone down.

Showrunner Warren Leight recently spoke on the Law & Order: SVU Podcast, along with some of his behind-the-scenes collegues, about their dashed plans for the last few episodes of Season 21, as well as how things might pan out for the start of Season 22. Leight has revealed the full plan for those two mysterious characters from the show's past, who would have been Stabler's wife and son. Here's what he had to say:

We had heard distant thunder about Chris Meloni coming back in the fall and we were going to lay a little groundwork for that. We were going to see Kathy Stabler come back very upset. Her son has been rolled by a team of ne'er-do-wells and may have been drugged, and we were going to revisit Simon's seeming overdose and we were going to get to know the stresses on the Stabler family—what had happened to the Stabler family after Elliot both left SVU and apparently left them...It's very hard for me to tell NBCUniversal and Dick [Wolf], ‘Can you guys hold off on introducing Elliot because I have something in mind?

Well, this really was the perfect plan, right? While many fans may not have immediately recognized Kathy or her son with Stabler, you know for a fact that Olivia would have, even after so many years of, apparently, having nothing to do with her former friend's family. It would have been a great surprise and certainly would have been able to get everyone who's been hoping to see Christopher Meloni return as Stabler very, very hype for his comeback.

Long time fans will likely remember that Stabler was known to be very protective of his kids, and tended to see aspects of them in each of the victims he dealt with. He and Kathy had married at 17, and went on to have five children, three girls and two boys. Their daughter Kathleen was known to get into legal trouble a lot, but eventually became an advocate for sexual assault victims after being diagnosed as bipolar. Stabler's son, Dickie, also caused some trouble back in the day, so it's possible that he's the child who would have fallen in with the wrong crowd at the end of SVU's most recent season.

While, to my recollection, Stabler and his wife were still married when he retired from the force off-screen during the Season 13 premiere, they had been known to have problems in the past, even coming close to divorcing at one point. So, it wouldn't be a huge shock to learn that Stabler and Kathy drifted apart again, especially considering what led to him leaving the force.

So, without being able to complete Season 21 of SVU, where does this leave all the plans for Staber's pre-solo show introduction and his family troubles? Warren Leight can confirm one positive, but notes that a lot of the other aspects of this long-hoped for return are up in the air:

It’s pretty clear that Elliot will be in the SVU season opener. Whether we'll get to see his family as well, remains to be seen. There's a lot of moving parts. It's not just about the SVU season opener, it's how do we help launch the new series and how much crossover will there be between Elliot and Olivia as the season goes on.

Did you hear that?! Elliot Stabler is pretty much guaranteed to be in Law & Order: SVU's Season 22 opener! Production is beginning to ramp up again in some parts of the world, so we might (might) actually get to see Christopher Meloni / Stabler at some point this fall, if all goes well.

You can stay tuned to CinemaBlend for word on when to expect Law & Order: SVU's Season 22 premiere, but in the meantime, look into your new options on Netflix, and see what's coming to TV this summer!