‘Law & Order: SVU’: Raúl Esparza Says Benson and Barba are ‘Stumbling Toward Reconciliation’

by Suzanne Halliburton

A familiar face returns for the season finale of Law & Order: SVU. Here’s the lingering question. Will Benson and Barba reconcile?

Because we all know that Benson (Mariska Hargitay) didn’t like Barba’s choice in clients last December when he represented Richard Wheatley. You remember Wheatley (Dylan McDermott), don’t you? He’s the one had the wife of Elliot Stabler killed. And Stabler is Benson’s ex-partner. Plus, Wheatley liked to taunt Olivia. When she could’ve been killed in a car accident, Benson assumed Wheatley was behind the wreck.

Raúl Esparza plays Rafael Barba. He’s been a part of the cast of Law & Order: SVU since 2012, the season after Christopher Meloni left the show. He joined the main cast in 2015, then went back to recurring status after 2018. He was the assistant district attorney assigned to the SVU unit. Then he opted for a lusher life and became a defense lawyer.

Esparza talked to TV Insider this week. The subject was this Thursday’s season 23 finale. But there’s a big question to answer. Will Benson and Barba reconcile? The last time we saw the two together was the episode “The People vs Richard Wheatley” on Dec. 9th.

During the episode, he and Olivia meet at a restaurant. Olivia lets him know there’s a problem with their friendship. “Just so we’re clear, I feel betrayed by you,” she told him. “And I don’t know how I’ll ever get over it.” Earlier, Stabler also barked at Barba about representing the guy who killed his wife and worked so hard to get him off. Barba can’t stand Wheatley, but he believes the cops set him up for Kathy Stabler’s death.

Law & Order: SVU cast members Raul Esparza, Mariska Hargitay and Peter Scanavino. (Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

Fingers Crossed: Barba, Benson Make It Right on Law & Order: SVU

But maybe in the finale of Law & Order: SVU, Benson and Barba become friends again.

“I think they’re stumbling towards reconciliation,” Esparza told TV Insider. “I don’t know that they’re actually on the road, but I feel like the episode sets them on a possible path. It ends with a beginning and it’s a season finale that’s all about, what is suspended between them, whatever the next year brings, but there is some possibility in there.

“I don’t know that it gets easily resolved,” Esparza said. “They’re too deeply tied into each other in too many ways. And Benson is too much of a workaholic without anything real and good and supportive in her life. The episode circles that idea all the time, what does she deserve? Who can she love? What does it mean to be loved? Or to love someone in a situation that hurts you?

“The episode tracks that theme in the case and personally, so we’re kind of left in that limbo of wondering what’s in store for her, but it’s definitely not easy.”

The new episode is “A Final Call at Forlini’s Bar.” We know that Barba will be battling Carisi in court. Here’s the official plot tease from NBC:

“The SVU provides help and protection for a longtime domestic violence victim, but when she winds up at the defendant’s table in court, Rollins surprises Carisi with a formidable opponent at trial.”