'Law & Order: SVU' Season 22 Premiere Will No Longer Feature Christopher Meloni's Return

The Law & Order: Special Victims Season 22 premiere was originally supposed to be a major episode featuring Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler for the first time in a decade, but just like so many other things affected by the coronavirus pandemic, it no longer will. Due to NBC's decision to hold off on debuting most scripted shows until November, SVU showrunner Warren Leight confirmed on Twitter last week that the episode will be held back until Meloni's spin-off debuts. Meloni will star in the latest Law & Order spin-off, Law & Order: Organized Crime, which will not debut until next year now.

Back on Thursday, NBC unveiled its fall plans. The network pushed back the debuts of SVU, This Is Us, The Blacklist and the Chicago shows until the week of Nov. 9. SVU will kick off on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. ET. Organized Crime and other new shows will not debut until next year. When it does, it will be paired with the SVU episode featuring Meloni's return, Leight said.

"These days all plans are subject to change. And then they change again. And again. For now, we won't reintroduce Stabler until the night of his Organized Crime premiere," Leight tweeted, adding that the writer's room has to be "nimble" this year. One fan later asked Leight if he would reveal the name of the season premiere episode, but he would not. He told the same fan the team is just taking this season "one episode at a time."

The coronavirus pandemic previously threw a wrench into Leight's plans back in March. The SVU team never had a chance to film the real Season 21 finale, which was supposed to tease Stabler's return by bringing some of his family members back into the fold. In April, Leight told TVLine they wanted to bring back Isabel Gillies to play Stabler's wife, Kathy Stabler. One of Stabler's sons was also going to appear in the show. The episode was never filmed because production shut down in March.

Meloni was last seen on SVU in the Season 12 finale, which aired back in 2011. When the show returned for Season 13, he was nowhere to be found and it was just explained through dialogue that he left the team. Since then, Meloni has stayed friends with co-star Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson, and he often spoke about possibly coming back. He never did though, until now. In July, Hargitay confirmed they were definitely working together, as she posted a new photo of the two with the simple caption, "It's on."