Tonight is another crossover episode for Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime, but according to OC showrunner Ilene Chaiken not in the truest sense of the word.
“This finale has a reference to something that carries through, but it is not what I think of as a fully evolved crossover episode,” she tells Monsters & Critics in this exclusive interview. “It is just an acknowledgment that we are all living in the same universe.”
That “reference” happens when Benson ((Mariska Hargitay) asks Stabler (Christopher Meloni) for help with a drug case where the victim winds up dead of an overdose, and the cops trace the drugs he was given back to a bootleg form of “purple magic,” the illegal drug being distributed by Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott). So, the two detectives team up to try to find the bad guys distributing the drugs and tie it back to Wheatley.
The drug bust doesn’t go as planned, but the one thing that we do know going into the episodes is that Wheatley is already in custody. But with Organized Crime set up as a series designed to tell serialized stories, is the OC season finale the end for the villain we truly love to hate?
“It is the completion of this arc. It doesn’t mean that this story is completely over, but we will begin telling a new story when we return in the fall,” says Chaiken, who agrees that McDermott has done such a great job as Wheatley that it would be a shame to lose him.
“I am not sure exactly how to navigate this question because the business side of this isn’t done yet and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we hope this won’t be the last you see of Richard Wheatley. That’s all I can say at the moment,” she adds.
With that bit of scoop to mull over, Chaiken also talks about Stabler’s future now that he will actually have time to grieve for his wife Kathy (Isabel Gillies), what will happen with his son Eli (Nicky Torchia), and will Sgt. Ayanna Bell’s (Danielle Moné Truitt) nephew’s lawsuit against the NYPD destroy her career.
Monsters & Critics: Now that Stabler has found his wife’s killer, how will he deal with it? He was so focused on finding her, he didn’t really have time to grieve.
Ilene Chaiken: No, he hasn’t, so I would venture that he is still a man who is grieving, and if you think about it in terms of real-time, he’s just about to begin figuring out what his life is now that he’s gotten some form of closure with that one question.
M&C: But is it even worse because he was attracted to Angela Wheatley? He wanted to make love to her.
Ilene Chaiken: It might well be. It’s my opinion and your opinion. You are talking about the future. You are talking about stories that we haven’t been told yet. I don’t think that Stabler can ever go there with Angela Wheatley, knowing what he now knows. As for self-recrimination for whatever he felt or contemplated that is something he will still have to deal with.
M&C: I thought we were going to see more of the family this season, especially his son. Stabler saved him in that episode where he took the beating. What’s next for the family?
Ilene Chaiken: The family is very much a part of this story; the family is very much a part of Stabler’s life. In the course of our short eight episodes, Eli moved out for a little bit after episode 4, which was a good parenting decision. I would venture now that Richard Wheatley is in custody, that Eli will move back in with his father.
I would like to think that now that they’re committed to staying in New York that Stabler is going to move out of that dismal corporate apartment and try and make a home, which is something that he never had to do when Kathy was there.
M&C: There was that really interesting line where Richard was confronting Angela and he taunted her with the fact that there was another woman who was No. 1 in Stabler’s life, and he didn’t mean Kathy. Is that going to be explored at all?
Ilene Chaiken: It is constantly being explored. Richard Wheatley is a manipulator, and Stabler could care less about what Wheatley said, but Wheatley has proven to have some insight and some keen perceptive abilities, so the words that he said bear further examination.
M&C: We all knew who Wheatley was referring to. After all, why would Stabler need to go 10 years without contacting Olivia if there wasn’t some grain of truth in it?
Ilene Chaiken: Exactly. There is a whole lot of emotion and psychology wrapped up in that story.
M&C: Chief Garland (Demore Barnes) comes to the aid of Sgt. Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt) in the finale when her life partner decides to sue the NYPD. Is her career really in jeopardy?
Ilene Chaiken: Her career is affected by this. I would say it is in jeopardy. I don’t think it is irreparably damaged, but she is having to make personal decisions about what she holds most dear, about where her loyalties lie.
M&C: What conversations did you and Dick Wolf have about Black Lives Matter and police reform when you agreed to show run this?
Ilene Chaiken: When Dick and his colleagues came to me about taking on this project, that was one of the things they made clear that was very, very important to them. It is not as if I said, “Okay, but.” It was, “If that is what you want to do, I am even more interested because it is important, and important to me, and it is really rich and challenging from a show running point of view.”
We talked about it and we talk about it extensively ongoing, whether we struck the right balance, how do we make it feel organic and truthful, how can we tell a story that is character-driven and personal but still encompasses these themes.
M&C: What is the next chapter for Organized Crime?
Ilene Chaiken: In this coming season, we’re going to, as promised, tell three different stories. I don’t know exactly what the numbers will be yet, but let’s say eight-episode arcs. One could be longer or one less here and there. We will continue to tell serialized stories in which our characters continue to carry with them the lessons learned and the relationships from each previous story, but we will tell three distinct, discrete stories.
M&C: Dick is known for ripped-from-the-headlines stories, so will they be that? Was the selling of black market COVID drugs real?
Ilene Chaiken: It was real. We will continue to look for current stories. Our stories will always be current and reflect what’s going on in the world. It might not be as explicit as, “Oh, yeah. I know what story they’re doing right now.” I hope they will always feel that you recognize the world and the things that are happening around us.
The two-hour finale of Law & Order: SVU and Organized Crime begins at 9 p.m. ET/8c on NBC.