10 Standout Episodes From the First 20 Years of ‘Law & Order: SVU’ (VIDEO)

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 20
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is making history this season: No other scripted American primetime series has ever made it to 21 seasons. Even SVU’s predecessor, the original Law & Order, only lasted 20 seasons.

Now creator Dick Wolf has his eyes on a 25th season, as he tells the Associated Press: “You keep pushing the goalposts back because you don’t get dealt these hands very often, obviously. It’s a continuous thrill to be able to do it.”

While we watch Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and the rest of the SVU squad take down more baddies in Season 21, check out some of the most memorable episodes from the first two decades in the gallery below.

Season 1, Episode 21: “Nocturne”

A photo developer uncovers the crimes of a child molester in this seminal SVUepisode that sheds light on the cycles of abuse.

Season 6, Episode 6: “Conscience”

A 13-year-old is diagnosed as a sociopath after his heinous crimes are discovered, but the final moments of this episode are the real shocker.

Season 6, Episode 9: “Weak”

The team is flummoxed when the prime suspect in a rape case isn’t a DNA match, but science saves the day. (Plus, guest star Amanda Plummer won an Emmy for this installment.)

Season 7, Episode 3: “911”

Mariska Hargitay finally landed Emmy gold for this episode, in which the search for a young girl who called 911 turns up false lead after false lead.

Season 7, Episode 6: “Raw”

Guest star Marcia Gay Harden nabbed an Emmy nomination for this hour, playing an undercover agent embedded in a white supremacist organization.

Season 9, Episode 1: “Alternate”

A post-Sex and the City Cynthia Nixon portrayed a murder suspect who claims she has dissociative identity disorder—and yes, Nixon got an Emmy!

Season 10, Episode 22: “Zebras”

Forensic technician Dale Stuckey (Noel Fisher) botches what should have been an open-and-shut case and seeks revenge, killing a longtime team member in this Season 10 finale.

Season 13, Episode 1: “Scorched Earth”

For the first post-Christopher Meloni episode, Anika Noni Rose played a hotel maid who accuses an Italian diplomat of rape in a ripped-from-the-headlines storyline.

Season 15, Episode 1: “Surrender Benson”

The sadistic William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber) holds Benson captive as the SVU squad tries desperately to find her. (Of course, she gets eventually gets the upper hand.)

Season 17, Episode 23: “Heartfelt Passages”

ADA Barba (Raúl Esparza) gets death threats, but the real mortal peril of this episode is that of Sgt. Dodds (Andy Karl), who is caught in the crossfire of Gary Munson’s (Brad Garrett) case.