Why 'Law & Order: SVU' Isn't New Tonight

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fans have had to wait a long time for a new episode, and the [...]

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fans have had to wait a long time for a new episode, and the wait will continue this week. There has not been a new episode of the longest-running primetime drama in American television history since the Feb. 25 episode, "The Only Way Out Is Through," aired. The reason for this long midseason break is two words: Elliot Stabler. On Thursday, March 18, NBC is re-airing the Feb. 18 episode, "Hunt, Trap, Rape, and Release."

The next new SVU episode is the appropriately titled "Return of the Prodigal Son," which will feature Christopher Meloni's first appearance on the show since the Season 12 finale. The episode will air on Thursday, April 1 at 9 p.m. ET and will lead directly into the first episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime. "The squad rallies around Det. Stabler to find the suspect behind a threat to his family," reads NBC's synopsis of the SVU half of the crossover.

Stabler left SVU between Seasons 12 and 13 since Meloni did not reach a new contract with NBC. When the show returned for Season 13, Stabler's retirement from the NYPD was just explained through dialogue and Stabler never got a proper send-off. He referred to his unceremonious departure in a preview scene with Fin (Ice-T) that NBC released earlier this month. "You know how much time has passed that you can't reach out? Days turn into months turn into years and I just kept waiting for the right moment," Stabler told Fin.

Not too much is known about Law & Order: Organized Crime beyond the set-up. Stabler returns to the NYPD after a personal tragedy and is assigned to lead an elite squad tasked with taking down organized crime syndicates in the city. Dylan McDermott, Danielle Mone Truitt, Tamara Taylor, and newcomer Ainsley Seigler also star in the series. Their character names have not been announced yet.

Last week, Give Me My Remote confirmed that members of the Stabler family will be back for the SVU half of the crossover. Isabel Gillies will return as Stable's wife Kathy, while Allison Siko will be back as his daughter Kathleen. Jeffrey Scaperrotta will return as Stabler's son, Dickie. None of the three have appeared on SVU since Meloni left in 2011. Gillies was originally supposed to appear in the SVU Season 21 finale, but that was scrapped when production was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stabler is not the only fan-favorite character returning in Season 22. Tamara Tunie will be back as medical examiner Melinda Warner. She first appeared on the show in Season 2 and has shown up periodically. She previously appeared in the December 2020 episode "Remember Me in Quarantine." Tunie's return was confirmed when radio host Elvis Duran shared behind-the-scenes photos of himself playing a dead body in a future SVU episode.