‘Law & Order: SVU’ Showrunner Says First Episodes of Season 22 Will Deal With the Country’s Current ‘Challenges’

Law & Order: SVU fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of Christopher Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler ever since the showrunner Warren Leight hinted that he would make an appearance in the season 22 premiere. But they’ll have to wait a little while longer. Meloni won’t appear in the premiere after all, Leight now says. However, viewers can expect some storylines that grapple with the current crises facing the U.S. when the long-running crime drama does return to TV.

‘SVU’ showrunner says Stabler won’t be back for the premiere

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Season 22 of SVU will premiere Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 9 ET on NBC. Sadly, Meloni won’t be featured in the episode. The actor will be returning to the Law & Order universe in the new spinoff Organized Crime. The show was originally supposed to premiere in 2020, but that has been pushed back until 2021. As a result, Stabler’s promised SVU return has also been delayed.

“These days all plans are subject to change. And then they change again.  And again. For now, we won’t reintroduce Stabler until the night of his Organized Crime premiere,” Leight tweeted on Aug. 27.

Sir Toby’s trial is also on hold

Mariska Hargitay and Ice T
Mariska Hargitay and Ice T on set of SVU | Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Season 21 of SVU ended with Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino) trying to ensure that media mogul and serial rapist Sir Toby (Ian McShane) stood trial for sexual assault. The Harvey Weinstein-esque figure suffered a heart attack in the finale that caused his trial to be delayed. 

A fan asked Leight if the season 22 opener would pick up with Sir Toby’s trial. Leight responded with some disappointing news for viewers who are eager to see Sir Toby brought to justice. 

“I can answer this… no it won’t,” Leight tweeted on Sept. 1.

‘SVU’ will deal with the country’s current challenges

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Rather than tackling the conclusion of the Sir Toby storyline, the first few episodes of SVU will address some of the issues currently facing the country, Leight shared. 

“A lot has happened since we shut down, in New York, and in our country,” he wrote. “First few eps will see our squad grappling with many of the losses and changes and challenges we’re all going through at this moment.”

That certainly sounds like the show will be addressing either the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic or the Black Lives Matter protests, possibly both. During an appearance on the Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast in early June, Leight said the writers were working on episodes that would explore domestic violence during the pandemic and touch on the death of George Floyd. He also discussed adding more diversity to the show’s writer’s room and his efforts to tell stories that reflect the complicated nature of justice in the U.S. 

“We keep trying to go for the gray,” he said. “We don’t want to have a cartoonish Law & Order show.”

“We try to be of the moment,” he added.

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