Spoilers ahead for Episode 2 of Law & Order: Organized Crime, called "Not Your Father's Organized Crime."
Law & Order: Organized Crime hit the ground running with "Not Your Father's Organized Crime" as the first episode to stand completely alone from Law & Order: SVU (although SVU's Benson did make a somewhat uncomfortable appearance). Stabler was of course still dealing with the devastating death of his wife, with the reveal that he's suffering from PTSD and – in true Stabler fashion – refusing to acknowledge it, let alone seek help for it despite the concern of his youngest son and his former partner. He could be a hothead on SVU, and apparently his years as the NYPD's man in Rome didn't make him kick the habit. Christopher Meloni opened up about Stabler's tendency to lash out.
Speaking with press about Law & Organized Crime, Christopher Meloni addressed Stabler's reputation as a "hothead" that started when his character was a regular on Law & Order: SVU and has somewhat continued to his spinoff. Meloni said:
I think that that template was set right from the beginning. I still remember very vividly, Dick [Wolf] wrote the initial SVU pilot. Dick was the one who hired me. And I went to him, and he originally had Elliot Stabler with three kids. I said, I think he needs four. He's like, 'Uh, okay.' I saw this guy as a guy under pressure constantly. And I felt that, and this had a lot to do with after speaking with real SVU detectives, about the pressures that they were under and the crimes that they witnessed, and I knew that I, me, personally, Chris Meloni would have a very difficult time downloading and processing what these real people and heroes do every day, and the things that they see. So that's like kind of the genesis of his [anger]. So it's not like 'Oh, he's a hothead to be a hothead.' I think it's his reaction to injustice. I think, to him injustice makes his head explode. And I think that's also now part of Elliot 2.0, hopefully his evolution towards having a clearer understanding of the world is unjust. And then now how is it that you adapt yourself to realities that keep punching you in the face, literally and figuratively.
According to Christopher Meloni, Elliot Stabler isn't an inherently hotheaded person with a natural inclination to lash out, but rather is driven to his head exploding due to all the injustice he witnesses. Considering the opening narration of SVU literally alludes offenses that are "especially heinous" and "vicious felonies," it's no surprise that SVU would push the character to the breaking point.
And now with Organized Crime, his wife was murdered in the crossover that launched his series and "Not Your Father's Organized Crime" saw Stabler narrowly avert his teenage son being attacked due to his investigation, only to be attacked himself. Basically, it's also not especially surprising to see Stabler not coping well.
After all, Stabler left SVU when he was facing an investigation for shooting and killing somebody, and that was on what was supposed to be a routine case. The story driving Organized Crime is very much not routine for Stabler. Christopher Meloni elaborated on how Stabler is coping with everything he has experienced since returning to New York:
A guy who's dealt with injustice, always one step removed, which is it's a victim that it is my job to go and to attend to. Now, it's how do you attend to your own wounds? How do you attend to this own injustice? How do you carry on carrying that much grief? I asked Dick, you know, can I have four kids and that later was five kids? And carry on through there with financial pressures and all these family pressures. Now deal with your family being literally [and] figuratively blown up? So how do you deal with that, faith-wise and personally? So let's hope that Elliot has found better coping mechanisms, but is still very passionate.
So far, Stabler's top coping mechanisms seem to be to throw himself into work and ignore his own struggles with the loss of his wife, so recovery may be an uphill battle for him. He's not opening up to his son, although that at least makes sense considering Eli's age. Still, he actively told Benson to back off even after he showed gratitude for how she was worried about him, and laughed off the idea that he's suffering from PTSD.
Still, for as long as this case is open, fans can probably rely on him keeping his passion! Hopefully Benson has a part to play in him getting to a better place, but there's probably only so much that the star of one show can do for the star of another. Find out with new episodes of Law & Order: Organized Crime on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, immediately following (and possibly including characters from) Law & Order: SVU at 9 p.m.
In case you missed the first couple episodes of Christopher Meloni's spinoff, you can find Organized Crime streaming on Peacock as well. The show was a hit straight out of the gate after the SVU crossover, so viewers may want to count on Organized Crime returning for at least one more season.