Did ‘Organized Crime’ Really Just Go There With Stabler and Benson? (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Episode 4 of Law & Order: Organized Crime, “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.”]
Quite a bit goes down in the April 22 episode of Organized Crime. Undercover detective Gina Cappelletti (Charlotte Sullivan) plants a bug in mobster Richard Wheatley’s (Dylan McDermott) home. SVU‘s ADA Carisi (Peter Scanavino) comes over for a guest spot to turn Richard’s man, Izak (Ibrahim Renno), into the NYPD’s mole. But three words uttered from Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) to his former partner and now SVU’s Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) overshadow everything.
And yes, we are talking about those three words: “I love you.”
They come in the middle of an intervention Benson holds for Stabler with his five kids, who don’t really have any reaction whatsoever to him telling his former partner “I love you” so soon after their mother, Kathy (Isabel Gillies), was killed by a car bomb. (More about that in a bit.) Everyone — including Stabler — is worried about the detective because he’s been showing clear signs of suffering from PTSD ever since he popped back up in New York, lost his wife, and set out to find the person responsible (while working for a new unit in the NYPD).
For example, in this episode, his youngest son, Eli (Nicky Torchia), witnesses his dad punch a hole in the wall of their apartment (goodbye, security deposit), hold up traffic, almost run over a person on a bicycle, and nearly take the door off a car as he focuses on a phone rather than everyone around him. (To be fair, he’s looking for clues as to what happened the night of Kathy’s death. New footage of that night shows a couple taking a selfie as Kathy was approaching the car. He’s trying to track down that couple on social media using geotagged photos.)
After that, Kathleen (Allison Siko) talks to Benson about her concerns regarding her father. “He won’t talk to us,” she says, referring to herself and her siblings. “He won’t open up…we need your help.” The intervention the kids have planned “won’t work unless you’re part of it,” Kathleen tells Benson.
Stabler knows exactly what’s going on when he walks into his apartment to find his former partner and five kids waiting for him. His PTSD isn’t a secret, Benson tells him. “You need help,” Dickie (Jeffrey Scaperrotta) chimes in. But he doesn’t want to listen to their concerns and instead directs them to his superior, Sergeant Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt). “If there were any problems, she would recognize it,” he claims.
Then comes the bombshell, as Benson asks him to tell them what he needs.
“I love you,” Stabler tells her. Cue her shock. Then, after a looooong moment, “I love all of you,” he adds. Yes, Organized Crime just pulled out that cliché. But we’re not surprised, given how much focus was given to Stabler and Benson’s relationship and how little to his and Kathy’s marriage in the crossover during which his wife died. That’s also why we’re not surprised that his kids didn’t seem to have a reaction to that declaration, especially after Kathleen’s insistence the intervention wouldn’t work without Benson.
He admits that he knows that he’s “drowning,” and Benson tells him to “take our hand, grab on to us.” He’s not ready for that yet. “All you’re doing is pushing me further under,” he says. “It’s like a weight that is dragging me down.”
With that, he walks out…and goes to see Angela Wheatley (Tamara Taylor), Richard’s ex-wife, because she’s “the one person…who would understand.” (She lost her son.) Though she offers to let him stay a bit, he doesn’t, but on top of teasing the potential of a Stabler-Benson romance, Organized Crime is teasing Stabler drowning his grief in the ex-wife of the man he’s after. Did Kathy really die for this?
Well, speaking of that, after getting photos from that couple near the scene the night of the car bombing, Stabler is shocked to see that Sacha Lenski (Jess Barbagallo), the one who set off the bomb, was watching from a building across the street and saw Kathy approaching the car. He calls Benson (who ignores it) and leaves her a message: “I wasn’t the target. Kathy was the target. Why would anyone want to kill Kathy?” If the answer is, as it likely is, to get to Stabler, he should know better than to have to ask that question.
But back to the “I love you.” What is the point of putting that out there if the world of Law & Order isn’t eventually going to include a crossover Stabler-Benson romance? And why go there in the way it has so far? We’re feeling pretty good about Organized Crime‘s chances to return for a second season (Dick Wolf has already detailed what it would entail) and SVU is in the middle of a multi-season renewal. There’s time.
Stabler’s still grieving for his wife, which we are seeing (though it would come across better if he had actually spent time with her when she was dying in the hospital). It feels like Organized Crime is jamming in all these moments for the two of them (like the letter in the premiere, the conversation with “you mean the world to me” in Episode 2, and now the “love”) in as little time as possible simply because they were apart for a decade (during which he was apparently happy with his wife and never even reached out to his former partner).
Maybe this is all Stabler’s grief and PTSD talking. Maybe it’ll all make sense by the season finale. But right now, it feels like too much too soon after nothing for too long.
Law & Order: Organized Crime, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC