Law & Order fans will get some major Benson-Stabler drama this season.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit showrunner David Graziano and Law & Order: Organized Crime showrunner Bryan Goluboff have shared how some coming crossovers will bring the relationship of Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) to a new level.
That will include Benson learning more of what Stabler was up to since leaving the NYPD a decade ago. Meanwhile, Stabler will be learning more about Benson’s romances since they last parted.
This will connect in both the big three-part Law & Order crossover that kicks off the seasons on September 22 and some future interaction, perhaps before Christmas.
However, it’s possible this may not lead to a full romance but rather more drama, particularly with hints a tragedy is coming to Stabler’s family.
This should lead to some major drama as the always intriguing Benson-Stabler relationship takes some new turns this year.
The Benson and Stabler relationship in the last few years
It rocked Olivia Benson hard when Elliot Stabler left the SVU team after the end of Season 12. Losing the one stable male relationship in her life was a blow that took a long while for Benson to recover from.
She was just as thrown when Stabler returned in 2021, seeking justice for the murder of his wife, Kathy. Stabler said he had been working overseas with some international police forces but didn’t go into detail.
Since then, the pair have worked together on a few cases but still some tension. A difficult Christmas episode (set amid the trial of Richard Wheatley) included Benson telling Stabler of some of her romances, including now-deceased Internal Affairs officer Tucker.
The pair did reunite with Stabler meeting Benson’s adopted son Noah. However, showrunners for both Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime promise that the pair will have more time to talk soon.
Speaking to some fans on his Instagram page a few weeks ago, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit showrunner David Graziano clarified the pair would have a talk on their time apart, including Benson’s clash with killer William Lewis.
“It will not happen on Christmas, but in the days leading up to the holiday — which can be a time of deep reflection for people…if I had my druthers (and I am willing to duke it out for said druthers) O and E would have a much needed catharsis in the days leading up to the holidays.”
Law & Order: Organized Crime showrunner Bryan Goluboff clarified to Give Me My Remote that the series will also explore just what Stabler was up to in Italy, which can impact some cases in the present.
“We’re also doing things that expand our knowledge of what happened to him in Italy. So those two storylines are going to play together beautifully: SVU is going to deal with some of the personal changes he went through in Italy, and we’re going to deal with some of the costs of what he did professionally in Italy. And [Olivia]s’s going to open up some of those things that we’re going to build upon.”
Goluboff added it’s tricky to pull this relationship off over two shows, but they are trying “to have a very easy back and forth…so that they can exist a little bit more in the same universe”—notes, “I think we found something in [SVU’s “I Thought You Were on My Side”], which is…Astaire and Rogers, you don’t want to see them talk; you want to see them dance.”
How will Benson and Stabler’s relationship unfold?
The key question is if this partnership can become romantic. A dramatic moment in Season 2 of Law & Order: Organized Crime was Stabler sharing a note written by Kathy on the pair’s partnership.
Stabler had added a line at the end that in a world without Kathy, “it would always be you and me.”
So far, Goluboff is mum on that, but the possibility of the partnership being taken to a new level is high.
“This is one of the great detective teams in the history of television, flat out. We want to see them work cases. We want to see them collaborating on getting justice for victims, and bringing down bad guys. That’s what they do. I think that’s what the audience craves. That’s how they get down; that’s their thing. And when they do that, it brings up all other kinds of feelings. It brings up their bond, their connectivity, their limitations. It pushes all the buttons. But you’ve got to get them in motion—and I think we’ll do that this season.”
Of course, things won’t be easy for the pair. Benson will be dealing with the coming departure of Amanda Rollins from the squad while Staber handles an empty nest with Eli in college and his mother now living with daughter Kathleen.
“They’re going through a lot of things in their lives,” Goluboff acknowledges. “And they’re there for each other. She has to be strong for her squad. He has to be strong for his squad—he’s mentoring people. She’s dealing with these intense emotions on the SVU cases. They can collapse with each other a little bit. They can talk. She doesn’t have to have [her] full guard up when she talks to Elliot—he knows her. I don’t want to give away too much, but he is not undercover,” he notes. “He doesn’t have to be out of her orbit. They know what’s going on in each other’s lives.”
However, Goluboff teases that a major event for the Stabler family may bring up more problems.
“The focus early on is [centered on our] two new characters, to establish the Task Force as a family in itself. We’re going to put some elbow grease into that, and [Elliot]’s going to lose sight of his other roles, for a little while. And then his family is going to come roaring back to him, in a really tragic and unexpected way, later in the season. He’s going to realize he still has to pay into that side of who he is, as well.”
While both detectives will be drawn to their own cases, this promises to give a significant focus to how Benson and Stabler learn of each other’s pasts and move on from there.
Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 3 premieres Thursday, September 22 at 8/7c, followed by the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 premiere on NBC.