Spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of Law & Order: Organized Crime on NBC, called "Forget It, Jake; It's Chinatown."
The first season of Law & Order: Organized Crime came to an end with a finale that delivered justice for Kathy Stabler, set Richard Wheatley up for a potentially long stay behind bars (although potentially not, knowing Wheatley), nearly killed off Angela Wheatley, and brought over Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson from Law & Order: SVU for one final crossover of the 2020-2021 TV season. And Benson turning up to support Stabler brought me to the realization that the Organized Crime crossovers with SVU were the best parts of Season 1.
Despite both shows having "Law & Order" in the title and following the same basic format, Organized Crime and SVU are very different. Of course, SVU had already run for more than two decades by the time Organized Crime premiered back in April, so that show is packed with fleshed-out characters to go with the terrible crimes that the opening narration explicitly describes as "especially heinous" and "vicious felonies."
Organized Crime was dark and dense almost from the very beginning, with Stabler as the only major character viewers may have already known and could connect with right off the bat, which stood out particularly given that Christopher Meloni returned to launch his spinoff via an SVU backdoor pilot. The Organized Crime story started on SVU with a familiar cast of characters before being moved to an entirely new show with an almost entirely new cast; is it any surprise that OC was arguably most successful when able to pull in some familiar faces from the parent show?
Some of the biggest emotional beats of Law & Order: Organized Crime so far have been directly tied to SVU characters, particularly Benson. Fans got the messy "I love you" confession during his intervention, Benson trying to talk him into getting treatment for his PTSD, and Stabler wanting to reach out. Even an intense scene between Stabler, Wheatley, and Angela became all the more layered when Wheatley alluded to Stabler's love for Benson without even dropping her name.
Throw in some appearances by Carisi and Garland, and crossovers from SVU characters delivered some of the brighter moments of a series that certainly isn't anything light. The sense of Stabler's isolation away from the people he worked with for so long in Special Victims was actually very effective for his mindset on Organized Crime in Season 1, but I still found myself waiting to see if Benson was going to turn up in most episodes.
Of course, part of that is due to the enduring chemistry and energy that Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay bring to their scenes together, but the SVU crossovers did a lot of heavy lifting in bringing emotional weight to Organized Crime. For better or worse, the new show is very plot-heavy and very serialized, which can work against it for viewers like myself who tend to value character development over just the bonkers plot twists.
The various shows of the Dick Wolf TV universe have mastered the art of the crossover, with the launch of Organized Crime proving that the Law & Order corner of the Dick Wolf universe can deliver major and mini crossovers just as well as the three shows of One Chicago on NBC Wednesday nights. As for how those crossovers will or won't continue in Season 2, the first season did end on some cliffhangers, one of which had Benson on hand.
Plus, Wheatley is still alive with every reason to hold a grudge against Stabler, and Stabler's unwise use of the "Liv" nickname in front of Wheatley allowed him to identify Benson. He's still well-connected despite being taken into custody, and she could be in very real danger from him.
Not to wish ill on Benson, but that could definitely be a thrill to watch, and I know I'd get a kick out of Stabler having to explain to Benson about Wheatley targeting her because he thinks she's the real love of his life. That said, Organized Crime is serialized, and Season 2 is expected to see Stabler and Co. tackle a new case, despite some cliffhangers at the end of Season 1.
Both Law & Order: Organized Crime and Law & Order: SVU will return to NBC on Thursdays in the fall for the 2021-2022 TV season, and a third Law & Order hour is on the way as the latest spinoff. For now, you can check out our summer TV premiere guide for some upcoming viewing options, or just stick with watching and rewatching Organized Crime and SVU all over again with episodes streaming on Peacock and Hulu.