After a 12-year run, Chris Meloni has chosen to leave the 'SVU' stages, which means Det. Elliot Stabler will be leaving the squad room.
All of his co-workers will feel the loss, but none more than Olivia Benson, his partner for that whole time. The SVU team will be adjusting to the end of that partnership for the first several episodes of the season.
Rather than duck it, we'll try to play into the reality of his absence. Though the shooting in last year's season finale would definitely be considered a "good" shooting, it's not Stabler's first; by our count, he has fired his weapon at least five times and often used excessive force as well. Even if every shooting is deemed appropriate and necessary, after this many, he'd have to jump through some hoops before going back into the field. He would also have to deal with the emotional toll that final shooting took on him.
Between the Season 12 finale and the Season 13 premiere, Stabler would have been on leave pending an investigation by Internal Affairs. Our other main characters -- Benson, Fin, Munch and Cragen -- would, for the most part, expect he'd soon be back on the job. The delay of his return, and the way they each respond to the news, will be an important storyline in the first episode.
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Stabler's absence would of course distress Benson most of all, not just in the first episode, but throughout the season. For 12 years she's had someone to carry the load with her, someone to give her reality checks, someone to support and lean on, and without warning, he's going to disappear from her professional life. Once he's gone, she will have to find her own footing and re-learn how to do her job without him.
In the season premiere, she'll be working on a fast-paced, high-stakes case, one that involves a victim who desperately needs her support and understanding. Without Stabler by her side, she finds herself somewhat untethered, and even questioning her instincts.
She and the squad room will have to process a host of changes on the fly: After the shooting, the squad room has been redesigned, the brass has the entire unit under a microscope and two new detectives, Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish), and Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) will be assigned SVU. In every crisis, there is opportunity.
'Law & Order: SVU' Season 13 premieres Wed., Sept. 21, 10PM ET on NBC
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