The long wait for the reunion between Law & Order: SVU's Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler is finally coming to an end thanks to the upcoming return of Christopher Meloni to his old Law & Order stomping grounds, but a lot has happened over the decade since the partners and best friends went their separate ways. Between the circumstances of Stabler's departure and what is going to happen to bring them back together, there are a few ways that the reunion could go down, especially in light of the first Organized Crime trailer.
So, with the countdown to the big Law & Order: SVU/Organized Crime spinoff on, let's break down what little we've seen of the spinoff so far and what it could mean for the Benson/Stabler reunion. The first trailer that released was more of a teaser than anything else, but it does show Stabler's half of what looks like an emotional conversation, as he says:
You know how so much time has passed that you can't reach out? Days turn into months turn into years. I just kept waiting for the right moment.
Fans who have stuck with Law & Order: SVU ever since Christopher Meloni's final episode in Season 12 can surely relate to days turning into months turning into years without seeing Stabler and Benson together! The long span of time means that meeting up again might come with a lot of complications, plus there's the fact that Stabler is returning to the NYPD to rebuild his life after a devastating personal loss.
There are a lot of variables in play heading into the big meeting, and I can see three scenarios that could make sense after all this time. Let's start with the happiest possibility!
A Happy Reunion
Olivia and Stabler were rock solid as partners for most of their shared 12 seasons of Law & Order: SVU, and their friendship created some of the brightest moments of a series that needs its bright spots in between all the heinous crimes and sexually based offenses. Sure, they had their fights, but they loved each other, and what's a decade or so apart when you have as strong of a bond as they did?
Besides, as Benson said back when she first found out that Stabler had decided to leave SVU, he more than earned his retirement from the unit after everything he went through. Plus, Season 22 of SVU has seen Benson reflecting on how much time she has spent in the unit, and she and Fin are clearly outliers for sticking around for so long. Maybe Benson and Stabler will just be happy to be together again, and presumably put their heads together again to solve crime. Then again...
An Uncomfortable Reunion
As much as Benson didn't blame her partner for needing to turn in his papers and step away from Special Victims, I think she's entitled to have some hurt feelings about how he did it. Christopher Meloni's last appearance as Stabler was the Season 12 finale, but it wasn't until Season 13 premiered that SVU revealed how he was being written out: Cragen told Benson that Stabler was quitting, and Stabler didn't give Benson so much as a heads up. She ended the episode in tears. Not cool, Stabler!
While Stabler being written out off-screen had to happen due to Christopher Meloni's departure and SVU didn't really have the opportunity to set up a poignant final scene between the partners, that's what happened in SVU canon, and there's no ignoring everything that happened to Benson over the past ten years. She has gone through hell and back, while also earning promotions and taking in a son. And short of SVU bringing Stabler back to reveal that he has been living in a cave for a decade with no means of reaching out to Benson, I'm going to be firmly Team Benson.
He does seem at least somewhat apologetic in the trailer with his line about waiting for "the right moment" to reach out, but I would welcome a good explanation for why he seemingly went radio silent on somebody who he once spent most of his waking hours with. An uncomfortable reunion might be necessary if they're going to get back on equal footing with each other and hash some things out. That said, I'm willing to change my tune depending on what exactly brings Stabler back.
Stabler is going to be brought back into the NYPD to try and dismantle the most powerful crime syndicates for Law & Order: Organized Crime after a devastating personal loss, and teases back before production shutdowns had to change the plan for Stabler's return indicated that he might lose some people he cares about. If things get as bad for Stabler as it seems they might, I can't imagine Benson prioritizing any baggage over what he's going through.
The circumstances of how he left and that he stayed away might just be water under the bridge in light of whatever happens to him and his family that he comes back. Benson has built a good life for herself anyway, and her career might not be what it is today if she'd remained partnered with Stabler. Who knows? Maybe she won't even want to hold him to task at all for how he left and didn't reach out despite so much that has happened between the end of Season 12 and his upcoming return in Season 22.
At the very least, I can clearly hold a grudge against Stabler on her behalf if he doesn't make amends for his part of what created so much distance between what was once one of the closest duos on network television. If we assume that Stabler is speaking to Benson in the trailer, however, I think SVU and Organized Crime could be taking the steps to rebuild the friendship, even if the two halves of the duo will be on different shows. Take a look:
Personally, I'm leaning toward the bittersweet scenario of a lot of things going initially unsaid because Stabler has gone through something horrible, and Benson won't complicate their reunion right off the bat when he's already struggling. On the whole, however, I'm just glad that Stabler is finally coming back, not just to reunite with Benson, but also to answer some questions and launch another new show in the expansive Dick Wolf universe.
See the return of Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler with the Law & Order: SVU/Law & Order: Organized Crime two-part crossover event that will launch the new series on Thursday, April 1 starting at 9 p.m. ET.