Law & Order fans have learned “never say never” to an old face popping up in the franchise.
Thanks to its amazingly long life and several spin-offs, Law & Order has a plethora of past characters who make unexpected returns. That was proven just this year when Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) returned to Law & Order: SVU and then began his own spin-off Law & Order: Organized Crime.
He wasn’t alone. SVU also had Rafael Barba returning to face off with Carisi on a case. Also, Annabella Sciorra reprised her Law & Order: Criminal Intent role of Carolyn Barek for an episode.
With a third show, Law & Order: For The Defense, coming this fall, there’s lots more potential for some past Law & Order characters to make appearances. Some are very familiar as long-standing institutions for the show. Others may not be as famous but have important parts to play.
These are ten characters fans would enjoy returning to Law & Order in some way to close out their past storylines while bringing in some present drama.
Anita Van Buren
It’s hard to remember Law & Order before Anita Van Buren took over.
Holding the record for the most episodes of anyone on the show (390 in all), S. Epatha Merkerson was an amazing presence on the show. Anita could keep her detectives in line while also being willing to put herself out there for them.
Anita’s storylines included heavily personal situations like handling her family and a cancer scare. She was also getting engaged just when the original show ended.
Merkerson is busy with Chicago Med, yet it’d be wonderful to see if Anita is still on the job and maybe even getting a promotion which is deserving for one of the show’s most iconic characters.
It’s past time Law & Order corrected one of the worst character exits ever.
Serena Southerlyn’s controversial final scene overshadows how she was one of the longest-serving ADA’s in the show’s history.
Elisabeth Rohm had a fun style with the cool beauty of Serena’s character perfectly complimenting Jack McCoy’s stern persona all while bringing smarts into the courtroom.
However, for all her great traits, what everyone most remembers is Serena being fired by DA Arthur Branch. Most notably, it was Serena questioning if she was being fired due to her sexual orientation that left fans scratching their heads since it had never been discussed or hinted at throughout the show.
It would be beneficial for Law & Order to have Serena return and fix her story arc. Who knows, maybe she’s now an advocate for LGBTQ+ groups and takes part in a case.
At the very least, Rohm could get a better exit than the show gave her last time.
The final main D.A. of the mothership show, Michael Cutter, was also one of the best.
With a terrific balance of Jack McCoy’s temper and Alex Cabot’s dedication, Cutter wasn’t above bending the rules to get a conviction and pull a few fast ones in court.
Linus Roache was captivating in the role with his suave charisma, which he also brought to SVU. Cutter’s direction seemed to be on the upswing, but perhaps he finally got in trouble for the little technicality being that he never graduated undergrad school.
Still, he may have gone into private practice and could be a good aid on a case as his courtroom work was always fun to watch.
A sharp and capable attorney, Casey Novak was a good replacement for the departing Alex Cabot.
The ADA had a learning curve but soon pulled some excellent moves in court to surprise criminals and was not afraid to be in the trenches with SVU on a case.
Diane Neal showed Casey’s passion which got her in trouble for breaking some rules on a case and ultimately found her suspended. She returned, a bit humbler but no less capable in the courtroom.
Novak would share ADA duties with Cabot, and the pair made a good team. She hasn’t been seen for a while, making it unclear whether she’s still with the D.A.’s office or at some other job.
It would be nice to catch up with Casey and see her fun spirit sparking up a case.
One of the new hires in season 13 to make up for the loss of Stabler, Nick Amaro fit in well with the unit.
A strong cop with a passion for justice, Nick handled various ups and downs on the job. Danny Pino sold how he cared for others while often facing challenges with his family.
Amaro’s temper got the best of him too often as he was arrested for beating a suspect and even falsely accused of assault himself. He was also badly wounded in a shootout.
When last seen, Nick had moved to California to reconcile with his wife. Maybe he ended up becoming a cop there and comes back to New York for a case.
It’d be good to see Nick in a better spot than the last time folks saw him.
Fans are hopeful that we finally get the long-awaited Benson-Stabler hookup. Which would make it a rough time for Benson’s past love to show up.
Brian Cassidy was a regular on the first season of SVU, with he and Olivia having a brief off-screen relationship. He returned in season 13, now an undercover detective.
Season 14 revealed Cassidy and Benson had restarted their relationship, which got heated when he was accused of a crime himself. Eventually, they drifted apart.
Dean Winters was excellent in the role, and Cassidy would make sense as an investigator for the D.A.’s office.
Alex Cabot has definitely changed since she began on the show.
The stylish ADA was a top-notch force in court, always there to help the gang out and not afraid to bend the rules if needed. She and Benson were good friends, and actress Stephanie March made the character loved by fans.
Cabot was seemingly killed but actually going into witness protection. She later returned for stints as the ADA.
But the last time she appeared, Cabot had gone rogue, aiding women escaping abusive husbands and ranting about how the system was broken.
It would be good to have her return, maybe with a better attitude but still showing Cabot’s desire to help others find justice.
This is a deeper dive, but it would be a fun re-appearance.
An arc in season 15 of SVU had Rollins hit the skids with her gambling problem. That led to her being threatened by a mobster to ruin a case.
Luckily, the mobster’s Irish enforcer was actually Declan Murphy, an undercover cop who helped Rollins. He later returned to run SVU when Benson was briefly suspended.
It would turn out that Murphy and Rollins had a brief relationship, and he was the father of her first child. He hasn’t been seen since, but it would be a dramatic turn for him to return just as Rollins and Carisi are finally getting closer.
If nothing else, the father of one of her kids could be a more regular presence in Rollins’ life.
It’s time to add to the record.
Richard Belzer currently holds the record for the most appearances by the same character in TV shows. All told, John Munch has appeared in ten series across five different networks.
Briefly running SVU himself, Munch was notable for his sardonic humor and dry wit that always got fans going. While Belzer seems to have retired from the role, it’d be fun to have him pop up in Organized Crime.
Given his infamous love of conspiracies, Munch might have a lot to say about today’s world. It’d also be good to listen to his old wisecracks and bring a little levity to the darker cases.
It’s been a long while since we heard from one of the best D.A.’s in Law & Order history.
Jack McCoy was always fantastic in a courtroom, thanks to Sam Waterston’s terrific performance. No matter the odds, Jack was able to find a way to get a criminal put away, and his speeches in court were a delight.
Jack eventually rose up to become the head D.A. for the New York courts and would pop up on SVU to give advice to other lawyers. It appears he’s now retired but possible he still has some insights to cases.
It would be fun to see Jack pop up once more with some advice to Carisi on a case and his wisdom never going out of style in the Law & Order world.
Law & Order: SVU and Organized Crime all stream on Peacock.