Actor Christopher Meloni finally returns to Law & Order: SVU next week as his beloved character Elliot Stabler. Meloni left SVU abruptly in 2010 but is now reprising his role in a spinoff called Law & Order: Organized Crime. New photos released by NBC give fans a first look at the SVU-Organized Crime cross-over premiering on Thursday, April 1 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
The cross-over episode is titled "Return of the Prodigal Son" and will apparently find Stabler and his family under police protection after a threat against them. That means that they will be reunited with his old team, led by Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). That means the whole Stabler family will reprise their roles here as well, including Kathy (Isabel Gillies), Dickie (Jeffrey Scaperotta) and Kathleen (Allison Siko). The special two-hour cross-over will also serve as the pilot for Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Two photos from the upcoming episode show Meloni back in the precinct, looking at least a little uncomfortable with his return to the offices. That makes sense given the Stablers' circumstances, but according to the official synopsis released by NBC, Elliot will eventually accept the call to return to the NYPD, even after about a decade away.
Law & Order: Organized Crime reportedly centers around Stabler's return to duty following a "devastating personal loss." The show traces the fan-favorite character putting his life back together and throwing himself into his work as he joins a high-level task force dedicated to taking down New York City's biggest crime syndicates.
Meloni played Stabler for over a decade before departing SVU in 2010, even earning an Emmy nomination for the role in 2006. According to a report by TV Guide, he left the show due to a contract dispute after Season 12. He was written out of the show hastily, with the other characters explaining to each other that he had taken early retirement.
Meloni has had no shortage of work since then and has also become a fan-favorite star of social media. There, many people still reference his Law & Order work often, perhaps showing the producers how much it would mean to get him back.
Meloni is set to appear at least twice in SVU Season 22, with the first appearance being the backdoor pilot next month. The Law & Order: Organized Crime cross-over event premieres on Thursday, April 1 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.