‘Law & Order: SVU’ Season 23 Finale: Benson and Barba Make for Major Cliffhanger

by Suzanne Halliburton

All this time we thought Olivia Benson was destined to couple up with Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU. But after Thursday’s finale, maybe we have the wrong guy.

Maybe it’s been Rafael Barba, the former assistant DA turned defense attorney, this whole time. He represented the season 23 cliffhanger in an episode that had Benson looking out for her happiness.

Stabler (Christopher Meloni) wasn’t in the episode. But he was mentioned throughout. Benson’s therapist brought him up to open “A Final Call at Forlini’s Bar,” which capped the Law & Order: SVU season. Benson asked the therapist “But why am I feeling so sad?” And he answered: “Oh, Olivia, everyone is feeling depressed now … You deserve happiness, Olivia Benson.”

Maybe that happiness is championing women, while getting together with … Barba?. The two met early in the episode to talk about Barba representing an abused woman who killed her husband. Against the advice of Benson and Rollins, Carisi decided to press charges against the woman.

So Benson and Rollins had another idea. Bring in Barba to represent the woman. Rollins made the ask, since Benson hadn’t spoken with him. She believes he betrayed her by representing Richard Wheatley, Barba thinks he was protecting Benson by not going after her on the stand during Wheatley’s trial last December. Instead, he blasted Stabler.

Benson and Barba met face-to-face at Forlini’s Bar, their old haunt. But Benson wouldn’t sit down and have a glass of cabernet with her old friend. “I miss you,” he says. Benson leaves.

During the trial, Barba does something endearing. His client started sobbing on the stand. And Barba rushed to comfort her as Benson took it all in.

That set up a final scene. Of course, it was at the bar.

Barba told Benson: “What I don’t get, why you feel more anger at me than you ever let yourself feel towards Stabler.”

Benson replies “you don’t know anything about my feelings for Elliot and you don’t know him. I’ve known him for 23 years, and he’s always had my back.”

Then she says “This isn’t about him. This is about you and me and how you betrayed me.”

The discussion continues.

“We’re going around in circles. You’re denying, you’re deflecting. You defend him. It’s alright, I get it. It’s what you do when you love somebody unconditionally,” Barba says. Yes, he can see that Benson loves Stabler.

“Please don’t tell me how I feel,” she says.

“In this case I can because I do know what it means to love someone unconditionally,” he says. “And when you’re ready to stop feeling betrayed by me, I’ll be here,”

How does Benson react? “I miss you, too.” As for what that means … we’ll have to wait and see.

So what does this mean for Law & Order: SVU season 24? We’ll all have to wait until fall.