‘Law & Order: SVU’ Showrunners Speak Out About Benson and Stabler’s Romance

by Suzanne Halliburton

Yes, we still want a Law & Order: SVU with a romantic future for Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler. And according to the series showrunner, it might rely solely on the actors’ time schedules

Until spring of 2021, the talk about Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Christopher Meloni) had died down. The two were partners on Law & Order: SVU for the series’ first 12 seasons. The two enjoyed terrific chemistry as they solved some of NYC’s most heinous crimes. But Stabler was a married man with five children. Plus, is it really wise for an office romance?

But NBC opened up the Benson-Stabler dynamic again when Law & Order: Organized Crime premiered in April 2021. So on any given day, you can find tweets like this one:

A decade before the OC debut, Meloni left SVU after a contract dispute with NBC. He wanted more money or to work less, but with the same salary. The network said no, until it said yes to Organized Crime.

When OC premiered, writers explained that Stabler and wife, Kathy, had moved to Italy. But obviously, they returned home. Alas, Kathy Stabler was killed off as part of an ongoing plot involving Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott). That left Stabler a grieving widower who wanted to avenge his wife’s death. But then again, he admitted to feelings for Olivia.

In the Law & Order: SVU finale back in May, Benson’s therapist told her it was OK to be happy. And Stabler made her happy. Or maybe some other man would, too. (Hello, Barba?)

Law & Order: SVU showrunner David Graziano said Benson-Stabler still is a hot topic in the writers room. The two will work together in the massive, three-hour Law & Order crossover on Sept. 22. But an episode about murder and an international crime ring doesn’t smack of a romantic subplot.

“That’s something we hotly debate back and forth here every day,” Graziano told TODAY about the Benson-Stabler dynamic. “And some of the considerations about Benson and Stabler have nothing to do with narrative. They’re about just logistics of these two actors’ busy schedules. You’ve got to think for a second about the OC. Chris Meloni is in every single scene of that show. And they just can’t lend him out the same way we can sort of give them Mariska for a day or two. Even when we give her over there for a day or two, we feel hobbled without her.”

Here’s a photo from the early days of Law & Order: SVU. (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Graziano said writers also wanted to stay true to the Olivia Benson character built over 23 seasons of Law & Order: SVU. Plus, they may need to tame the monsters, first.

“There have been a lot of events that have happened in the OC and also on our show, SVU, that would seem to preclude an easy relationship with the two of them. And so I think there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be unpacked first. ” He said a fan wrote to him about true love prevailing in the end. “But before you can have a healthy relationship like that, if you have some monsters under your bed, you have to slay those first. Otherwise, they’re going to follow you into that relationship.”

Then there’s the obvious reason for the lingering will he/won’t she dynamic. Julie Martin, the Law & Order: SVU executive producer, addressed that as well. And by the way, she said there won’t be a coupling in the premiere.

“We like to keep that question going as long as possible,” Martin told TODAY. “So to answer, either way, is to sort of kill that anticipation.”