‘Law & Order: SVU’ Fans Debate What the Most Devastating Episode Is

by Lauren Boisvert

“Law & Order: SVU” is known for portraying darker, more sinister themes, some of which are “ripped from the headlines,” as fans call it. “SVU” is steeped in tragedy, dealing with sexual assault, pedophilia, child abuse, and more horrific subject matter. But there are some episodes that are more devastating than others, according to fans on a Reddit thread.

One of the picks for the darkest episode was “Charisma” from season 6. A 12-year-old girl’s pregnancy leads Benson and Stabler to a religious cult called the Church of Wisdom and Sight. The girl claims to have a husband, who turns out to be the leader of the church. The guy was a con artist, and was using the girl’s pregnancy to inherit a fortune from her mother. According to fans, the episode ends in a mass murder, which brings to mind the Jonestown massacre from 1978.

Another pick was the episode “Annihilated” from season 8. A woman is murdered in a professional hit after her fiancé received death threats. Investigation into the fiancé reveals that he killed his entire family. He tries to blame his late wife, but the detectives ferret him out.

Fans had yet another contender in the season 9 episode “Signature.” The episode is a messy one, following FBI agent Lauren Cooper as she, Benson, and detective Chester Lake hunt for a serial killer called the Woodsman. When the Woodsman shows up in the morgue, it’s revealed that Cooper actually tracked him down and killed him. She’s charged; but, they have no evidence. Until, that is, the detectives match the bullet casing from the Woodsman killing to the gun Cooper’s mentor used to kill himself. Cooper confesses, but instead of taking a plea deal, she kills herself.

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Fans Discuss Darkest Episodes

“Law & Order: SVU” never shies away from dark subject matter. They may curb the language a bit, in respect to the censors, but the stories the show puts on have always portrayed the harsh realities of our world; there’s murder, and rape, and atrocities all around us. Nowhere is perfect.

As someone who’s rewatching “Law & Order: SVU” from the beginning, there’s an episode from season 1 that really shook me to my core.

Season 1 episode 7, “Uncivilized.” An 8-year-old boy is found raped and murdered in Central Park. Two teenagers point the detectives in the direction of a registered sex offender in the area. The neighborhood is furious that they didn’t know a sex offender was living in their area, and so begin the taunts and rallies outside his apartment. A bartender even lies about the guys alibi, which leads to his arrest. Eventually, he’s shot outside the courthouse by the boy’s father, but it was really the teenagers who did the crime. The confession is chilling; one of the boys shows remorse and disgust for his actions, while the other calls the murdered kid a “loser.” Like that makes it okay.