Law & Order: SVU has only just wrapped on what was one of its most intense and unpredictable seasons, delivering a pandemic (sort of), increased accountability, and of course the return of Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler for Law & Order: Organized Crime. Still, SVU showrunner Warren Leight is already looking ahead to the milestone that the long-running series will hit in the 2021-2022 season: the 500th episode. And no, that's not a typo!
As of the end of Law & Order: SVU Season 22 in early June, the show had aired a grand total of 494 episodes and will easily hit 500 after it returns for Season 23. In fact, if not for the production complications that cut Season 21 short and resulted in fewer episodes of Season 22, SVU would have hit 500 before the 22nd season even wrapped. So perhaps it's not surprising that the showrunner is already thinking about Episode 500. Warren Leight previewed the milestone episode to Give Me My Remote, saying:
We have begun to talk about episode 500, but I can’t say more than that. I think we have a pretty cool idea for that.
Warren Leight may not have dropped any tantalizing details about what fans can expect from the plot when SVU hits the big 5-0-0 in Season 23, but I for one will take "a pretty cool idea" at this point! A show even coming up with cool ideas after 20+ seasons and airing nearly 500 episodes is pretty impressive, especially considering how many "especially heinous" – to quote the opening narration – sexually-based offenses the show has had to come up with already.
And it's pretty fitting that Law & Order: SVU is hitting this milestone (and guaranteed one more season even beyond Season 23) in a season that sees yet another Law & Order series join the already expansive Dick Wolf TV universe, following the Season 22 that saw SVU successfully launch the Organized Crime spinoff via a much-hyped backdoor pilot. That said, showrunner Warren Leight isn't imagining a celebration of SVU's 500th episode involving crossovers with its spinoffs Organized Crime and/or the new For the Defense. Leight said:
I would like at least part of the 500th to be [ours]…sometimes it’s nice to have it be your birthday party and not a group birthday party. It’s okay for people to come to the party, but it feels like 500 is an insane milestone. And so I would hope we have a moment to acknowledge it. Obviously, in the episode, we won’t say happy 500—but maybe I will look for a way to cheat that in.
Fear not, Stabler fans! Warren Leight's comments about the 500th episode indicate that it wouldn't necessarily be out of the question for characters from other shows to turn up, so Christopher Meloni could take a break from Organized Crime's intensity to drop by SVU. And there will technically be characters from a grand total of eight other shared universe shows that could turn up, thanks to One Chicago and FBI/Most Wanted/International (hopefully with one memorable character returning) on top of the Law & Order spinoffs, but I'm guessing the closest thing to a sure thing would be Meloni as Stabler.
And honestly, Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T deserve the majority of the attention in Episode 500, I'd say, after how long they've stuck around and brought their characters to life! The only bad news here is really that Episode 500 is still a ways off. Law & Order: SVU will return to NBC with new episodes in the fall, and with the current episode count at 494, there's no guarantee that Episode 500 will air before the winter break.
A lot likely depends on when exactly in the fall that SVU returns and whether it gets back its normal 20+ episode count. In the meantime, our 2021 summer TV premiere schedule can point you toward some options to fill up primetime during the wait for more SVU.