Law And Order: SVU Reveals The Return Of Captain Cragen And More Former Stars For Milestone 500th Episode

Spoilers ahead for the October 14 episode of Law & Order: SVU, and light spoilers for the upcoming 500th episode.

Law & Order: SVU will soon hit a major milestone that few shows ever even get close to: Episode 500. Mariska Hargitay has stuck around for all 23 seasons so far, with Olivia Benson rising up the ranks from a young detective to the captain in charge of a unit that has had a lot of turnover. Fortunately for longtime fans, SVU is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the 500th episode, including some returning familiar faces, and the promo for the big episode reveals some of those who are on the way. Including Captain Cragen! 

The 500th episode of Law & Order: SVU, fittingly called “The Five Hundredth Episode,” will be a special installment for more than one reason. Not only will some iconic SVU characters be back, but Benson will even have some big reasons to smile, which doesn’t happen every week on this show. Check out the promo: 

Welcome back to Law & Order: SVU, Nick Amaro, Melinda Warner, and Donald Cragen! The promo reveals former SVU stars Danny Pino, Tamara Tunie, and Dann Florek back in the mix for the first time in a while. Cragen retired from his office back in Season 15, while Amaro left after Season 16. Warner has popped back in and out a few times, but it’ll still be special to see her back. 

Cragen doesn’t appear to be returning in the flesh, as he only appears via phone video chat, but that’s also only a quick moment in a 15-second SVU promo. Even if he doesn’t have a major role back in the unit, it’s already touching to hear him tell Benson that he’s proud of her now that she occupies the role that used to be his in Special Victims. The big smile on Benson’s face at evidently being surprised by Amaro is honestly so delightful that I’m more than ready to see him back in action. 

Plus, Warner’s line already has me feeling all the warm fuzzies of nostalgia, which isn’t something that can often be said about the show that advertises its “especially heinous” offenses and “vicious felonies” in the opening narration! She said: 

Once an SVU detective, always an SVU detective.

Christopher Meloni only appears in the promo as part of a flashback to back before Stabler abruptly left Benson and SVU, but it’s probably safe to say that SVU wouldn’t produce a milestone 500th episode without including him when he’s as close as Law & Order: Organized Crime! The shows cross over frequently even without such a big event to celebrate.

As for the case, it brings Amaro back because he needs SVU’s help in clearing the name of a man who has been convicted. In the process, he’ll bring somebody from Benson’s past back to her life. Whether that means Benson’s life before she became an SVU detective or earlier in the run of the series remains to be seen. Either way, there’s clearly a lot to look forward to. 

Check out the 500th episode of Law & Order: SVU on Thursday, October 21 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, following the Season 9 premiere of The Blacklist. That’s also going to be a big week for NBC series, as Chicago Fire will hit its 200th episode just the day before SVU hits #500. And there are still more premieres on the way, so check out our 2021 fall TV schedule.

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. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).