Could Law And Order: SVU Be Setting Captain Benson Up For A Change In Her Career?

Spoilers ahead for Episode 18 of Law & Order: SVU Season 23, called “Eighteen Wheels a Predator.”

Law & Order: SVU delivered a new kind of darkness with “Eighteen Wheels a Predator,” with the discovery of not only a serial rapist who had been active across the country for decades, but also a different man who had been assaulting his sister ever since she was a child. Benson wasn’t in the best mood from the very beginning, and it’s hard to blame her for it, but I’m wondering: could SVU be setting her up for a change in her career? 

The darkness of this case isn’t what solely made me start wondering if there’s change on the way for Mariska Hargitay’s character. Benson was clearly not in a good mood from the very beginning after not sleeping, being called into a brutal case in Central Park, and then forced to play politics with McGrath on the scene. She just seemed exhausted with her role at the NYPD. 

Honestly, kudos to her for lasting as long as she has without getting so thoroughly sick of McGrath that she snapped. He has been giving her trouble and interfering with her unit all season, and she already wasn’t disposed to be happy to welcome him after he ousted Chief Garland. (Although Demore Barnes is returning in the next episode to reprise the role.)

Still, Benson being tired of the politics wasn’t the only twist that made me start thinking that she might want to make some changes. As part of a press conference after catching the serial rapist, she delivered her statement to credit NYPD and make McGrath happy, but she didn’t stop there and delivered what was clearly an ad lib: 

You know, actually, one more thing. None of this would’ve been possible without the dedication and experience of SVU Sergeant Odafin Tutuola and Detective Amanda Rollins.

Amen to that, Olivia! She certainly wasn’t exaggerating when she made sure to credit Fin and Rollins (who was finally back from her time with her mom this week along with Carisi) for their “dedication and experience.” They not only flew down to Kentucky on the chance that a victim there had been attacked by the same person who assaulted the woman in Central Park, but helped make the case as airtight as possible. 

It also made me wonder if she has put some thought into passing on the torch to Fin. He has definitely put in the time at Special Victims, and his tenure has far outlasted the likes of Stabler and Crager, whose runs as regulars you can revisit with a Hulu subscription. (Those two recently reunited over on Law & Order: Organized Crime.) A promotion doesn’t exactly match Ice-T’s vision for how he’d like Fin’s story to end, but it would be a development that would change the entire L&O franchise. 

SVU has already been renewed for Season 24, and Mariska Hargitay still seems very enthusiastic about her role in the Law & Order franchise, so I’m not particularly concerned about Benson actually leaving the show. But “Eighteen Wheels a Predator” leaves me thinking that something is going to have to give. 

Ideally, that will be McGrath being ousted and Benson being left alone to do what she does best without interference from higher up the NYPD ladder, but only time will tell. New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, between the original Law & Order at 8 p.m. and Law & Order: Organized Crime (which is getting more dangerous for Stabler, according to one star) at 10 p.m. ET. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.