I haven’t regularly watched SVU since Christopher Meloni’s Detective Stabler left the show, so I was pretty excited to see his long-awaited return in this two-part crossover/pilot for the latest Law & Order spin-off. And, as expected, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot of stuff I liked and a lot of stuff I didn’t like. On the good side, it’s nice seeing Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson reunited with Meloni’s Stabler. You can feel the years of chemistry they’ve got, mixed in with the years of tension caused by Stabler’s disappearance from her life. As a fan of those older episodes, there’s a certain nostalgic joy found in simply seeing the two of them interact with each other again. And I appreciated the way the show embraced the idea of Stabler’s sudden disappearance (he was unceremoniously written off the show between seasons when Meloni didn’t renew his contract) having weighed heavily on Benson. The scenes they shared, and the way the two episodes dig deep into that trauma, make the whole event worth watching.
The plot, on the other hand, is less good. While I may be a fan of serialized television, I don’t watch Law & Order shows for those kinds of stories. When I put on an episode of Law & Order, I expect the case to be solved by the end of the hour—or, in the case of a crossover event, at the end of the crossover. And that’s not what happens here. The mystery of who put a hit on Stabler, resulting in the death of his wife, is introduced in the SVU episode and is then used as the basis for the entire plotline of Organized Crime. We don’t learn (for sure) who the culprit is at the end of the pilot for Organized Crime. Instead, the backbone of the show seems to be Stabler’s (and the rest of the Organized Crime team’s) quest to take down Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott) and his criminal empire. The assumption is that Wheatley is somehow responsible for the hit placed on Stabler, but it’s one of those things where the audience knows this but the characters don’t. And that’s just… not what I want from a Law & Order show. However ridiculous it is, I wanted Stabler and his team to be taking down an entirely new organized crime syndicate each week.
Also, I think it’s kind of in bad taste to bring back Stabler’s wife only to immediately kill her. Plus, it feels like Elliot’s return, and the entirety of Organized Crime, is just the latest step in a long con to finally get Benson and Stabler romantically together—thereby ending TV’s longest slow-burn romance. And, to be honest, I’d kind of be okay with it if that were what’s happening. But I wish Organized Crime was more compelling and felt more like a Law & Order show.
Law & Order: SVU 22×09 – “Return of the Prodigal Son”: 4 out of 5 wands
Law & Order: Organized Crime 1×01 – “What Happens in Puglia”: 3 out of 5 wands