SVU Boss Eyed Chris Meloni for Finale

Chris Meloni Returns to SVU

NBC’s decision last week to renew Law & Order: SVU for an 18th season means fans will have to wait at least another year for a Benson and Stabler reunion.

SVU showrunner Warren Leight reveals that had this been the show’s final season, he would’ve approached Chris Meloni about bringing Stabler back. “Had this been the last episode, we would have tried to bring him back,” the EP tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Meloni left SVU at the end of the show’s 12th season after contract talks between the actor and NBC broke down. Stabler was consequently never given a proper sendoff.

“In hindsight, NBC, Dick, Universal and Chris all know they could have handled that better,” Leight says. “But I think Chris, over time from what I hear, began to realize that the fans were owed a little more…. It was a negotiation handled without much empathy on any of the participant’s parts and I think they all sort of know that now. And there wasn’t much empathy for the fans either. I think everyone probably learned, but you can’t roll the clock back.”

Back in 2012, Meloni, in an interview with TVLine, conceded that his abrupt departure resulted in fans getting “the rug pulled out from under them,” adding, “I am absolutely very empathetic about that; I get it.”

When SVU does eventually call it quits, Leight suspects Meloni’s former leading lady, Mariska Hargitay, will be tasked with getting the Benson-Stabler reunion ball rolling. “I think if Mariska were to have called him, he would have taken the call,” he says. “That can be for another day; hopefully a long way off.”