Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9 Review: Return Of The Prodigal Son

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Welcome back, Elliot.

Fans have been waiting for Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9 for a long, long time.

Some viewers never stopped hoping that Stabler would return after Christopher Meloni left the series back in 2011. And then, once the new spin-off was finally announced, it was delayed by nearly a year because of the COVID pandemic. But tonight, Stabler was FINALLY on our screens again.

Voice From The Past/Tall - Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9

Stabler's return was so hyped up that I was afraid it would end up being disappointing, but I'm glad to say that it wasn't. Not one bit.

The biggest question on many fans' minds was how was Benson going to react to her ex-partner's sudden reappearance after 10 years of radio silence?

This kind of story can be tricky to pull off. Fans have been eager for this reunion, but it wouldn't be realistic or great for Benson's character if she were 100% happy that Stabler was back and decided to forget that he'd disappeared.

Benson: Elliot. You were the most, the single most important person in my life -
Elliot: Olivia..
Benson: And you just disappeared.
Elliot: I know. I was afraid if I hear your voice I wouldn't have been able to leave.

But SVU handled the dilemma perfectly, allowing Benson to go back and forth between falling into the old, comfortable relationship with Stabler and being reluctant to allow herself to go beyond being professional with him.

Helping Out - Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9

The dynamic shifted, too, after Kathy's death.

Before that, Benson was totally willing to be the supportive friend who encouraged Stabler to spend his time in the hospital with his wife.

It reminded me of that time on Law & Order: SVU Season 3 when she told Stabler that Kathy was the best thing that ever happened to him and that he'd be an idiot if he threw her away.

But after Kathy died, it seemed like Benson became more conflicted.

She comforted Stabler and came to Kathy's funeral to support him and the kids, yet told him she couldn't allow herself to be close to him.

Skeptical as Usual - Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9

Many fans had speculated that Kathy would die and eventually pave the way for a Benson/Stabler romance.

If that happens at all, it will be a slow burn, as it should be. Besides Stabler's ten-year absence and his secretiveness about his current activities, there's the fact that he's loved Kathy since they were teenagers!

It would be disrespectful to her memory if he were to be willing to get involved romantically with anyone else anytime soon, especially the woman Kathy was often jealous of in SVU's early years.

As an aside, it's really too bad that Blue Bloods is on another network and is not a Dick Wolf show.

Considering that both Stabler and Danny Reagan are hotheaded cops trying to adapt to changing times, and both of their wives were murdered by mob bosses, it would be fascinating for them to work a case together!

Conflicted Feelings - Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9

Speaking of which, I love the set-up for Stabler to butt heads with the changing cop culture.

A lot has changed since he left SVU, and the two changes that seemed hardest for him to deal with were that violence toward perps is more frowned upon than ever... and that Benson is now the boss.

She always tried to talk him down when he went too far, but she never had the authority to do so. They were partners, which made them equals.

Jacob: I'm sorry for your loss, but this is a war. Your wife bleeding out isn't the biggest loss.
Stabler: Say that again!
Benson: OKAY WE'RE DONE! Detective Stabler! Detective Stabler, get out!

But this time, it was her squad room, and Stabler disrespected her rules when he went off on a suspect.

Christopher Meloni Returns - Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9

That had to be a hard pill for him to swallow. Benson might not always have approved of his methods, but now his actions had consequences for both of them... and she had both the authority and the need to kick him out of the squad room.

Benson's scenes with Garland were among the best of the hour, as she tried to defend Stabler without making excuses for him and was forced to take orders from Garland about keeping her old friend far away from the investigation.

I wasn't surprised that, in the end, SVU was no longer allowed to handle the case.

It wasn't really an SVU case, to begin with. The only reason they were looking into it at all was that Stabler was such a big part of the department for so long.

I do wonder if there will be an FBI crossover in the future, though. Car bombs set by serial terrorists seem like something for Maggie and O.A. to look into.

An Emotional Reunion - Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9

I'm hoping there will also be some crossovers with Chicago PD. Voight and Stabler also have a lot in common, and it would be fascinating for them to team up.

As it was, I was disappointed this all went down in New York instead of Chicago. We could have had a HUGE crossover event if Kathy had been taken to Chicago Med, and the intelligence unit that took the case from Benson was Voight's!

It's going to be strange for SVU to get back to its regular types of cases after this, but fortunately, there is also a ton more Law & Order: Organized Crime. Check out our Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 1 Episode 1 review if you want to chat about Stabler's post-SVU life!

Just don't forget to come back and hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button to let us know what you thought!

Want to refresh your memory first? Just watch Law & Order: SVU online right here on TV Fanatic.

Return Of The Prodigal Son Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (57 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 9 Quotes

Elliot: She's gotta be okay.
Benson: Kathy's a fighter. You know that.

Benson: Kathy?
Stabler: Liv!
Benson: Elliot?
Stabler: They tried to kill Kathy.