To say I love the Law & Order franchise would be a huge understatement. As Woody Allen said, “I lurve” it — a lot. I especially love Olivia Benson, portrayed so beautifully on Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit by Mariska Hargitay these past 17 seasons.
I’m not the only one. Throughout the show’s extensive run, Benson has had many, many love interests. Although they’re rarely part of the main plot, once in a while one sneaks into the story line. At the end of the day, it’s quite clear that Benson doesn’t need a man. But it’s fun to look back on her partners throughout the years, ranked from zero to hero.
10. Erik Weber, Season 12
I hesitate to even put Weber on this list, but he and Benson did share a cup of coffee once. Weber was an artist and hacker who popped up as a suspect in one of the SVU’s investigations, only to insert himself into their next one. Not only did he help steer the SVU toward a child rapist but he also actually turned out to be the child rapist. Good thing Benson never fell for his charming shtick.
9. Nick Ganzner, Season 1
Ganzner was a reporter lurking at SVU crime scenes. He begged Benson for a date, but the moment they were out, it was clear he was fishing for more information on her case. The last straw came when he asked Benson to reenact the subway rapes she was investigating. Oh, and did I mention he went through her files while she was in the bathroom? He then used that stolen information for a front-page scoop. Whatta creep!
8. Jeffrey York, Season 5
Benson and York’s relationship happened off-camera before the series begins. But we do get to sort of meet York and learn a bit about him. The SVU team arrives at a crime scene only for Benson to recognize the murder victim as her former flame. Throughout the course of the investigation, she learns that York was deep in the closet, having an affair with his male co-worker and was HIV positive. These three things combined throw Benson for quite the loop.
7. Andy Eckerson, Season 5
Once again, Eckerson and Benson’s relationship happened off-camera. Eckerson is a United States Marshal and former-NYPD detective. It’s clear that Eckerson is an adrenaline junky and that his behavior probably took a toll on anything he and Benson could have. Like she doesn’t have enough to deal with at work? In his one episode, Eckerson does try and reignite their spark, but Benson says she really just needs stability outside of work. Ouch.
6. Brian Cassidy, Season 1
Benson and Cassidy’s first go-round happens early on in the series’ premiere season. It’s a one-night stand that leaves Cassidy breathless and Benson berating herself. While Cassidy wants more, Benson doesn’t — at least for now. Shortly after their night together, Cassidy transfers out of SVU to the Narcotics Unit, where he remains, as far we as know, until he reappears over 10 years later!
5. Kurt Moss, Season 9
Where did he even come from? Instead of being introduced slowly, we learn from Lieutenant Tucker (another Benson love interest later on) that she’s dating an editor at the fictional New York Ledger. Not only that, but they’ve been dating a while and he’s even asked her to move in with him. What? By the end of his one episode, she’s broken up with Moss and is drowning her sorrows with Stabler. The universe feels right again.
4. Ed Tucker, Season 17
Throughout SVU’s very long run, Lieutenant Ed Tucker has popped in and out as a thorn in the detectives’ sides. As part of Internal Affairs, it’s Tucker’s job to investigate and weed out dirty cops, which obviously puts him on the wrong side of the SVU team. In later seasons, it becomes clear he’s sweet on Benson. Throughout Season 17, the SVU writers throw some teasers the viewer’s way, but by the time it’s revealed Benson and Tucker are indeed dating, Benson seems so happy and at ease, we just sort of forget how jerky Tucker used to be. This relationship is still in progress, so the jury’s still out.
3. David Haden, Season 13
Sparks are definitely flying the first time Executive Assistant District Attorney and Benson meet. It doesn’t take too long, or too many cases, for them to go for drinks with the relationship going from there. Benson seems happy, like, really, seriously happy. Of course, this is a huge conflict of interest considering Haden is the ADA assigned to SVU. Soon enough, this becomes an issue with one of Benson’s old cases being questioned. Haden calls off the relationship before they can get caught and seriously reprimanded. Never one to sit back and mope, Benson is back to beating back the bad guys, reminding us that she’s a badass, with or without a man.
2. Brian Cassidy, Season 14-15
Cassidy re-enters the SVU-verse during the Season 13 finale, working undercover for a pimp. There are definitely some bumps in Cassidy and Benson’s relationship road. First he gets shot. Then he gets arrested for raping a prostitute. Then crazed sociopath William Lewis kidnaps Benson. It doesn’t help that her partner, Detective Nick Amaro, really hates Cassidy. Eventually, the duo move in to together, but it’s clear that they want different things and they part amicably at the end of Season 15.
1. Elliot Stabler, Season 1-12
So maybe this relationship was purely platonic, but no one had Benson’s back and best interests in mind the way Stabler did. Her partner for over 10 years, Stabler was there for Benson through thick and thin, bad and good, and even, her bizarre behavior at times (Anyone else remember when she helped her half-brother jump bail?) The only glaring inconsistency in their relationship is after Stabler resigns from SVU, he doesn’t call or even text Benson after her kidnapping by William Lewis, adoption of Noah or her many SVU promotions. That being said, he still takes the top spot in my book.