Christopher Meloni Says ‘Hope Springs Eternal’ for Benson-Stabler Hookup on New ‘Law & Order’ Seasons

TCA 2021: But NBC star says it will need to be a “collaborative effort” between “SVU” and “Organized Crime” showrunners to make it happen

Law & Order Organized Crime

The “Law & Order” universe returns with new storylines for its “SVU” and “Organized Crime” shows on Thursday, Sept. 23, and with that comes the question of where the relationship between former partners and longtime friends Commander Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) is headed on Season 23 of main show and the second season of its spinoff series.

For those fans hoping things will finally, finally take a romantic turn for the pair — characters that have been shipped since “Special Victims Unit” first premiered in 1999 — Meloni says there’s no reason to give up just yet.

“Sure, hope springs eternal. I mean, why not?” the “Organize Crime” star told press during a virtual panel promoting the new seasons of “SVU” and “Organized Crime” Monday at the Television Critics Association’s press tour. “I think it’s going to be a collaborative effort between both showrunners for ‘SVU’ [which is showrun by Warren Leight] and ‘OC’ [which is showrun by Ilene Chaiken] and, I believe, with Mariska and I, to kind of figure it all out. It’s a complicated relationship. So, yeah we’ll see.”

The first season of “Organized Crime” crossed over regularly with its parent series, “SVU,” and dealt with the long-awaited return of Stabler into both the “Law & Order” world and Olivia’s life. But tragedy striking Stabler at the start of the spinoff, as his wife, Kathy (Isabel Gillies), was murdered and her death spurred him to return to the NYPD and search for her killer. It definitely put an obvious block on any potential romance with Benson at the time — as the marriage itself had blocked romance in the past.

But Meloni thinks that fans have held on to Stabler-Benson as a couple because of how his time on “SVU” ended so suddenly at the end of Season 12 in May 2011.

“I think it was a very unsatisfying ending to the Benson-Stabler saga, or journey, kind of abrupt for the fans. I think there was always those feelings, those underpinnings of feelings, that never got answered,” he said. “So they stuck around for 10 years to watch the story continue.”

“Law & Order: SVU” and “Law & Order: Organized Crime” return with new seasons in a crossover event Thursday, Sept. 23 at 8/7c on NBC.