Here's a "Law & Order: SVU" twist you might not have expected: Christopher Meloni is coming back to the show as Elliot Stabler!
During an episode of "SVU's" behind-the-scenes podcast, showrunner Warren Leight noted that "It’s pretty clear that Elliot will be in the 'SVU' season opener. I think that much I know."
Now, those who've been playing detective and following the "SVU" clues over the past few weeks might not be too shocked. At the end of March, NBC ordered a Stabler-focused spinoff from the main show, starring Meloni as the tough, volatile but much-admired cop.
The new series will reportedly be set in the organized crime division, so he wouldn't be working opposite his old partner Capt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), but that was OK for fans, who've been longing to return Stabler to the beat for years.
Stabler and Benson played partnered detectives on "SVU" when it premiered in 1999; the pair had terrific chemistry and though their story never became a love affair (Stabler was mostly happily married most of the time), they clearly felt very deeply for each other. Meloni exited the series in 2011 after the show's 12th season.
Over the years, we've been tickled to see that Hargitay and Meloni have remained such great pals; for his 59th birthday on April 2, she posted a terrific picture of them both on Instagram:
She wrote: "Happy Birthday @chris_meloni Congratulations and welcome home Elliot Stabler #It’sBeenAWhile #MissedYou #ElliotStabler," and he replied in the comments, "Saddle up gurl, we ridin agin."
But the return of Stabler was already in the works for Season 21 — which got cut short when production shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak. Leight told TVLine in April that the Season 21 finale would have featured Stabler's wife, Kathy, and their son as part of the storyline.
Will they be part of the Season 22 premiere? Leight isn't sure yet. "There’s a lot of moving parts," he said, noting that the premiere would not just launch the new season but would also launch the new series.
"It's ... how much crossover will there be between Elliot and Olivia as it goes on," he added. That means some of the details of the scrapped finale could become part of the new premiere.
But there's still one hitch. "We don't know when we'll be back to shooting and what shooting will be like in the post-COVID world," he said.
Whatever happens, consider us arrested by these new developments!