It's been very nearly a full decade since audiences were last able to watch Elliot Stabler solve crimes with his bestie and partner, Olivia Benson, on Law & Order: SVU. And while fans of the character, and Christopher Meloni fans, had long hoped for Stabler to return in some way, it also didn't seem like there was much real hope of that ever happening. But, for roughly the past year, we've been looking forward to just that: Stabler's coming back to SVU, and is also getting his own spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime. Now, Meloni has revealed why he was "intrigued" to revisit Sabler after all of these years.
Along with Mariska Hargitay's Benson, Christopher Meloni was a linchpin of SVU's early days. Stabler and Benson were the detectives we followed the most, and we also had the most time with their families and other personal trials and triumphs. But, all of that came to an abrupt end when contract negotiations broke down between Meloni and NBC, and the actor decided to walk away after the Season 12 finale. Meloni now says that there were several personal reasons which led him to decide that now was the right moment to come back, and noted to Entertainment Weekly:
I was intrigued for a variety of personal reasons. If you have, at least from my perspective, a very well-known and beloved TV character who left abruptly and, I would argue, unceremoniously… there's a built-in recognizability, a thing that needs to be satiated with a sense of closure. Those are all very attractive things.
Honestly, I think it would be fair to say that Christopher Meloni probably shares the opinion of most of the long-time SVU fans out there, who also felt that Stabler's sudden ending happened very "unceremoniously" and wanted "a sense of closure." While Stabler was written off in the Season 13 premiere, we didn't see his character or hear from him directly. Captain Cragen had to be the one to deliver the news to Benson that her partner and friend decided to retire from the force, and then (if memory serves) Stabler wasn't seen or even referred to (at least not in any detail) for basically a decade.
A major aspect of Law & Order: SVU was the deep, true-blue friendship between Stabler and Benson. Fans loved the characters individually, but the duo together was a blockbuster hit among cop procedural partnerships. This was true to the point where, while Meloni was still on the show, many fans wanted very badly for Benson and Stabler to go from friends to...super more than that. And, this was despite the fact that Stabler was a married man who had several children.
As fans were left high and dry when it came to Stabler's long absence, though, so was Benson. While Meloni and Hargitay clearly stayed close friends off-screen (and have shown fans as much on social media over the years), the same can not be said for their characters, who went from seeing each other nearly every day, to Stabler not even bothering to tell his partner that he was done with the police force or to try to keep in touch after the fact. So, nearly everyone involved really felt that need for closure that Meloni speaks of.
Now, of course, we're very close to the point where we can see what happened and why Stabler didn't reach out to his former co-worker. Christopher Meloni will return to Law & Order: SVU on April 1, at 9 p.m. EST, and that episode will lead into a crossover with the debut of Law & Order: Organized Crime, which airs right after.