Elliot Stabler won't be coming back to the force this year after all, as Christopher Meloni's anticipated return toLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit has been pushed back to 2021. This follows previous reports that Meloni's Stabler-led spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime, has also been delayed until next year. Because it had already been announced that Meloni would first be appearing on the upcoming season premiere of SVU before leading his own show, there was still hope from fans that Stabler would still be back on television this fall.

Unfortunately, showrunner Warren Leight has since confirmed that Christopher Meloni won't be appearing on SVU this year after all. On Twitter, one fan directly asked Leight if Stabler would still be featured in the season 22 premiere as was previously reported back in May. "These days all plans are subject to change," Leight wrote in response. "And then they change again. And again. For now, we won't reintroduce Stabler until the night of his Organized Crime premiere."

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Meloni famously played Elliot Stabler on SVU starting in 1999, alongside former co-star Mariska Hargitay as his character's partner, Olivia Benson. The two made the series one of the most successful in television history, and Meloni was even nominated for an Oscar because of the role. Still, a contract dispute led to Meloni's sudden exit from the series in 2011, and the actor has not even come back for a one-off guest appearance in the years since. To explain Stabler's absence, it was revealed that he had retired off-camera ahead of season 13.

The upcoming spinoff series, Law & Order: Organized Crime, will follow Stabler returning to the NYPD after suffering from a "devastating personal loss." He then sets his sights on the city's organized crime syndicates, going back to doing what he does best. To help set up the new show, Meloni was set to first reprise the role of Stabler on SVU, ensuring that fans will see a reunion with his former partner, Olivia Benson. It certainly makes sense to push back this special appearance until Stabler can branch out with his own show, but it's still a major bummer with so many fans anticipating his return.

Ahead of having their famous characters meeting on screen once again, Meloni and Hargitay had a reunion behind the scenes earlier this summer. In a photo posted to Hargitay's Instagram account, the two pose for the camera with the caption simply reading, "It's on."

"Benson and Stabler are inextricably linked, locked and connected," Meloni also said to the New York Post earlier this year when asked about the characters' upcoming reunion. "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."

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will premiere season 22 on Nov. 12, 2020 on NBC. Meanwhile, Organized Crime will be premiering on the network sometime in 2021, but a release date has yet to be revealed. This news comes to us from Warren Leight on Twitter.