Only four episodes in, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spin-off series, Law & Order: Organized Crime, has sent fans reeling with an ambiguous love-confession in Thursday’s crossover episode. Law & Order: Organized Crime marks Christopher Meloni’s (Happy!) return to the franchise as Elliot, nearly a decade after leaving Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and his long-time partner, Mariska Hargitay’s (Lake Placid) Olivia Benson. “Fans have enjoyed the intense chemistry between Benson and Stabler since they were first paired in 1999,” Today says of the duo that many fans have hoped would one-day become more-than-colleagues.
— & (@lawandordertv) April 23, 2021
In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Meloni’s hot-headed Stabler remained loyal to his wife and high school sweetheart Kathy, which did not leave room for Benson and Stabler to explore a romantic relationship. Meloni admitted, in a recent interview with People, that he and Hargitay were not only aware of the audiences’ desire for their characters to explore a relationship, but that it was something the two would actively play around with in a teasing manner. While the death of Stabler’s wife in Law & Order: Organized Crime has sent the character on a downward spiral, many fans are hoping that a relationship with Olivia Benson may await them on the other side of his grief.
Meloni even told People that “there’s a world of possibility,” now that he and Hargitay have been reunited on screen. Thursday’s episode certainly planted a seed of that possibility when the character’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit partner was roped into an intervention with Stabler’s children, meant to address the erratic behavior he has been exhibiting since Kathy’s death. Today provided a brief recap of the actions that led Stabler’s kids to organize an intervention: “in just a couple of episodes he’s gotten seriously beaten up, snapped at everyone around him, kept secrets, told Benson to back all the way off, and in Thursday’s episode was so distracted he caused a car accident, with his young son in the car.”
During the intervention, Stabler snaps a seemingly-unknowing “I love you” toward Olivia, before realizing what he has said and clarifying “I love all of you.” (Law & Order: Organized Crime). “I certainly did not think the line indicated anything romantic,” TVLine reports of the moment, while admitting it may lay the groundwork for something romantic down-the-line for the characters. TVInsider goes as far as to posit that Law & Order: Organized Crime, a shoe-in for season two renewal, had no reason to include this line in the episode aside from intending to pursue a romantic arc with Benson and Stabler in the future.
Today says that romantic relationships in the Law & Order universe are “not usually part of the show’s DNA,” despite the fact that fans have been demanding one between Benson and Stabler for decades. Many of said fans were overjoyed to hear Stabler utter those three words in Thursday’s episode, so much so that they were willing to overlook the unusual circumstances surrounding them. Though fans who want a romance between the former-partners are vocal, many viewers thoroughly enjoyed the platonic partnership and friendship that carried Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for twelve years, before Meloni’s original departure.
Yes, ‘SVU’ fans! After over 20 years, Stabler said *those* 3 words to Bensonhttps://t.co/GiAvnfZNKK
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 23, 2021
“I’m just girding myself for the onslaught,” producer Ilene Chaiken (The L Word, The Handmaid’s Tale) spoke to Law & Order creator’s conundrum of whether to explore a romance between the series long-time partners “no matter what story we wind up telling, I know that there are some folks that are going to want the other story, and we’ll see” (Today).
The freshmen season of Law & Order: Organized Crime will continue on Thursdays, alongside Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, on NBC and Peacock. Fans will have to tune in to discover which direction Stabler and Benson’s recently-reunited relationship travels.