Longtime Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fans remember what a thrilling team Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) made. It was a classic “good cop/bad cop” dynamic that worked well with the format of the show. Still, Stabler’s departure from the series made sense. He was a violent and reckless cop; traits that make for an interesting character, but not a good police officer (not that any cops are good). Throughout SVU, there was a sense that Stabler was impulsive because he cared too much. Interestingly, he wasn’t written off the show because of those reasons, but because Meloni had disagreements with NBC.
After an almost 10-year-long absence from the franchise, Elliot Stabler has returned as the lead of his own spin-off show, Law & Order: Organized Crime. His initial reintroduction to the series came in a recent episode of SVU. Benson receives a standard police call to attend a crime scene and the victim unexpectedly turns out to be Stabler’s wife Kathy. The two reunite for the first time since his departure, and Stabler meets the new members of the SVU team.
In a scene that just screams illegal, Stabler is allowed into the interrogation room with the potential suspect who attacked his wife. As aggressive as ever, Stabler is literally about to attack the suspect until Benson intervenes.
Why Stabler’s personality would warrant him an entire show — especially, in 2021— is not quite clear. And based on the pilot, Organized Crime does not even seem like a good show.
The first episode tries to deal with too many societal issues, yet none of them are police brutality. The show is set during COVID-19 times, but it is done in a weird way. Characters sometimes wear masks, the word “quarantine” is thrown around, but nothing is actually true to reality because of how little COVID-19 seems to affect these characters' daily lives. Furthermore, in a half baked attempt to relate to current events, the episode also explicitly references the Black Lives Matter movement, and the antagonist is explicitly racist. But nothing about this seems correlated to the rest of the plot.
There were many aspects of early SVU episodes that made the show good and weren’t contingent on the dynamic of Stabler and Benson. Episodes were split between the detective work and the suspect’s trial, giving the story arc a suspenseful ebb and flow. You could easily watch episode after episode until it’s 3 am and you’ve accidentally binge-watched like three seasons.
Organized Crime’s first mistake was abandoning SVU’s classic format. Instead of each episode containing one story and moving on the next, the show tried to construct a multi-episode plotline. None of the characters feel likeable and all of the dialogue is cheesy and over the top. In one scene, the antagonist — whose first line of dialogue is about being Italian — calls his son a stupid meatball. Seriously, who wrote that?
We do not need another cop show, especially one about a detective with the same hostile personality that got him kicked out of the force in the first place. By portraying Stabler as the hero, Organized Crime is just another example of copaganda. There are very real issues with the policing system, and despite the fact that Stabler is just a character, presenting his narrative further justifies the notion that there can be “good cops.” The problem with the police system isn’t just in individual officers’ actions but the system as a whole, and to not address these issues while trying to tie BLM into the story just seems performative and egregiously disrespectful.
In fact, I would like to have a serious conversation with whoever decided to greenlight this show in the first place.