“Did I just see that? What the hell just happened?” That’s exactly how executive producer Warren Leight hopes viewers are responding to tonight’s Law & Order: SVU, in which Olivia’s ongoing saga with tormenter William Lewis finally reached its frightening conclusion.
After a mind-bending manhunt and a tense game of Russian roulette, William shot himself in the head, leaving a blood-soaked Olivia in stunned silence for the episode’s final 10 seconds.
Below, Leight tells TVLine why he decided to kill William, how the terrifying ordeal will change Olivia and what we can expect from Declan O’Rourke’s surprise return.
TVLINE | “Fan-favorite” might not be the right term, but people have really grown attached to Pablo Schreiber’s character. Did you anticipate that?
We didn’t anticipate it, though I have worked with Pablo before. I had him for a season on Lights Out, and he killed for me twice before on Criminal Intent, so I know how good he is. He was my little secret, but I think word’s gotten out. I think what I didn’t anticipate, because you never know, is the chemistry between Pablo and Mariska. It’s pretty ridiculous the way they work together. They don’t just pick up where they left off — it’s deeper.
TVLINE | Then why kill him off?
I didn’t want it to become a trope. We sort of made that mistake on Criminal Intent by having a really talented actress, Olivia d’Abo, keep coming back as Goren’s nemesis. After a while, it felt gratuitous; Bobby Goren was the smartest man in the world, and yet she always got away. What we know about William is that he didn’t want to be in prison. The episode was called “Beast’s Obsession” for a reason. There’s a line in the script about how he could have gone to Canada, but he came back for Olivia, and that’s true. I feel like the couple on Homeland has nothing on these two.
TVLINE | Random side note: We had cupcakes at work the other day, and thanks to this episode, I hesitated.
[Laughs] I take pride in ruining things that people enjoy.
TVLINE | I can tell. So, why did you bring William back now? What did you hope to achieve with this final episode?
We had sort of teased that he was planning on escaping in the last episode, and I didn’t want his story to end in jail. And Pablo is a very interesting actor. He doesn’t want to do it just for the payday. He basically said, “I’ll do it, but this can’t go on too much longer.” So I said, “No, I wrote the scene where you die.” And he goes, “Oh, good. But I want to go out on my own terms.” That was his only demand, and I think that he did.
TVLINE | I agree. That final image of Olivia’s bloody face will haunt me forever. Does next week’s episode continue this story?
The scene where he blows his brains out wasn’t intended to be the final scene, but when we got there, I said, “I think this is how it needs to end.” I didn’t want to see the usual aftermath scene of people putting a blanket over him. I wanted to end with people asking, “Did I just see that? What the hell just happened?” The problem with that is that we had another episode ready to shoot right after, and it didn’t really reference [William], so we had to very quickly do a follow-up episode, which is called “Post-Mortem Blues.” That runs April 30 and picks up about 10 seconds before this one ends, with our squad desperately searching for Olivia. And no tricks here, we will see William’s body in the morgue. He’s dead.
TVLINE | William may be gone, but he won’t be forgotten. What scars will Olivia carry from this?
His affect on her definitely lingers. We don’t use the phrase “happy ending” on SVU, but I have hopes for her. We have a tentative title for the finale, which is “Spring Awakening.” Olivia has gone through an incredible crucible this year, and Mariska has done an amazing job with it, so both the actress and the character deserve a moment’s grace. I hope she gets it.
TVLINE | And Donal Logue is back! That was a nice surprise.
Yeah, that was our little surprise. I like keeping a secret for a while. After this episode, he assumes command of the squad room and will be there for the rest of the season.
TVLINE | How will O’Rourke shake things up while he’s around?
In a way, it’s kind of like when you come in as a new showrunner on a show that’s been going for 14 years or so. He just has a very different energy. He’s not a warm-and-fuzzy guy, but one of the things we’re working on is him being a father confessor to the squad room. He’ll have a moment with everyone where he asks, “What the hell is going on with you?” He’ll even have a sit-down with Fin and ask him why he’s stayed at SVU this long. He’s the outsider who can come in and look at things with fresh eyes … and then he goes off and does Gotham.
SVU fans, were you satisfied with the William Lewis saga’s grizzly conclusion? Drop a comment with your thoughts on tonight’s final twist, and your thoughts on the rest of the season.