Season 24 of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is still going strong on NBC after Olivia Benson (played by Mariska Hargitay) said goodbye to her good friend and colleague Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) last year. With more high-stakes cases and possibly love in the air for Benson and her old partner Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), fans are wondering why defence attorney Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) has fallen by the wayside.
Fans have slammed recent seasons of SVU for mishandling Barba’s storyline before letting him go entirely.
After he initially appeared as a recurring character in season 14, Esparza was promoted to a season regular for five more instalments.
He then took a break from the series before coming back as a guest for seasons 21-23 before disappearing entirely once again.
Esparza claimed “it was time to move on” from his SVU stint after his exit, but some viewers were still left disappointed that his potential romance with Benson didn’t ever pan out.
Redditor u/fallspector recently posted: “I don’t like how things ended with Barba and think he deserved better.”
They went on to list a number of cases in which Barba was instrumental, including Benson’s ordeal with serial ᴋɪʟʟᴇʀ and rapist Lewis Williams (Pablo Schreiber).
Unfortunately, Barba’s farewell episode was rather unceremonious compared to the departures of SVU’s other main players.
“It’s not ideal [that he left] but [it] doesn’t mean he can’t be referenced anymore, but suddenly he comes back to represent Kathy Stabler’s (Isabel Gillies) ᴍᴜʀᴅᴇʀᴇʀ?”
“Look, I’m prepared to get s**t for this but in my opinion they screwed Barba over in favour of Stabler.
“I think Barba deserved better and I’m confused on how it went from ‘what will you be doing when you’re 85?’
“‘Squabbling with you’, to him defending Kathy’s ᴍᴜʀᴅᴇʀᴇʀ and ruining his relationship with Liv.
“Again, to me, it just seems like an excuse to bury Barba and redeem Stabler.”
Benson and Barba unfortunately went their separate ways after the attorney defended the ᴍᴜʀᴅᴇʀᴇʀ of Stabler’s wife as well as crime lord Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott).
Although head writer at the time, Julie Martin, has denied the series was setting up a romance between Barba and Benson, viewers are clearly still upset that the two close friends are no longer in each other’s lives.
u/MarmaladeSunset replied: “I definitely agree with you. They did his character a disservice though I’m not too bothered by him representing a bad guy.
“It’s his career and everyone deserves a fair trial. Liv has a right to be upset but still realises he’s gotta put food on his table too.”
And FiguringItOut added: “I 100 percent agree. I feel like when they brought him back with the beard, they were like ‘now he’ll be evil Barba’.
“It makes me sad because he was one of my favourite characters.”
Sadly, Esparza seems to have ruled out a return to SVU, at least for the time being, so it’s unlikely Benson and Barba will manage to find closure any time soon.