Once you join the Law & Order family, it is hard to escape. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit showrunner Warren Leight teased more possible returns in Season 22 beyond the exciting return of Christopher Meloni in Season 22. Leight also confirmed the season premiere will feature a case that forces the team to come to terms with their own racial bias.
When the show comes back, audiences will find themselves in a New York City that feels a little different, as the fictional show grapples with the real-life changes that have taken place since Season 21 ended. The city is "struggling to return from a harrowing pandemic and months of demonstrations and political fallout after George Floyd... a city that has lost faith in the NYPD and the DA's office," Leight told TV Insider Thursday. The Season 22 premiere will focus on a Central Park assault that "quickly turns into a racially volatile situation, and [the unit] confronts how their own racial bias affects their judgment."
In the season's third episode, SVU will tackle the coronavirus pandemic. There will be a domestic violence case, centered on what happens when "people get close to their breaking points" during extended social isolation and quarantine. Over the summer, there were multiple reports showing an increase in domestic violence during lockdowns around the world.
The new season will feature a long-delayed reunion with Detective Elliot Stabler (Meloni) and Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), ten years after Meloni left. Leight told TV Insider the producers are hoping to "bring back some [more] past regulars this season," beyond just Meloni. The new season will also prominently feature Demore Barnes, who was promoted to series regular and will continue playing Deputy Chief Christian Garland, Deadline reported earlier this month.
Meloni's return is not happening as soon as fans hoped. Back in August, Leight told fans Meloni will not appear in the Season 22 premiere, as NBC is holding back Meloni's spin-off Law & Order: Organized Crime until 2021. The Stabler-starring SVU episode will now not air until the night Organized Crime debuts. Organized Crime is also going through some growing pains, as original showrunner Matt Olmstead left the project. No new showrunner has been set and production has not started. NBC already ordered 13 episodes of the show.
Another issue that will not be addressed in the Season 22 premiere is the Season 21 cliffhanger. Sir Tobias Moore (guest star Ian McShane), the show's "Harvey Weinstein-esque" movie producer accused of sexual misconduct, suffered a heart attack just as his trial was starting. Leight confirmed on Sept. 1 that the story will take a backseat while they cover other issues. "A lot has happened since we shut down, in New York, and in our country," Leight wrote. "First few eps will see our squad grappling with many of the losses and changes and challenges we're all going through at this moment."