They are one of the most iconic couples in the Law & Order universe, and they’ve never dated each other. They’ve been partners, but not in the romantic sense. They’ve unconditionally loved one another, yet they’ve never been in love with one another. They are detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler — the best damn people to ever exist on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Benson and Stabler are a classic platonic pair, and yet they were so revolutionary together. In the world of crime procedurals (of which SVU remains king, in my humble opinion), Benson and Stabler’s personal and professional relationship was nuanced, layered and so wholly unlike representations of other detective partnerships. It wasn’t defined by gender stereotypes, and it wasn’t burdened with sexual tension.
Instead, Benson and Stabler just… worked. Simple as that. So, when I came across a reunion photo of actor Mariska Hargitay (who still plays Benson on SVU) posted with actor Christopher Meloni (who played Stabler), I nearly died. These two remain good friends in real life. How about that? It got me a little sentimental, seeing the two of them reuniting. And it got me to thinking about all the times that Benson and Stabler were actually so ‘ship-worthy on SVU.
1. When Benson & Stabler were cool getting half-naked with each other
Sometimes Benson and Stabler have to go undercover or fake unusually romantic (for them) relationship dynamics in order to catch the perp. It’s always a treat to watch them feign intimacy, if only because that chemistry is so palpable, it makes you go, “What if?”
2. When Stabler wanted Benson to be his (platonic) Valentine
One moment that always stuck out in my head was when Stabler made sure that Benson wasn’t forgotten on Valentine’s Day. The moment proved that these partners really cared about one another and that they didn’t need to contemplate romance in order to allow their affection for each other to flourish.
3. When they grilled suspects together
Because literally any time they went out to get the villain, they looked like real-life superheroes.
4. When they were able to be weird and goofy with each other
A good partnership, platonic or romantic, allows room for the goofy, weird bits to come into play. Benson and Stabler had plenty of these moments during their time together and I. Was. Here. For. It.
5. Every time Benson called out Stabler for being a little internally misogynistic
At the end of the day, Stabler is a good Catholic boy. There were times when his approach to a case got clouded by some old-school thinking. Benson always called him out on his nonsense and schooled him.
6. When Benson seemed unimpressed that women would hit on Stabler
Getting hit on is bound to happen when you look like Stabler does — especially when there’s a perp trying to weasel their way out of a conviction. Benson always seemed unimpressed that Stabler would get hit on, and Stabler always seemed unfazed. This sort of, “Oh, women actually find you attractive?” bit made my heart grow three sizes for Benson and Stabler’s relationship.
7. When Stabler’s marriage remained intact and never threatened by Benson
How damn refreshing was it that Stabler’s wife was never jealous or worried that Stabler spent more time with Benson than he did with her? Come on, guys, that’s the sign of a ‘ship-worthy platonic relationship.
8. When they supported each other’s career and life goals
Stabler couldn’t stay a detective forever, and neither could Benson. Benson supported Stabler’s move to Washington D.C., and that’s a sign of a good relationship. Support is the key, folks.
9. When they actually fought over the right thing to do
All couples fight; even the platonic ones. Benson and Stabler didn’t always get along. Their opposing worldviews often led to some major breakthroughs in cases and added a new dynamic to their relationship.
10. People were jealous of their bond and actually didn’t get how partnerships work
The closeness and dependency Benson and Stabler shared were often commented on by other characters on SVU. But, guys, don’t listen to them. They’re just jealous.
11. When Benson pulled in Stabler to consult on cases even after he left
Even after Stabler had left New York City, Benson needed him. When he’d return for an episode to help consult on a case, it was like the old team was back together again. Ah, the good old days.
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