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What Law And Order: SVU's Shocking Twist For Benson Could Mean For The Rest Of Season 23

Spoilers ahead for the midseason premiere of Law & Order: SVU Season 23, called “Silent Night, Hateful Night.”

Law & Order: SVU kicked off the new year with a holiday episode that was anything but merry and bright, and the midseason premiere ended on a shocking twist for Olivia Benson. Although she and the rest of the cops working the hate crimes case did save the day and stop the worst from happening, Benson had to take some drastic action, and it could well continue to affect Season 23 in 2022. She killed a man in public to stop the situation from going from bad to so very much worse. 

Apparently, fans should have counted on a lot more coming out of this episode that some awkwardness between Rollins and Murphy after his return to New York! All hands were on deck for “Silent Night, Hateful Night,” with Special Victims teaming up with the Hate Crimes division to work around the clock starting on Christmas Eve to try and stop the series of assaults escalating into a series of bombings. It was a very close call, as one of the violently racist bad guys was moments away from setting off a bomb he was carrying in a backpack, but Benson shot him in the head and killed him before he could. 

Considering there were people all around and a Christmas tree in the background, it wasn’t exactly shielded from the public eye, and the man’s accomplice had a surprising reaction to watching him be shot and killed, as she said: 

Thank you. You just gave the movement the martyr we needed.

Now, it was clearly a good shoot, and there is no reason why Benson should face any professional consequences for killing the man. She saved a lot of lives, including her own and several other NYPD officers as well as the countless civilians who were in the area. That doesn’t mean she won’t feel any effects the shooting, however. Making captain has meant that she’s not in the thick of the action quite as constantly as she was in her earlier years as a Special Victims detective. 

There is the concern that Benson accidentally made a martyr for the racist movement that caused so much damage over the holidays on SVU. She had no choice in the matter, but if the news of what exactly happened gets out, she could have attracted the attention of some very bad people. With how high-profile the case was combined with the number of people who were in the area, it seems likely that word will get out that she shot the man. And that probably wouldn't be good news for her. 

There’s also the fact that shooting a man in the head could take an emotional toll on Benson. That’s not to say that it would affect her job performance, but she has already been through a lot in a season when the idea of retirement was suggested to her. Plus, she used plastic bullets for a time when she was a detective, so using lethal force clearly isn’t her preferred way of catching the bad guys. She has to be the rock for Special Victims; could her steadfastness be affected by having to kill the man?

I do find myself wondering if this will come up between her and Stabler over on Law & Order: Organized Crime, assuming SVU and OC aren’t done crossing over for the 2021-2022 TV season. They did just resolve to rekindle their friendship in the OC midseason finale, and Stabler is no stranger to crossing lines. Even though Benson was fully justified and even necessary, it could remain on her mind.

Only time will tell, however. This episode had so much going on that Carisi didn’t even appear, although he’ll be back next week. Catch new episodes of Law & Order: SVU on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, ahead of Law & Order: OC at 10 p.m. ET. The original Law & Order is on the way back as well and will join the other two on Thursday nights, as The Blacklist moves to Fridays in the winter TV schedule.

Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.