'Law & Order: Organized Crime' Producers Defend Stabler Family Death to Start Series

Law & Order: Organized Crime used a well-worn story trope as its launching point, with Christopher Meloni's Elliott Stabler being inspired to return to New York after his wife is killed. The decision to kill off Kathy Stabler, played by Isabel Gillies, earned a mixed response from fans, especially considering all the Stabler family went through during the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. But on Wednesday, executive producer Dick Wolf and showrunner Ilene Chaiken defended the move.

During the April 1 episode of SVU that re-introduced Stabler, "Return of the Prodigal Son," Kathy was killed in a bomb intended for Stabler. Shaken by her death, Stabler decides to stay in New York City to investigate the organized crime ring behind the murder. This setup leads into the main story for Organized Crime, in which Dylan McDermott plays the villain, Richard Wheatley. Chaiken said the idea to kill off Kathy was already written before she came on to replace the original showrunner, Matt Olmstead.

"When I joined this show, it was a fait accompli — a premise I was given to work with. I wasn't in any way put off by it — I was immediately drawn in," Chaiken told reporters, notes THR. "When you tell a story about a character who's been gone for many years, a question you have to answer is, 'Why now?' [Kathy Stabler's death] as a storytelling catalyst is one of the best 'why nows' I could think of." Wolf also praised the idea, calling it "one of the most dramatic teasers I can remember on any show." He didn't see criticisms of the move, but he noted that you "can't please all the people all the time."

Elsewhere in the discussion Wednesday, Wolf teased the second season of Organized Crime, which has yet to be officially announced. While the first season will primarily focus on Stabler's efforts to bring down Wheatley, a potential second season would feature three eight-episode story arcs. He compared the arcs to The Godfather, American Gangster, and Scarface. "These are going to be really bad guys that give Chris a constant source of energy, outrage, belief in justice, and a different way of pursuing criminals than we have before," Wolf said.

As for future crossovers with SVU, Wolf said they would be similar to the One Chicago crossovers. Chaiken said they would happen organically and not forced. After all, SVU is still in the usual "case-of-the-week" mold that Organized Crime is a departure from. "When we tell a story about Stabler in Benson's world or Benson in Stabler's world and things happen that affect their characters, we don't just forget about it," Chaiken explained, notes PEOPLE. "So it's both challenging and tantalizing from the point of view of story writing to make sure that you keep those things alive while the shows have their own identity, each of them." New episodes of SVU air at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, with Organized Crime following at 10 p.m. ET.