In the realm of television copaganda, we all have our one weakness. Mine is Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, a show whose reruns raised me, whose characters endlessly entertained me, and whose snatched from the headlines plots were... well they were certainly plots. So it was only appropriate that I tune in for the event of a lifetime: The return of Detective Elliot Stabler to the Law and Order universe.
On Thursday, NBC aired a two-hour crossover event featuring an episode of SVU followed by Law and Order: Organized Crime, a new show following Stabler as he joins the NYPD’s organized crime task force. That’s right, Christopher Meloni reprising his role as the biggest hothead in New York City, eager to crack some skulls and whip up some justice. As someone who hardly watches episodes from the post-Stabler era of SVU, seeing his seething Catholic energy again was like getting back in touch with an old friend.
But our reunification couldn’t top the one between Stabler and his old partner, Olivia Benson, (Mariska Hargitay)who is now the head honcho of SVU.
Major spoilers ahead.
So seeing Stabler reunite with Benson for the first time in a decade was enough to make me squeal at my television screen and whisper, “now kiss...”
Unfortunately, this moment 10 years in the making happened under some deeply fucked up circumstances: Elliot’s wife and mother of their zillion (okay, six) Catholic children, Kathy, was gravely injured in a car bomb. The rest of the episode was spent trying to figure out who planted the bomb, listening to Stabler try to explain why he didn’t reach out to Benson in the last decade, and killing Kathy... slowly.
It was clear from the half-hour mark that the show was going to kill her off. Her health status was far too touch and go, and what better way to motivate Stabler’s quest for vengeance in his own program than by stuffing his wife in the fridge?
I know that supporting an illicit affair between Benson and Stabler while Kathy was still up and kicking would have been messed up, but somehow, I feel even more guilty about wanting Benson and Stabler to fuck now that she’s out of the picture.
Maybe it stems from the fact that SVU did Kathy dirty. She already almost died in a car crash years prior (while pregnant!). Now, she had to slowly die from a ruptured spleen for a full hour while Benson and Stabler repeatedly gave each other Meaningful Looks? And the only time Kathy was lucid, she was talking about the beauty of Benson and Stabler’s relationship, going on about how“in sync” they were. Man, what?
Was Kathy giving Elliott her blessing? This is too fucked up for me to think about!
Did I crave the sexual tension between the two former partners? Yes, yes I fucking did. In an SVU podcast featuring Meloni and Hargitay, Hargitay said that a viewer emailed her after watching the episode and said, “My favorite moments are when you [and Elliot] look at each other without saying anything.” Same! But I still felt guilty about it, because killing off Kathy felt cheap.
Benson showed up a couple of times during the premiere of Law and Order: Organized Crime, which immediately followed SVU, and you could still cut the sexual tension with a knife. We’re told that Stabler wrote her a letter with all his feelings in it and wanted Benson to read it whenever she was ready. By the end of the action-packed episode, we find out that Benson did read it and is ready to confront Stabler about it, but he’s too busy doing detective shit to discuss it. Will we ever know what’s in the letter? Will Benson make a cameo in future episodes? Will we ever see those two half-naked together again thanks to some scheme to avoid getting murdered by exotic pet smugglers?
I’m not sure, but if the answer is no, at least I’ll always have this thumbnail of Meloni and Hargitay looking like they want me as their third.