How 8 ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Characters Returned to the Show

Law & Order: SVU Demore Barnes Christian Garland
Bennett Raglin/NBC

Just six months after Law & Order: SVU viewers saw Demore Barnes leave the long-running NBC procedural, the actor is hyping up his return. “What? You didn’t think there’d be an encore?” Barnes wrote on Instagram on March 21, sharing a photo of himself on the SVU set.

Barnes’ character, Christian Garland, quit as the SVU’s deputy chief at the beginning of this current 23rd season, but now he’s slated to make a reprise appearance in Episode 19, “Tangled Strands Of Justice,” airing on April 28.

What brings Garland back is still a closely guarded secret, but in the gallery below, we’re detailing the plot points that brought other SVU characters back into the fold.

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

Law & Order: SVU Stephanie March Alexandra Cabot
Will Hart/NBC/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March)

Cabot entered Witness Protection at the beginning of Season 5 but returned for the Season 6 episode “Ghost”—one of many reappearances on the show—to testify against her would-be assassin.

Law & Order: SVU BD Wong George Huang
Michael Parmelee/NBC/Courtesy: Everett Collection

George Huang (BD Wong)

This forensic psychiatrist, who left the SVU and took a new assignment in Oklahoma City, made his most recent reappearance in the Season 17 episode “Depravity Standard.” In that installment, Huang is brought in to testify in the defense of a murder suspect.

Law & Order: SVU Richard Belzer John Munch
Eric Liebowitz/NBC/Courtesy: Everett Collection

John Munch (Richard Belzer)

Munch, who retired from the SVU in Season 15 to become a DA investigator, reconvened with his old SVU colleagues in the Season 17 episode “Fashionable Crimes,” wherein the former sergeant shares his experience with a rape suspect.

Law & Order: SVU Tamara Tunie Melinda Warner
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Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie)

This medical examiner made her first SVU appearance in more than two years in Season 19’s “Pathological,” when she is tasked to run a toxicology test on a suspected rape victim from a special needs school.

Law & Order: SVU Raúl Esparza Rafael Barba
Michael Parmelee/NBC/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza)

Barba resigned as A.D.A. in Season 19 and returned for the first time two seasons later, in Season 21’s “Redemption in Her Corner.” In that episode, he gives his birthday greetings to Benson (Mariska Hargitay) over video chat and offers his condolences over the death of her ex Ed Tucker (Robert John Burke).

Law & Order: SVU Christopher Meloni Elliot Stabler
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni)

After abruptly leaving the SVU team in Season 12 and moving overseas, Stabler returned to New York in Season 22’s “Return of the Prodigal Son.” He comes back to the Big Apple to attend an award ceremony honoring Benson, but then a car bomb kills his wife, Kathy (Isabel Gillies), launching the events of Law & Order: Organized Crime.

Law & Order: SVU Danny Pino Nick Amaro
Will Hart/NBC

Nick Amaro (Danny Pino)

In Season 23’s aptly named “The Five Hundredth Episode,” this former NYPD detective—who retired in Season 16—returns alongside Benson’s ex Burton Lowe (Aidan Quinn) to ask for help overturning a wrongful conviction.

Law & Order: SVU Dann Florek Donald Cragen
Eric Liebowitz/NBC/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Donald Cragen (Dann Florek)

In that same episode, Cragen calls in on FaceTime, marking the retired NYPD captain’s first appearance on SVU since Season 16. “Captain,” he says, addressing Benson on the video chat. “You don’t know how proud it makes me to say that.”