‘Law & Order: SVU’: Raúl Esparza Returning for the Season 23 Finale

Raúl Esparza as Counselor Rafael Barba in Law & Order: SVU
Will Hart/NBC

It sounds like Raúl Esparza’s upcoming return to Law & Order: SVU will thankfully end with Rafael Barba on better terms with the squad.

Esparza and Jordana Spiro are set to guest star in the Season 23 finale (May 19), Give Me My Remote reports. Barba, who left the DA’s office in Season 19, has since occasionally shown up in a professional capacity as a defense attorney, and he will be doing that once again. This time, Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) turns to him after bonding with a domestic violence victim (Spiro).

Last season, Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Sergeant Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice T) went to Barba for help (“Sightless in a Savage Land”). Then, earlier this season during an Organized Crime crossover (“People VS Richard Wheatley”), Barba surprised the squad when he defended Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott), who was on trial for the murder of Detective Elliot Stabler’s (Christopher Meloni) wife.

While his last guest spot left Barba and Benson on not-so-good terms, there might be some hope. When asked if the former friends will be back on track when we see Barba again, executive producer Julie Martin wrote on Twitter, “Getting there. End of the day, they do love each other.”

Benson was upset when Barba defended Wheatley, and part of the explanation he offered was, “I step aside, whatever shark Wheatley hires will put not just the NYPD and Stabler on trial, but you. You! Not just your partnership with Stabler, but your relationship. They’ll eviscerate you on the stand, maybe end your career.” She wondered if it was just that and his “defense attorney outrage” or if Stabler’s return to Benson’s life played a role. Later, Barba admitted, “Stabler coming back has made things more complicated.”

The crossover left the two somewhat estranged, and the last time they spoke, Benson told him, “Just so we’re clear, I feel betrayed by you, and I don’t know how I’ll ever get over it.” Might that change with Barba’s finale return? We can only hope.

The good news is SVU fans don’t have to worry about the show’s future. It has already been renewed for Season 24 (as part of the three-year pickup in February 2020).

Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC; Season 23 Finale, May 19