‘Law & Order: SVU’: Raul Esparza Returns as Barba (VIDEO)

Raul Esparza Law & Order SVU Rafael Barba

He’s back! That’s how Law & Order: SVU is promoting Raúl Esparza’s return as Rafael Barba, formerly the ADA.

And the preview for his episode (airing January 7) reminds us of that “formerly,” as it reveals he’s doing something a bit different. When he meets with Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Sergeant Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice-T), Fin remarks, “Liv told me you may consider doing defense work.”

It turns out he’s more than considering it, and he’ll be going up against ADA Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino), who was still a detective the last time Barba was in town. Now, they’ll be facing off in court. “You’re going for insanity?” Carisi asks, but Barba corrects him: “I’m going for straight up not guilty.”

And sure, Carisi may think Barba is going to play on the emotions of the jury, but who else loves the way the promo (below) is cut together to end with the former ADA asking, “anyone have a problem with that?”

Esparza debuted as Barba in Season 14 before leaving in Season 19 (his character quit after turning off life support for an infant who was comatose). He last appeared on SVU very briefly at the beginning of Season 21, Episode 13, “Redemption in Her Corner,” video-chatting with Olivia. He was in Iowa (and had a beard to “blend in”) and the two made plans to grab dinner when he returned to the city.

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Will we also see Olivia and Barba getting that dinner they discussed? We’ll have to wait and see, but Esparza’s guest spot is certainly the right way to kick off 2021 for SVU.

Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC