‘Law & Order: SVU’ Fans Reflect on Why Season 7 Was a Big One for Stabler and Benson

by Allison Hambrick

Law & Order: SVU fans are an opinionated group. Some characters they love. Others they hate. Perhaps the most beloved on the show are Detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson, played by Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay.

As a result, “Bensler” is one of the most popular ships in the SVU subreddit. While the partners never officially became a couple on the show, fans hold out hope. This is especially true after SVU spinoff Law & Order: Organized Crime killed off Stabler’s wife, Kathy. These fans aren’t delusional–the duo shared many memorable moments over the course of SVU’s 23-season run.

In a thread debating Benson and Stabler’s best moments, several episodes rose above the best. All coming from season seven, these shows include “Fault,” “Fat,” and “web.” Each deals with the way that Benson and Stabler’s relationship affects their work. One fan dubbed them “the Triology.”

“Fault” sees the detectives hot on the trail of a sadistic pedophile who kidnaps two children. Though he is close to saving one of the children, Stabler gives up the chase when Benson is wounded. Similarly, Benson misses an opportunity to shoot the suspect because he uses Stabler as a human shield. Both of them choose each other over the victims. Sadly, their choices have deadly consequences. The suspect kills the child.

Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Stabler displaces his guilt on Benson. Dr. Huang, the unit’s psychologist, attempts to make Stabler understand his culpability, but he still has a heated exchange with Benson. He tells her that they can’t be partners unless she learns to put the job ahead of him.

Hurt by Stabler’s rejection, Benson requests a transfer to the Computer Crimes Unit. Obviously, she ends up back with the SVU in the end, but Stabler’s words left visible a visible impact on Benson.

Law & Order: SVU Will Address Benson and Stabler

While their deeper interactions are few and far between, they are poignant nonetheless. As a result, fans were saddened when Meloni exited the series. Some thought that would be the end of Benson and Stabler’s connection. However, Meloni returned to the role of Stabler in 2021.

Law & Order: Organized Crime brought Elliot Stabler back to the small screen. The series sees him solving the murder of his wife. Additionally, he has appeared on SVU several times since the show’s start, and Benson has made the leap to Organized Crime. The showrunner for the latter series, Ilene Chaiken, insisted that the former partners’ relationship is a core focus of the series.

“They’re very busy cops who have a lot of other very urgent things on their plates that [has kept] them away from one another and from having these conversations [before],” Chaiken said. “But the truth is that they will have those conversations. Like I keep saying, we’re really determined not to be coy about it and to just really let them grow.”