The coronavirus pandemic forced Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to wrap up its historic 21st season earlier than anticipated. Despite that, star Jamie Gray Hyder promised the unplanned season finale will "tie up loose ends," even though the episode was not written as the season-ender. Showrunner Warren Leight previously told fans the April 23 episode will feature some returning criminals and victims previously seen elsewhere in the season.
SVU returns Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET on NBC with "Soling for the Unknowns," the show's first new episode since April 2. Hyder, who plays new detective Katriona "Kat" Tamin, told The Daily Mail the show's return should help bring some normalcy while everyone stays home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. "I think because the show is part of such a routine for so many people that it will bring a bit of normalcy to their lives, to sort of see their favorite people and to spend that hour with all the characters," Hyder said.
Production shut down last month with four episodes left to film, leading fans to wonder if episode 20 would end with a cliffhanger that would not be finished until next year. Hyder said episodes 19 and 20 have "a lot going on," including SVU's trademark twists and turns. "Interestingly enough the last episode that we did shoot in full is one that ties up a lot of loose ends from past cases," Hyder said. "So, on its own it kind of has this great little buttoning-up feeling to it."
"It definitely wasn't the planned finale, but it'll have to do," Hyder said. "And I think it will serve that purpose well."
Well, believe it or not, Simon's death was going to be re-examined in the finale. Along with the return of two prominent characters from earlier seasons. So, we're sorry not to get to make that episode. The three before it were also in pretty great shape. So it goes. https://t.co/SiBAKKrOjQ— Warren(Flatten the Curve) Leight (@warrenleightTV) March 23, 2020
Back on March 13, Leight told fans episode 20, written by Julie Martin and Leight, be the finale. Titled "The Things We Have to Lose," the episode brings back several criminals and victims from past episodes this season. Leight said it would make an "oddly fine" finale to the season. Leight also teased on March 23 that the death of Olivia Benson's half-brother Simon Marsden (Michael Weston) in "Murdered at a Bad Address" would be "re-examined" in one of the final episodes. Leight also told TVLine the season finale would include the return of Elliot Stabler's wife and son.
The SVU team is also dealing with personal tragedy due to the coronavirus. Costumer Josh Wallwork died in March after he was diagnosed with the virus. He was 45.
"It was really, really gut-wrenching to hear that he had passed," Hyder told the Daily Mail. "You know, he's young, and was a super vibrant person and you just… times like these you just kind of create distance between yourself and the crisis and something that happens and it reminds you that we're all susceptible."
Even if SVU Season 21 ended with a cliffhanger, fans would still get to see the story end. In February, NBC made the unprecedented decision to renew SVU for three more seasons, keeping Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and team busy through 2021. The show became the longest-running scripted primetime drama in U.S. television history this year.