Law and Order: SVU junkies have no shortage of Chris Meloni’s Elliot Stabler character, thanks to near-daily USA Network reruns. Folks still gobble up the old episodes, and many would agree that the “new” episodes don’t provoke the same delight (for obvious, manly reasons). However, the show still runs on NBC and hasn’t been the same since Stabler’s abrupt departure.
Indeed, some fans are still traumatized by the show’s 12th season finale, “Smoked,” which saw Stabler retire from the NYPD after shooting a teenage girl. He did so out of necessity, as the girl fired into a holding cell that contained the men suspected of raping and killing her mother. Writing Stabler off the show allowed Meloni to pursue other ventures — after all, 12 seasons is a long time to play one character — but the ending didn’t provide much closure for viewers. Indeed, showrunner Warren Leight tells Hollywood Reporter how everyone involved in the show realizes that Stabler’s departure could have been less jarring:
“In hindsight, NBC, Dick, Universal and Chris all know they could have handled that better. But I think Chris, over time from what I hear, began to realize that the fans were owed a little more … It was a negotiation handled without much empathy on any of the participant’s parts and I think they all sort of know that now. And there wasn’t much empathy for the fans either. I think everyone probably learned, but you can’t roll the clock back.”
The procedural has been renewed for the 18th season with no Stabler in sight. However, Leight reveals that he and the writers planned for the worst outcome last season. Presumably, he’s talking about cancellation, which seems like a mild fate compared to losing Elliot Stabler. Yes, I sound a little passive-aggressive on that point, but Leight says there were plans to bring Stabler back for a series finale:
“If we weren’t coming back, there were a couple things I was absolutely going to do. We had been talking [about], had this been the last episode, we would have tried him to bring him back … I think if Mariska [Hargitay] were to have called him, he would have taken the call. That can be for another day, hopefully a long way off.”
Alas, Stabler’s return didn’t happen, and Leight hopes to make the show last a full 21 seasons to become history’s longest-lived primetime series. Will Stabler ever come back, even for an episode? The writers can dream up all manner of romantic relationships (and motherhood) for Hargitay’s Detective Benson, but nothing can compare to the unresolved sexual tension she shared with Stabler.
(Via Hollywood Reporter)