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Law & Order: Barba returns for a shocking crossover event

Raul Esparaza
Raul Esparaza returns as Barba on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Pic credit: NBC

It’s good news/bad news situation for Law & Order fans. 

The bad news is that both Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime are taking an extended break of new episodes until December 9.

The good news? When they do return, it’ll be with a big two-part crossover event. 

This leads to more good news in that the crossover will feature the return of Rafael Barba (Raul Esparza). The bad news? He’s defending none other than Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott).

This sets the stage for a trial that may tear the Law & Order units apart.

Why a delay of new episodes for Law & Order?

Usually, November is one of the most critical parts of the television calendar due to “sweeps.” It’s usually a period where TV shows go all out with new episodes of shows and often push some “events” for advertisers.

Thus, taking half of November off is a bit jarring. Law & Order isn’t alone, as the One Chicago series will likewise be off until December 8.

Both Law & Order series were expected to obviously be off on November 25th, which is Thanksgiving Day. However, to have nearly a month-long delay before any new storylines (especially given both shows took a week off in late October) is surprising.

It’s possible that NBC wants to avoid the glut of usual November programming, including NFL Thursday night games. As of now, reruns of previous episodes of both shows will air on November 18. 

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Thanksgiving Day will feature a primetime NFL game with the New Orleans Saints hosting the Buffalo Bills. 

December 2 will be dominated by Annie Live, a live version of the classic stage musical starring Taraji P. Henson.

Law & Order will be back on December 9 and in a big way. 

Barba returns…on the wrong side

The return of Rafael Barba is a big deal for the show. The former ADA was a popular face on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Seasons 14 through half of Season 19. 

Barba returned in Season 22’s Sightless In a Savage Land, where he clashed with Carisi in court defending a veteran who killed his daughter’s abuser. 

Now, Barba returns on December 9 in the two-part crossover where he defends Richard Wheatley, the man behind the murder of Stabler’s wife, Kathy. 

The Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 premiere revealed Wheatley had cut a deal with the feds, giving up info on other criminals to get nearly all charges against him dropped. The big remaining one is setting up Kathy’s murder with the chief witness being Wheatley’s ex-wife Angela (Tamara Taylor).

Needless to say, Benson is shocked at Barba even considering working for Wheatley. Why this former district attorney would switch sides like this is baffling, and given Barba’s skill in court, the prosecutor has their work cut out for them. 

Unlike the SVU team, Stabler doesn’t have a connection to Barba and all he’ll see is another slimy lawyer trying to get his wife’s killer out of prison. Naturally, this puts Benson in the middle as she’s worried Stabler may cross a line.

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Stabler just came out of a harrowing case stopping the Kosta Organization, so seeing Wheatley perhaps getting out of jail could break him. Wheatley has been quiet for this arc of Law & Order: Organized Crime, but this could be his big comeback. 

Details are tight for now, but the crossover promises that when Law & Order Thursdays return in a month, it’ll be worth the wait for an epic event that will rock both shows.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 and Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 return Thursday, December 9 at 9/8c on NBC. 

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