Elliot Stabler won't be back in Law & Order: SVU season 22 premiere. On the heels of the news that Law & Order: Organized Crime will premiere during the mid-season instead of this October, fans were ecstatic that Chris Meloni was still slated to reprise his fan-favorite character in his old show which maintained its original fall release — albeit, a couple of months late. Now, however, that's no longer the case as Law & Order: SVU is holding off bringing back the retired detective until next year as well.
Back in March, news broke out that after almost a decade since he abruptly walked away from Law & Order: SVU, Meloni is set to reprise his detective role on the small screen. The actor was part of the show's core cast when it premiered in 1999, playing the aggressive detective, Elliot Stabler, opposite Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson. Meloni's decision to walk away from the role was due to failure to negotiate a brand new contract, so writers of the police procedural had to be creative in explaining his sudden departure from the task force. This time, however, his return isn't only for Law & Order: SVU as he's poised to spearhead his own Dick Wolf spinoff in Organized Crime.
The initial plan was to bring back Stabler in Law & Order: SVU's season 22 premiere as confirmed by showrunner Warren Leight back in May. Now, things have changed as the series executive reveals on social media that they won't be bringing back Stabler until the night of his debut on Organized Crime. Check out his full statement below;
The most obvious reason for this delay is the coronavirus pandemic which has limited the work that movie and TV show productions can do. In fact, the global health pandemic has already previously caused changes in how Stabler was supposed to be reintroduced. Leight revealed that they planned on bringing the character's family's back first in Law & Order: SVU season 21 finale as a set-up for his eventual re-emergence in the season 22 premiere, but since they had to cut the year short due to health crisis, that was scrapped. Because of this, they just opted against the original plan altogether and go straight to Stabler.
As disappointing as this news is to fans, pushing back Stabler's reintroduction makes sense in the bigger scheme of things. NBC is clearly using his connections with Law & Order: SVU to launch Organized Crime which is a clever move since people know Meloni's character best from the long-running show. Law & Order: SVU also has a solid base, and the fact that it continues to be on the air is an indication that it just hasn't maintained its base, it's also growing it. Since Stabler has been gone since 2012, newer fans may not be familiar with him and why he's important in the show's history. Perhaps if they can re-establish his connection with the original show first, more viewers would be inclined to check out Organized Crime. In any case, given the procedural nature of the series, In any case, given the procedural nature of the series, NBC can easily move their episodes around in a way that it won't affect its bigger narrative.