The premiere of Law & Order: Organized Crime brought the long-awaited Law & Order: SVU reunion between Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson and Christopher Meloni’s Elliot Stabler. Plenty of SVU fans were rooting for a Benson/Stabler relationship back when he was still the co-lead of that series, despite the complications and not-so-small matter of his wife and kids. Now, it seems like more viewers than ever want to see the two characters turn their current relationship into a cross-show romance involving the star of SVU and star of Organized Crime. But could the shows actually make it work?
There are a lot of variables in play when it comes to Benson and Stabler actually making a potential jump into a romantic relationship, and it’s safe to say that not every single SVU and OC fan would want to see them get together. So, let’s look at the factors in play here – both from a story perspective and a production perspective – and break down whether or not a relationship could work.
Benson And Stabler Have The History
These characters worked closely together as Special Victims detectives for more than a decade before Christopher Meloni left, and they were so close as coworkers that it actually caused problems sometimes. Honestly, Captain Cragen’s blood pressure probably dropped after Stabler left the unit and put an end to what he and Benson could pull as a duo sometimes.
Their reunion was understandably rocky, but they’re back on decent – albeit still complicated – terms, and I don’t think there can be any doubt that Stabler’s confession of love in Organized Crime Season 1 was sincere… if confused and ill-timed. Plus, there’s a lot to that letter that he gave Benson, even though Kathy wrote most of it. SVU set up a rich partnership, OC ran with it, and now fans have a lot to speculate about.
They’re Both Single
For arguably the first time in their long history together, the two former partners are both unmarried and potentially available. Sure, Benson has Noah to consider, and Stabler could stand to spend more time with Eli considering what Eli is getting up to on Organized Crime, but the 500th episode of SVU actually gave Benson closure on a problematic relationship from her teens. And I don’t think anybody believes that Stabler’s “affair” with Flutura was the result of any feelings of love.
So there are fewer things that could potentially hold them back from a romance, and it seems like pretty much everybody who knows them on both shows thinks there’s more to their dynamic that they’re admitting. There would be no cheating if they got together now, and not working in the same unit could remove the pesky complication of Benson technically outranking him.
The Shows Are Very Closely Connected
SVU and Organized Crime have already crossed over a surprising number of times, considering OC still has only aired one full season. And not just the big two-part crossovers! There have been small crossovers, usually with Benson dropping by OC to check on and/or talk sense into Stabler, but sometimes with OC characters lending a hand to Special Victims. The units have worked together, so there have been professional and personal reasons for the characters to mingle.
And there is precedent within the Dick Wolf TV universe for relationships between characters on different but connected shows, thanks to One Chicago. Chicago Fire’s Brett and Chicago P.D.’s Antonio burned hot, if not for too long, and Fire’s Mouch and P.D.’s Platt are going strong after many years. It is possible. But is it likely in this case, after more than 20 years?
SVU And Organized Crime Are Very Different Shows
Both of the series may center on law and order, but SVU is a procedural that is going strong after more than two decades, while OC tells serialized stories for prolonged arcs of episodes. OC focuses on character more than SVU does, and it can be tricky to keep track of where the shows are in the timeline in relation to each other. Sharing a universe and airing back-to-back on Thursdays doesn’t mean that they tell stories the same way, and that can extend to relationships.
Just look at how most of the Benson/Stabler moments since his return have taken place on OC, vs. happening on SVU. The shows are closely connected and share a lot of elements, but they don’t quite match. And that could mean a relationship between the two leads wouldn’t be sustainable, or at least couldn’t be a major storyline if it happens. If it happens, it might have to stay mostly off-screen while Benson leads SVU and Stabler leads OC.
Benson And Stabler Have Their Own Storylines
Two of the most impactful storylines of the fall TV season for these shows have involved romance for Benson and Stabler, albeit not exactly in the form of deep and abiding love stories. Benson’s arc in the 500th episode couldn’t have happened if she was involved with Stabler, and I don’t even want to imagine the anger of fans if Stabler and Benson were together when Stabler had to hook up with Flutura undercover.
These were both plot twists that were important for their characters on their respective shows, and the two series might not want to have to tether their leads together when that could limit the kinds of stories that could be told. At best, they guest star on each other’s shows, while they’re surrounded by supporting casts of regulars. Hooking them up and keeping them together would be a big commitment from two of the biggest shows on NBC.
The Law & Orders Can’t Cross Over Every Week
Fans of SVU and OC seem to love whenever they cross over, and both the multi-part stories and smaller crossovers are special events to spice up primetime. But the shows can’t cross over every week, particularly when OC has such intense serialized stories contrasted with SVU’s procedural stories. If Stabler is deep undercover and his unit is in the midst of a long investigation into a mob, then it doesn’t make sense for too much overlap with Benson’s cases of the week.
Basically, the shows will undoubtedly continue crossing over with each other, and perhaps maintain the strongest ties of any other shows within the Dick Wolf universe, but they’ll presumably continuing telling their own stories. And that could work against the idea of a relationship between the two leads that lasts.
At the end of the day, there are points in favor of and against a romance working between SVU’s Benson and Organized Crime’s Stabler. I personally don’t really have a horse in the race. I’m a fan of their dynamic and am just fine with them remaining very close without making the jump into romance, especially considering Benson has Noah to consider and Stabler has family concerns of his own. I wouldn’t be upset if they tried romance, and the actors have the chemistry to sell it, but I have my doubts that it could be sustainable. And does anybody want to see them get together only for it to fall apart?
For now, we can only wait and see what happens next. The fall finales of Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime will serve as a crossover when they air on Thursday, December 9 starting at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. They’ll be joined on Thursday nights by the return of the original Law & Order in February, expanding the Dick Wolf universe to nine shows spread across two networks.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.