The historic 21st season of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit might have been shorter than fans hoped, but the show is still giving everyone reasons to keep buzzing with anticipation for new episodes. Showrunner Warren Leight confirmed Det. Elliot Stabler will be appearing in the Season 22 premiere, marking Christopher Meloni's first time playing the character since he left the show after Season 12 almost a decade ago. The news set off celebrations around the SVU sphere on social media.
The Season 22 premiere will help reintroduce Stabler to the SVU family before a planned spinoff debuts. Leight and his team initially planned to reintroduce Stabler's family first, with his wife Kathy (Isabel Gilles) and one of his sons appearing in the Season 21 finale. However, the episode was never filmed because production was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new plan is to have Stabler in the SVU Season 22 opener, Leight explained on the new episode of The Law & Order: SVU Podcast. "I think that much I know. Whether we get to see his family as well remains to be seen," he added.
"We had heard distant thunder about Chris Meloni coming back in the fall and we were going to lay a little groundwork for that," Leight said of the original plan. "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."
ELLIOT STABLER IS GOING TO BE ON #SVU NEXT SEASON. THIS IS REAL LIFE.— E (@ezepeze11) May 1, 2020
Since that will not be coming to fruition, the writers are focused on laying "some groundwork down in anticipation" for the Stabler-starring 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 added.
ELLLIOT STABLER IS GOING TO BE IN SEASON 22 EPISODE 1. WAKE UP EVERYONE. HALP— ❁ Saddle Up Gurl (@skitty_nitty) May 1, 2020
News of a Stabler-centered series surfaced in March. It will feature Stabler as the head of the NYPD's Organized Crime Unit and was created by Law & Order mastermind Dick Wolf and Chicago P.D. veteran Matt Olmstead. Considering SVU rarely ever mentioned Stabler's name after he left, the show has a "10-year gap of no reference point whatsoever," writer Julie Martin said.
SVU ended its 21st season on April 23. Although the episode was not planned as the season finale, it worked out as the perfect season-ender. It wrapped up multiple storylines from the previous episodes and caught up with several criminals and victims. The show has already been renewed for an unprecedented three more seasons after Wolf signed a new contract with NBCUniversal.
elliot stabler is a divorced man in season 22 opener pic.twitter.com/IMsYj2q8zF— ᴅᴏɴ'ᴛ ᴛᴏᴜᴄʜ ᴍᴇ, ᴇʟʟɪᴏᴛ ɪs sɪɴɢʟᴇ (@benslershippin) May 1, 2020
Fans are really excited about the idea that Stabler is divorced when he returns. It reignited hopes for Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson and Stabler to begin a romantic relationship. The two had incredible chemistry together, but they never had a relationship before.
I am offering my entire life savings to an svu writer to go and watch of all 1.0 right now like please go watch it and pay attention and fall in love with elliot stabler like the rest of us did— m (@TeamHotchniss) May 1, 2020