How Might ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Write Out Garland & Kat in the Season 23 Premiere?

Jamie Gray Hyder as Kat, Demore Barnes as Garland in Law & Order SVU
Heidi Gutman/NBC

Law & Order: SVU is kicking off its 23rd season with a two-hour premiere — and two major departures: Demore Barnes and Jamie Gray Hyder, who have played Deputy Chief Christian Garland and Detective Katriona “Kat” Azar Tamin (following her Season 22 promotion) respectively.

The Season 22 finale actually set up a potential exit from Garland — and not a happy one. After he was deposed for the Jayvon Brown case — the man falsely accused of assault who filed a lawsuit against the NYPD — he knew “there’s going to be a price.” That’s because he went on record apologizing for systemic racism and the need for bias training. Not only was 1PP not happy with him, but officers also visibly shunned him as he walked by.

Then, Chief McGrath (Terry Serpico) called him out on rape numbers being up, while Garland argued more victims have just started coming forward, which is what they want. That was just the beginning. Next came McGrath listing what he perceived to be Garland’s “faults,” including when it came to his leadership. The old guard may be coming for him, Garland’s father warned him, the chief revealed to Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). But he promised he wouldn’t go “quietly.”

But we’re not just worried about his health because of a possible attack. There was also the matter of him grabbing his chest at one point (a sure sign on a TV show that a character is going to have a heart attack soon) and he told Benson he was taking a few days off to have a few tests done. Might he need to step down from his position due to his health and the stress of the job?

What little we know about the two-hour premiere — it will test Benson’s loyalty to Garland, and they’ll be feeling pressure from McGrath for a conviction as the trafficking case from the Season 22 finale continues — suggests that something will force him to retire, whether the outcome of the case, pressure from 1PP or possibly his heart.

Demore Barnes as Garland, Mariska Hargitay as Benson in Law & Order SVU

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

As for Kat’s exit, nothing from last season hinted she had plans to leave SVU for another unit. However, the description for the second part of the premiere reveals she and Sergeant Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) will end up “down a dangerous path” during the investigation. It’s very possible that she could be killed in the line of duty. Or maybe she’ll decide to transfer to another unit as a result of what happens during this case. Maybe there will be a callback to the first case she worked with SVU and she’ll decide to do some more undercover work.

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Whatever happens, we do know that these exits have to have quite the impact on the remaining members of SVU. Will someone else join Benson, Fin, and Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish)? Who will take over as Deputy Chief? We’ll soon find out.

Law & Order: SVU, Season 23 Premiere, Thursday, September 23, 8/7c, NBC