I Like Law & Order: SVU Without Stabler

Jan 24, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. ET
Image: Christopher Saunders/NBC

It’s hard to believe Christopher Meloni left Law & Order: SVU seven seasons ago, taking with him the iconic character of Elliot Stabler. At the time of his departure, I remember being devastated as a fan. How could there be an Olivia Benson with an Elliot Stabler? I vowed then and there that I could never like the show as much as I did when the two were partners.

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For a few seasons, that turned out to be true. Perhaps I simply wasn’t into the storylines or the new characters being introduced — or, perhaps more realistically, I simply wasn’t ready to let go of my grudge against the show for getting rid of a character I felt was key to the series.

As time passed, though, Stabler kind of became like an old love. You know the type: when you were with them, you thought they could do no wrong. Even after your breakup, you continued to idolize them, convinced the best thing that ever happened to you had slipped through your fingers. However, you eventually realize that the relationship wasn’t as perfect as your rose-colored glasses had you convinced it was. You eventually realize that you’re better off without them.

Yes, I’m saying exactly what you think I am — Law & Order: SVU is better off without Stabler.

I understand that this might sound like sacrilege to other long-time fans. But the thing is, if we’re really being honest, Stabler wasn’t good for Benson. And vice versa.

Think of how many times their feelings for each other clouded their judgment and nearly got them killed. Also, can we talk about Stabler’s anger issues? It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call the man a rage-a-holic.

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This doesn’t mean I don’t respect the hell out of Meloni. What he did with the character was downright visionary, and I would 110 percent love to see a cameo from him every once in a while. Still, I kind of dig the chemistry of the current cast even more than I adored Benson and Stabler together at one time.

Part of the reason I don’t miss Stabler these days has a lot to do with one new character in particular: Dominick Carisi Jr., played by Peter Scanavino.

While Carisi has plenty of anger, just as Stabler did, Carisi’s is more righteous and tempered. He’s a good, level-headed cop who always seems to be there for everyone. He came on a little slick at first, but he’s easily become a standout character on the long-running series.

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The fact that he has some pretty stellar chemistry with another new(er) co-star, Kelli Giddish (who plays Amanda Rollins), is a perk. We get the fun back-and-forth “will they or won’t they?” anticipation we used to have with Stabler and Benson, but without quite so much angst — albeit with some drama, because Rollins can be a bit of a hot mess.

Bottom line? I don’t think it’s the worst thing that Meloni hasn’t rejoined the cast of Law & Order: SVU as Stabler. The series has grown up and grown out of that character. Carisi makes up for Stabler’s absence and then some.

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