The long-awaited reunion between Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson is almost here as Christopher Meloni has arrived at the set of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. On Instagram, the actor shared a black-and-white photo of himself alongside Mariska Hargitay with the caption, "We are a little bit closer." Now sporting a clean-shaven appearance reminiscent of Stabler, the photo gives us our first look at Meloni's reprisal of the role since leaving the franchise a decade ago.
Hours later, Mariska Hargitay also hopped on Instagram to show another photo with Meloni. Both appear to be quite happy in the photo, clearly stoked about Stabler's return to the Law & Order universe. "Now even closer," Hargitay says in the caption.
Christopher Meloni starred alongside Hargitay in the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: SVU. During that time, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, while Hargitay picked up the win for Outstanding Lead Actress. The dynamic of the show completely changed when Meloni announced his exit in 2011, taking Stabler out of the series ahead of season 13. Though he was a vital part of the show, Hargitay and the rest of the cast continued on without him to great success, as SVU is still going strong in the midst of season 22.
It will be amazing to see Meloni and Hargitay on the screen together again, but Stabler won't be returning to Law & Order: SVU as a main character like he was before. His appearance on the show will be to help establish a new spinoff series following Stabler pursuing criminals of another variety. While Stabler's return to SVU may be in a limited capacity, Meloni has previously explained that the reunion between Stabler and Benson will be handled in a satisfactory way.
"[The Stabler/Benson reunion] just has to be," Meloni told The New York Post last year. "Benson and Stabler are inextricably linked, locked, and connected. I think there is truly and deeply a worthwhile, inherent drama in exploring that relationship and the complexity of how Stabler left - the unresolved emotions both characters feel and how the fans feel."
Meloni added, "How my character left was really unsatisfying, I think. It almost feels that we won't do one or two [crossover] episodes and move on our merry way. I just think there will always be possibilities there... People will always be hungry to see how we interact and how that dynamic has changed."
After reuniting with Benson, Stabler will go on to lead his own new series, Law & Order: Organized Crime, with Meloni starring. The story picks up with Stabler returning to work for the NYPD after suffering a "devastating personal loss." Given his sudden interest in pursuing organized crime syndicates, we can presume this will be connected to the tragedy.
Law & Order: Organized Crime was originally scheduled to premiere last fall, but it was subsequently delayed to this year. Ilene Chaiken will serve as showrunner following the exit of previous showrunner Matt Olmstead. It's not yet clear when the new spinoff will premiere. This news comes to us from Christopher Meloni on Instagram.