How Law And Order: SVU's Finale Crossover With Organized Crime Finally Nailed Benson And Stabler's Relationship (And Set Up Next Season)

 Benson and Stabler on the job in SVU's crossover with OC
Benson and Stabler on the job in SVU's crossover with OC
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Spoilers ahead for the Season 24 finale of Law & Order: SVU and Season 3 finale of Law & Order: Organized Crime on NBC.

Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime were bound to end the current TV season on some thrilling notes thanks to the two-week crossover event. While the finales delivered the huge tragedy OC’s Jamie Whelan dying, the departure of SVU’s Muncy, and a bunch of examples of why nobody in the Law & Order universe would miss Chief McGrath if he disappeared over summer hiatus, it also showcased the cops at their best… and finally nailed Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler’s relationship in the OC era.

So, join me in avoiding thinking too hard about the heartbreak of Jamie’s death and check out what worked so well with Benson and Stabler this time, and how the crossover set them up for next season.

Benson looking at Stabler in SVU/OC crossover
Benson looking at Stabler in SVU/OC crossover

Benson And Stabler Felt Like Partners And Friends Again

Benson and Stabler already had legions of fans when Christopher Meloni rejoined Mariska Hargitay in the L&O world due to twelve seasons as partners and friends on SVU. Was there enough tension during those twelve seasons that it was easy to understand why Kathy wrote The Letter even after they hadn’t seen each other in a decade? Absolutely, but I for one have been missing what originally made them fun in a franchise that isn’t exactly overflowing with levity.

They felt like the partners and friends of old again in this crossover, and not just because having a $50,000 price on their heads gave them something to bond over. They ate takeout together, hung out together after everybody else left, and felt like the same kind of unit they were when they had each other’s backs 24/7 and drove Cragen crazy back in the day. He fiddled with her stuff, and she took it away from him.

I missed seeing Olivia and Elliot actually talk to each other and enjoy being around each other; the crossover brought that level of comfort and familiarity back. Call me nostalgic, but I could practically see them in the old squad room again with Fin and Munch, and seeing their friendship finally seem easier makes it much easier for me to root for them to be together.

Benson and Stabler after she was shot in SVU/OC crossover
Benson and Stabler after she was shot in SVU/OC crossover

Benson And Stabler Aren’t Ignoring Their Feelings

The crossover did a great job of making it clear that neither of them had forgotten the reunion that almost resulted in an ill-timed kiss back in January, and they seemed to mutually acknowledge in the first episode of the crossover last week that their challenge was finding the right moment. They were friends and partners first and foremost in the finales, but there were also some distinctly romantic moments that were fun rather than painfully awkward.

I’ve generally been lukewarm about wanting a romance for these two, but they literally completed each other in the finales when she was shot, he couldn’t see, and her carried her to safety with her guiding the way. How am I supposed to be lukewarm about that? Now that Stabler has seemingly learned to choose his moments better and not ghost her on a semi-regular basis, I might even stop crossing my fingers that he’ll give a full on-screen apology for how he left SVU back in the day.

Did I immediately say “Stabler, you nerd!” when he broke the “e” of off the “Live, Laugh, Love” ornament so that it said “Liv, Laugh, Love” instead? Yes I did, and I regret nothing. It was also a sweet example of him no longer beating around the bush, and the gift of a compass necklace was a gesture that did not go unnoticed by Benson. And call me crazy, but the slow crawl makes a lot of sense for them. Sure, 24 seasons and counting would be absurd for just about any other duo, but she has a lot to process and accept first.

On the whole, I'm perfectly happy with where they stand now. They even got a hug, and it wasn't because his wife had recently given birth, a la classic SVU, or because his wife had been in a car explosion, a la SVU's backdoor pilot for Organized Crime!

The crossover also really needed a quiet moment between the two at the end, after the frenzy of her being shot (and giving him a good scare in the process), Jamie dying, and Kyle attempting to kill himself rather than taking the Shadowërk site down. Plus, it’s really for the best that neither SVU nor OC took any overt steps to make them romantic, in light of what comes next, which brings us to…

Benson handing Stabler her gift in the SVU/OC crossover
Benson handing Stabler her gift in the SVU/OC crossover

How The Crossover Set Up Next Season

The complication about the future of Benson and Stabler comes with the fact that while SVU is on NBC’s fall schedule (assuming the WGA writers strike doesn’t result in a massive delay), Organized Crime won’t return until midseason. If the crossover had taken any romantic leaps or bounds with the two characters in this finale event, then fans would have to wait until early 2024 to see them together again, unless Chris Meloni appears as a guest star on SVU.

Thankfully, Stabler directly told Benson – in person! – that he’ll be going away for a little while for a case. This served to explain why the OC team won’t be in the mix when SVU and Law & Order return in the fall, and means that he didn’t ghost Benson again. I’m still working on forgiving him for those ten years away with no word, and Benson that he’ll be gone shows the kind of growth that makes him much easier to root for.

Unfortunately, we’re facing a long wait before seeing the two iconic characters back in primetime, but fans can always revisit this crossover and other previous episodes streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription. Plus, there are big questions to consider.

Is Rollins going to come back to law enforcement in some form or other after realizing that she misses it? Is Muncy really gone from Special Victims for good? Are Bruno and Churlish sticking around? How will the OC team move on from losing Jamie? Depending on the writers strike, we may have to settle for speculation for a while. For now, there are plenty of TV options on the way, so be sure to check out our 2023 TV premiere schedule.