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Christopher Meloni says ‘hope springs eternal’ for Benson and Stabler relationship

Benson and Stabler
Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni as Benson and Stabler on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit Pic credit: NBC

Christopher Meloni is sharing some exciting new details of Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2, from Elliot Stabler’s new undercover assignment to the possibility of a Stabler-Benson romance.

The actor’s words indicate the second season of the hit spin-off will be deeper and darker than its first year but packed with lots of drama. 

Why Meloni left and then returned to Law & Order

Fans of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit were stunned in 2011 when, without warning, Christopher Meloni announced he was leaving the show after 12 seasons as Elliot Stabler.

The Season 12 finale had ended with Stabler forced to shoot a teenaged girl in the squad room. Yet, the actor exiting the role he had played since the series began was a shock.

Meloni opened up recently that it came down to money issues with NBC offering less pay for fewer episodes and Meloni decided to simply leave. The actor spent several years in small movie roles and the Syfy series Happy.

Fans were ecstatic when Meloni returned for the new Law & Order: Organized Crime spin-off. Speaking to the Television Critics Association press panel for Season 2 of the series, Meloni shared how it was Dick Wolf suggesting the series be broken up into story arcs that intrigued him to return. 

“He thought that area was kind of rich in storytelling ability,” Meloni says. “It would be a good counterweight to tell an eight-episode series. You can dive deeper into the foe [they’re facing].”

Now, Meloni will be tackling some new challenges in Season 2 of Law & Order: Organized Crime.

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Stabler heading to dangerous undercover work

Christopher Meloni
Christopher Meloni as Stabler going undercover in Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2. Pic credit: NBC

As shown in a new promo, Season 2 has Stabler feeling good after Season 1 villain Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott) is in prison. 

However, a power struggle in the New York underworld has kicked off with the powerful Kostas Organization moving to take over the drug trade.

Stabler goes undercover as an arsonist and tangles with Kostas’ enforcer (Vinnie Jones). 

Meloni talked of how Elliot will face the challenge of undercover officers accidentally getting too deep into their role. 

“From what I’ve heard from the undercover [officers] I’ve spoken with, you really kind of do lose yourself in the job. And I think we find Elliot in that place, whether it’s intentional or unconsciously intentional, because I think he was introduced back into the franchise under very stressful circumstances, obviously, both [with] his wife[‘s murder] and trying to come to terms with what, exactly, Benson is to him in his new life, both personally and professionally. So we have Elliot undercover. And I think Benson recognizes certain telltale signs that he might need to talk to people or maybe it’s not the most healthy place for him to be in the moment.”

That last line also touches on another exciting facet of Season 2, which is the possibility that Stabler and ex-partner Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) might finally get together. 

Meloni talks about the Benson/Stabler dynamic

Benson Stabler
Elliot gives a letter to Benson on Law & Order: Organized Crime. Pic credit: NBC

While Hargitay was unable to appear at the panel due to production on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Meloni talked of how the actors’ relationship has impacted their on-screen characters

“I think most of the challenges were from the beginning with the two strong personalities finding each other’s dance steps. At the end of the day, we see each other and know each other at our cores….We have forgiven each other’s trespasses. We’ve quite literally grown up together…I think we’ve always had each other’s best interests at heart. I think now, to focus on her…she is what she puts out there. She is open and honest and trustworthy and a ball of light. She radiates a goodness and an a warmth and inclusiveness. She’s just a wonderful energy. She’s a good egg.”

Meloni was mostly mum on the chances of a romance between the characters, simply stating, “Hope springs eternal. I think it’s going to be a collaborative effort with both showrunners and Mariska and I to figure it all out.”

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Meloni indicates that the undercover job may affect the relationship even as Stabler appears on the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 premiere to aid Benson. 

“It does put a strain on how Benson and Stabler engage each other,” he explained. “But also the writers from both shows have written it in such a way that our lives do overlap and intersect. We engage each other from a more professional angle there for a few shows, and then a little bit from the personal side.”

While the undercover assignment will be thrilling, it’s the personal aspects of Stabler and Benson that might make Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 even better than its first year.

Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 premieres Thursday September 23 at 10/9c on NBC.

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