Christopher Meloni Returning to 'Law & Order: SVU' in Season 22 Premiere Ahead of New Spinoff

Christopher Meloni will be reprising his role as Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ahead of the upcoming spinoff centered around his character created by longtime producer Dick Wolf. While fans were thrilled last month to learn Meloni would be returning to the Law & Order universe, many wondered if and when he would be reunited with Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson on SVU.

On the latest episode of The Law & Order: SVU Podcast, showrunner Warren Leight revealed that Stabler will be back on their screens sooner rather than later, with his first appearance on the SVU Season 22 premiere. “It’s pretty clear that Elliot will be in the SVU season opener,” Leight said, as per Entertainment Tonight. “I think that much I know. Whether we get to see his family as well remains to be seen.”

The original plan for Leight and other writers Julie Martin, Denis Hamill and Monet Hurst-Mendoza was to bring Stabler back with his family gradually. Leight said, "We had heard distant thunder about Chris Meloni coming back in the fall and we were going to lay a little groundwork for that. We were going to see [wife] Kathy Stabler come back very upset. Her son had been rolled by a team of ne'er-do-wells and may have been drugged, and we were going to revisit [Benson’s half-brother] Simon's seeming overdose and we were going to get to know the stresses on the Stablers — what had happened to the Stabler family after Elliot both left SVU and apparently left them."

But when Season 21 came to an early end due to the production shutdown caused by coronavirus, plans changed. "We were just going to lay some groundwork down in anticipation of Elliot's return of course in his own series. We had the sense that the first episode of next year for SVU was going to bring Elliot back, so we were going to foreshadow that and explain a little more what happened to Simon," Leight explained.

News of the spinoff first broke in March, with few details revealed at the time other than that Meloni would return to his role as Stabler again in a new series following his returns to the NYPD to head the Organized Crime Division. Martin said that with "a 10-year gap of no reference point whatsoever," there's a lot of background to fill in with where Stabler has been and how he has grown, but that it provides plenty of opportunity for crossover with his former partner in SVU as they move forward.