Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fans got a taste of Elliot Stabler's much-anticipated return at a special glimpse of a virtual table read amid filming shared by star Mariska Hargitay and showrunner Warren Leight. Christopher Meloni will be reprising his role as a guest star in the hit NBC show before helming his own vehicle in the upcoming franchise offshoot Law & Order: Organized Crime, and can be seen reuniting with his co-stars Hargitay, Peter Scanavino, Kelli Giddish, Ice-T and Jamie Gray Hyder during the table read.
"Well...that happened..." Hargitay, who plays Det. Olivia Benson, Stabler's former partner, captioned the photo. Leight shared his own screengrab of the video screen, writing, "Well, we had a pretty good read-thru." Fans couldn't hold back their excitement. "I’ve waited 10 years for this!" one person commented on Hargitay's Instagram. "Consider the internet...BROKEN!!!!" another added.
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Law & Order: Organized Crime will bring Stabler back to the NYPD after his retirement from SVU, but he will likely first make a guest appearance on Law & Order: SVU ahead of Organized Crime's premiere. The straight-to-series police drama was originally planned to make its debut this fall, but was reportedly pushed back due to a showrunner switch-up. The Hollywood Reporter reported in October that Matt Olmstead exited as showrunner due to "challenges cracking the show's creative."
Meloni told Entertainment Tonight in July that a "certain piece" fell into place that allowed him to reprise his iconic role. "For me, there were just personal things that I was like, 'You know, now is a good time.' That was it. There was nothing secret. It just was effortlessly correct," he said of the feeling of taking on the new show. "It's one of these [things where] I felt like I believed in the stars and all that… I'd go, 'Oh, the stars are telling me you know but because it was just right.'"
Reuniting with Hargitay was part of that effortless return. "[SVU] gave birth to Mariska and Meloni, and Benson and Stabler. So we're kind of inextricably linked and connected in that way," Meloni said of the bond with his co-star. "Beyond that, we're very good friends. I think we value each other."
"We just pick it up right where we left off and we've said it's like we don't have this relationship with anyone else," he continued. "It's unique, it's full of laughter, she's full of love. We just kind of fall seamlessly into that place every time we see each other."