After Law & Order: SVU spending two-plus decades trolling Benson and Stabler fans, enough is enough. The NBC series needs to stop its Bensler teases.
Law & Order: SVU has made it anything but a secret that there is a heap of romantic tension between Captain Olivia Benson and Detective Elliot Stabler. From its very first season — despite Elliot being married with a bunch of kids — the “will they/won’t they” energy between Benson and Stabler burned strong. But though the writers teased out a mutual attraction, by the time Stabler left the series at the end of Season 12, he was still solidly married.
A decade later, when Stabler returned to the franchise in his undercover vehicle Law & Order: Organized Crime, both series leaned way into the Bensler chemistry. In fact, Organized Crime began by removing the one very big obstacle to a Bensler endgame: Stabler’s wife Kathy, who was ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ off. But despite Benson and Stabler both being unattached and admitting their feelings on various occasions, the subplot is still no more than a constant tease. And after SVU’s latest close call, it’s time for that to stop.
Law & Order’s History of Teasing Benson and Stabler Fans
With flirtatious banter and skin-to-skin contact while undercover, Benson and Stabler have always straddled the line of being more than just partners. And because of Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni’s real-life friendship translating to excellent on-screen chemistry, the leap from detective partners to romantic partners has never felt that far-fetched. But SVU has spent nearly 20 years playing toward the idea; in 2004, Season 6, Episode 8, “Doubt” saw Kathy leave Stabler and Stabler confide in Olivia, only for nothing to come of it. And that was a pattern, constantly building up shippers’ interest only to pull the rug out from under them.
And once Stabler returned to Benson’s life, the writers started off even more Bensler-heavy. There was Elliot’s admission that he loved Olivia — in front of his kids There was the letter Stabler delivered to Benson that said “In a parallel universe, it will always be you and I,” only for fans to be bewildered that Kathy had been behind it. He even met her son Noah. And when Organized Crime introduced a woman from Stabler’s past, she ended up being a red herring as Elliot realized he only had love for Olivia.
But the cherry on top came Jan. 26 in Law & Order: SVU Season 24, Episode 12, “Blood Out.” After two weeks of ads centered around an apparent almost-kiss between Benson and Stabler, fans saw the characters once again stop in their tracks. Viewers were upset at the series once again promoting itself using Bensler, but not actually delivering… and it’s gotten to the point where the hype is doing more harm than good.
Law & Order: SVU’s Bensler Trolling Is Bringing Down the Series
Bensler fans are used to being trolled by the Law & Order franchise, but “Blood Out” was the breaking point for many long-time fans. There were some very vocal Twitter posts after the episode aired. And even celebrity gossip mainstay DeuxMoi got involved, alleging that Benson and Stabler had actually kissed — but executive producer Dick Wolf subsequently ordered the kiss to be cut out, without consulting Hargitay, Meloni or current SVU showrunner David Graziano.
At this point, Law & Order: SVU is showing blatant disrespect for fans and using tired, worn-out tropes. Either get Benson and Stabler together or don’t, but stop teasing the Bensler fans and stop using the ship as a promotional tool for the series. The reception to “Blood Out” demonstrates that the online tides are turning against SVU because of the trolling, on top of Kelli Giddish’s still-controversial departure. SVU has managed to survive 24 seasons but is now actively alienating its fan base. Even non-shipper fans are likely tired of regularly hearing about a ship that still hasn’t materialized. It’s time for Benson and Stabler — and the viewers — to get clarity if SVU wants to last into Season 25 and beyond.