Law And Order: SVU's Captain Benson Just Issued An Ultimatum, So What Comes Next?

mariska hargitay as olivia benson svu season 23 crime scene
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the October 7 episode of Law & Order: SVU on NBC, called “One More Tale of Two Victims.”

Law & Order: SVU said goodbye to Demore BarnesChristian Garland to start Season 23 and replaced him with Chief McGrath. And in case it wasn’t already crystal clear in the Season 23 premiere that McGrath was not going to mesh well with how Olivia Benson handles business in Special Victims, then “One More Tale of Two Victims” proved that she has very little tolerance for his kind of meddling. After McGrath sabotaged a rape victim getting her day in court because he thought she wasn’t reliable enough compared to the daughter of a fellow NYPD officer, Benson had an ultimatum for him that could be pretty important. 

Benson already had very little patience for McGrath at the beginning of the episode when he started talking through all the SVU cases with her, micromanaging and dropping some pretty insensitive comments. Everything started to fall apart when McGrath told SVU to drop pursuing the case of a single mom who was assaulted with her 3-year-old son in bed with her, because he argued that her history combined with a custody battle meant she wouldn’t be believable in court. He was more than willing to pull out all the stops once the daughter of an officer was assaulted with the same MO, and even when SVU found DNA evidence to tie the perp to both cases, McGrath pulled strings to make sure only the cop’s daughter’s case was pursued in court. 

And Benson, bless her, was not happy, and she hasn’t been doing this job for more than twenty years to let a man like McGrath mess up how she and her team chases justice for victims. After spending the whole case fighting against his attempts to stop their investigation into the first victim while doubting the loyalties of Detective Velasco, she was in no mood to be trifled with. Proving that he had no idea who he was dealing with, McGrath said at the end of the episode that he didn’t think Benson would “be so upset about this.” Benson didn’t mince words in firing back at her boss:

I am very upset. Chief, I need to run my unit the way I see fit. The Crystal Nunezes of the world, they matter in my unit. They matter in my squad, just as much as a white shirt’s daughter... But when I give my word, I keep it. And I won’t be part of this double standard ever, ever again. SVU’s obligation is to help victims become survivors, not traumatize them all over again... I think that it should have been her decision, not yours. And just to be clear, as I told you before in my office, I won’t turn my back on any victim. And if you stand between me and any victim of sexual assault ever again, you can take my shield and my gun. In fact, if that’s not understood, take it now.

It was a bold ultimatum, but McGrath was the one to bend first and said that he thinks they “understand each other.” It was also a speech that just proved all over again (to me, anyway) that Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson is the heart of the Dick Wolf TV universe, and nobody else on TV could have put as much into those comments as she did. And whether or not she was willing to follow through if he’d called her on it, he at least seemed to believe that she would walk out if he didn’t stop his meddling. 

And honestly, she seems like she meant it. Her NYPD doctor floated the idea of her using her injury as a reason to retire from the force, with full benefits and solid pay after what happened to her, suggesting that she’d be able to spend more time with Noah while he was still young. She insisted that she’s not ready to retire, and I know that I can’t see her going anywhere when there are men like McGrath who would turn Special Victims into a unit that doesn’t do justice to the victims who need allies. 

But was her speech enough to stop McGrath in the long run? Velasco is still his plant, and Benson dropped an ultimatum on her superior officer. He has a lot of allies higher up the ladder at the NYPD, while Benson sometimes is all that holds Special Victims together when they have to deal with the worst of the worst. She’s ride-or-die for her unit, but now she might have made an enemy within the force. 

Find out what happens next for Benson and the rest with new episodes of Law & Order: SVU on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. SVU will be crossing over with Law & Order: Organized Crime again with the next episode, and Rollins and Carisi are seemingly still keeping their romance a secret. Hopefully McGrath won’t find out about it before they disclose, or that could cause some serious trouble! The 500th episode is also fast-approaching and the Law & Order shows keep scoring big in the ratings, so keep on tuning in. 

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).