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While it's still rare for actors and TV creators to get to revisit beloved characters / shows from their past in an official capacity, it is becoming more of a possibility than ever before. One such upcoming opportunity which fans have been looking forward to for almost a full decade, is the return of Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler, a character who was introduced on Law & Order: SVU and remained an important part of the series for 12 seasons. Now, though, SVU's former showrunner is looking back and reflecting on what he would change if he were to help create that iconic character all over again.
Neal Baer, who worked as the showrunner for Law & Order: SVU from 2000 through 2011, played a huge part in helping to craft the character of Elliot Stabler and make him someone that fans have been dying to see again, even after so many years off screen. But, in looking back on Stabler now, Baer says he would definitely do some things differently, if he had the chance to go back. Here's what he told Variety:
If I were back on SVU, I would address the aspirational elements on the show. I think the show is very important in depicting victims of what were once thought unspeakable crimes; now they are crimes that are talked about. It was a really important conduit for that. But on the other hand, Elliot Stabler was smacking people around, and I wouldn’t do that now.
Oooh, yeah. Because fans have wanted to see Stabler again so badly, I've written quite a lot about the character over the past few years, and while I was absolutely a viewer of SVU in those early days, even I had forgotten that, Stabler? Well, he was not known for being gentle and impartial when it came to dealing with potential criminals on the show.
Not only was Stabler "smacking people around," as Neal Baer noted in his interview, but the character was actually known for having quite the temper when dealing with suspects. Baer once admitted that Benson and Stabler were created sort of as two sides of a coin, with Benson being the compassionate one whose focus is on helping the victims of sex crimes, and Stabler being the one who represents the rage of the audience at what's been done to those victims. With that, Stabler was the one who often got into trouble for the way he treated perpetrators.
There were several plotlines on SVU which involved Stabler's anger at suspects and his use of excessive force, where his actions either led to quicker confessions or complicated investigations even more. He came close to murdering a serial killer once, after he and Benson caught the man in the act of trying to kill a young girl, with Benson finally being able to get through to Stabler enough to stop him.
The Season 12 finale saw Stabler shooting and killing a young woman who had opened fire in the squad room, and with that being the sixth such incident on his record, he had to commit to a review of his complete personnel file, anger management classes and a psychological evaluation to keep his job. Of course, Stabler didn't agree to the terms, and abruptly retired from the force (off screen) in the Season 13 premiere.
For reasons which are probably very obvious to everyone, Neal Baer acknowledges that this pattern of behavior wouldn't be allowed for Elliot Stabler if he could go back and write the character now. And, as we've heard in recent weeks, there are a lot of showrunners for police series currently rethinking how the characters behave and trying to figure out how to deal with the current climate in storylines when they return to the air.
As most fans know by now, Christopher Meloni is bringing Elliot Stabler back this fall for Law & Order: Organized Crime. One of the things Stabler will have to deal with, coming back to the force after all of this time, will be dealing with a justice system that's seen its reckoning come and big changes being made in the way things are done. He's really not going to be able to get rough with perps, and still have very many fans on his side right now.