Should They or Shouldn’t They? Pros & Cons of a Benson-Stabler ‘Law & Order’ Romance Now

Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson, Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler in 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - 'With Many Names'
Peter Kramer/NBC

For 12 seasons, Law & Order: SVU fans watched partners Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) solve crimes together, with some hoping they’d cross that line and go there. It didn’t happen. Instead, he left, and it didn’t seem like a return was in the cards. That changed in 2021.

Meloni is now back in the world of Law & Order, in his own spinoff, Organized Crime, and the two-part crossover that introduced it also killed off Stabler’s wife, Kathy (Isabel Gillies). Rather than remove a complication, however, that just created more, with the focus of her death episode on Benson and Stabler seeing each other again (understandable, given how much time had passed and the lack of communication had to be addressed) and it’s probably best not to get into The Letter, no matter how you feel about a potential Benson-Stabler romance.

But ever since Meloni’s onscreen return, hints have been dropped on both shows that a relationship between the former partners (she’s now Captain of SVU, he’s now on the Organized Crime task force) is possible. Stabler, while drunk, admitted he’s in love with someone, while Benson, in Kelli Giddish’s final episode, shared with Rollins what’s been holding her back. Then, the former partners had a poignant gift exchange in the finale crossover — for him, an ornament reading (after he adjusted it by removing an “E” from the first word) “Liv Love Laugh,” and for her, a compass that should lead her to happiness.

And so when better to wonder if SVU and Organized Crime should go there now than with both shows slated to return in about a month? Below, we take a look at the pros and cons, plus we ask you to vote in a poll to share your opinion.

Law & Order: SVU, Season 25 Premiere, Thursday, January 18, 9/8c, NBC

Law & Order: Organized Crime, Season 4 Premiere, Thursday, January 18, 10/9c, NBC

Marisha Hargitay and Christopher Meloni in 'Law & Order: Organized Crime'
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

CON: Has the slow burn been too much of a slow burn?

Fans first saw Benson and Stabler together onscreen in 1999, so the slow burn has been going on for a looooonng time. But is there such a thing as a slow burn reaching a point where it can’t boil over, especially given the history — and there is a lot of that in this case — and the time apart? Benson even said, “I’m not over it,” to Rollins.

Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay in 'Law & Order: Organized Crime'
Eric Liebowitz/NBC

PRO: Who doesn't love a good friends-to-lovers romance?

It’s a trope for a reason: It’s entertaining! After all these years of waiting, it could be very satisfying to see all the hints and “Bensler” moments amount to something — and they do say friends make the best lovers.

Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay in 'Law & Order: Organized Crime'
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

CON: The Kathy of it

Poor Kathy. She was in the unfortunate position of being Stabler’s wife, the woman between the two, and it doesn’t help that she was an afterthought in her own death and then ended up being the one to write most of The Letter. And now Benson has admitted that she thinks it would’ve been easier if Kathy hadn’t died (and since it didn’t seem like the Stablers would ever divorce, that would’ve made this debate pointless). It seems like no matter what, Kathy is always going to be between them.

Christopher Meloni and Marisha Hargitay in 'Law & Order: Organized Crime'
Eric Liebowitz/NBC

PRO: Crossover romances can be fun...

…if done right. (Just look at One Chicago, another Dick Wolf franchise, for how to handle everything crossover-wise.) Who doesn’t love seeing characters interact across shows? And with both set and filmed in New York, it wouldn’t be too hard to have one pop up in an episode of the other’s.

Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay in 'Law & Order' crossover
Will Hart/NBC

CON: How much would we see with both on different shows?

However, as much as we love crossover romances, after waiting all this time, would we really want to just relegate this relationship to a couple scenes every so often on one or both shows? Weekly crossovers likely aren’t plausible.

Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay in 'Law & Order: SVU'
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

PRO: Both deserve happiness

Since 1999, we have watched both Benson and Stabler be put through a lot, both when they were partners and after he left. And given all of that (just look at what she went through with Pablo Schreiber‘s William Lewis and the fact that he lost his wife — though we’ll get to that shortly), if they feel they can find some joy with one another, why not give it to them?

Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay in 'Law & Order' crossover
Zach Dilgard/NBC

CON: If it doesn't work out...

That’s exactly the concern Benson admitted to Rollins. After the detective suggested the captain find the same happiness she had, Benson said, “I did feel like Stabler was my home, but he left me, Amanda, and I’m not over it.” Furthermore, with Kathy gone, “it’s like there’s nothing but possibility, which is paralyzing,” she explained. If things don’t go well, she’d lose their friendship. And it doesn’t seem like these are two people who would remain friends after a romance went south; just look at what it took for them to get back on good terms after he left — and that was when they had just been partners!

Mariska Hargitay — 'Law & Order: SVU'
Peter Kramer/NBC

PRO: They're running out of time

Let’s be realistic: It may seem like SVU can just keep going and going (considering it’s entering its 25th season), but chances are it will end sooner rather than later. And after all this time, the last thing Law & Order needs to do is put Benson and Stabler together only for fans to barely get to see it.