Absent for ten years in “New York Special Unit”, Christopher Meloni, alias Elliot Stabler, returns tonight in the detective series against his ex-partner Olivia Benson. We tell you all about this very special episode… and the rest.
Benson & Stabler. Like Mulder & Scully, Castle & Beckett or Brennan & Booth, the two investigators (named after the producer and creator’s own children Dick Wolf) will have formed an iconic and essential duo of procedural series, working in tandem for twelve seasons within the Special Victims Unit of the New York police, responsible for investigating sexual crimes.
Present since the launch, in September 1999, of New York Special Unitseries derived from New York Judicial Police and since become the flagship of the franchise Law & Order, Christopher Meloni camped there the idealistic and sanguine Elliot Stabler for twelve seasons and 266 episodes alongside Mariska Hargitay / Olivia Benson, before abruptly leaving the show.
His departure was thus orchestrated off-camera, at the start of season 13, when disagreements over the renewal (and the amount) of his contract arose with NBC Universal. Stabler’s final appearance in May 2011, in episode S12E24, saw the character surrender his insignia after being forced to shoot a young gunwoman at the Unit’s premises.Dick Wolf: ‘I didn’t see Christopher Meloni leaving coming’
Without any real explanation for viewers, as for its partners moreover, the series turned the page Elliot Stabler, offering Olivia Benson the headliner of the series, and allowing Christopher Meloni to go and explore other roles in the cinema (man of steel), on the television (Underground, The Handmaid’s Tale, Happy!), in the animation (harley quinn) and even the video game (Call of Duty: Black Ops III).
Over the seasons, however, the idea of a return of Elliot Stabler is gaining ground. Among the fans, of course, but also among the new showrunner Warren Leight. In August 2019, he spoke to TVLine the need for a reappearance of the character “before we shoot the last episode or before the end of the series”while Meloni, however reluctant until then, hinted that a return as part of a concluding story arc would suit him.
To the delight of the faithful of New York Special Unitwhich has meanwhile become the longest detective series broadcast in prime time, the reunion between Benson and Stabler will not have to wait for an improbable epilogue of the show, already renewed until season 24. And it is in season 22 episode 9 that the paths of the teammates cross again, ten years after their last exchange.
Programmed on TF1 this evening, “Everyone changes” (“Return Of The Prodigal Son”) was broadcast on April 1, 2021 in the United States, the day before the 60th anniversary of Christopher Meloni. A return received very positively by the fans, whose reactions were like so many birthday gifts for the actor: “It was quite impressive. I think Mariska expected it more than me, because she has lived in this world continuously for 20 years”he testified to People.com. “I was unprepared. It’s overwhelming and wonderful, I really appreciate it.”
The episode is short, barely 41 minutes. Also the reunions are direct and effective. On the way to a ceremony organized in her honor, Benson stops for a “10-13” at the scene of a car bomb explosion: she discovers that the victim is none other than Kathy Stabler, taken in a state criticism under the dazed eyes of Elliot, who launches to his former partner: “They tried to kill her. They tried to kill Kathy”.
During the episode (which involves the Special Unit for no real reason even though the attack is not a sexual crime), we learn that after his departure, Elliot worked in private security abroad. , then with a unit investigating international terrorism before working as an international liaison for the New York police from Rome. Which potentially made him a target, and Kathy, his wife, a collateral victim.
More than filling in the blanks on the character’s journey, this S22E09 above all makes it possible to approach, with modesty, the deep ties that unite Benson and Stabler. “No one took care of me like him” thus explains Olivia to Rollins, evoking her “great presence” that Amaro will never have been able to fulfill, while Stabler discovers over a drink with Tutuola that his former partner is now a mother. Above all, during a touching scene in the hospital waiting room where Kathy is being treated, the two team members return, with misty eyes, to Stabler’s hasty departure: “You were the most important person in my life. And you just…disappeared.” / “I was afraid, if I heard your voice, that I wouldn’t be able to leave.”
An economy of words therefore, but a real intensity and an immediate complicity, confirmed by Christopher Meloni at TVInsider. “When I arrived on set, for Mariska and me, it was an instantaneous, almost psychic connection. There is an immediate understanding which is very comfortable. We know these characters and this relationship better than anyone. (…) This was not easy. We did the readings by Zoom, we rehearsed with masks while respecting the distance. But every time I look into Mariska’s eyes, that’s it, here we go again.”
Beyond the reunion with Benson, the return of Stabler nourishes the first part of a crossover-event between New York Special Unit and a new spin-off designed by Dick Wolf. In New York Organized Crimewhose first episode is also broadcast tonight on TF1, Christopher Meloni thus joins a group responsible for investigating new forms of organized crime, a modern version of the old-fashioned mafia: “an international and much more high-tech hybrid, [impliquant] the dark web and cybercrime”.
In the nation’s largest city, the most brutal and violent members of the underworld are hunted down by detectives from the Organized Crime Control Bureau. Here are their stories. (Introduction to the “Law & Order: Organized Crime” series)
Far from the procedural format to which he was accustomed, the actor investigates a single case for a large part of this first season of 13 episodes, under the orders of a new superior (Ayanna Bell, camped by Danielle Moné Truitt). “I thought he was going to be the boss, but I’m an inspector taking orders from the boss. It’s two people dancing and learning each other’s style… (…) I liked the idea of a recognizable character in an unrecognizable landscape. The environment has changed, and so has Stabler’s place. He has to face many problems and evolve.”
To support him in the face of these problems, Stabler can count on Benson, a regular guest on the new show and essential personal support, while Stabler sinks into post-traumatic stress disorder. In the pilot What Happens in Puglia or in episode 4 The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Mariska Hargitay is thus very present, illustrating itself in particular during Kathy’s funeral, in a tense exchange in the hall of the Stabler building leaving the two ex-partners unsaid, or during a family intervention confronting Elliot to his children worried about his worsening condition and his obsessions.
Let the fans be reassured, Law & Order is therefore far from having finished with these two: the time for the epilogue has not yet come for Benson & Stabler.
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