Fall TV Preview

SVU Season 20: New Shrink's First Patient Is a Grieving Peter, EP Says

Law Order SVU Season 20 Peter Grieving

If time heals all wounds, Law & Order: SVU‘s Peter Stone is screwed.

Only a few months will have passed between the events of the Season 19 finale and the two-hour Season 20 premiere (Thursday, Sept. 27 at 9/8c), show boss Michael Chernuchin tells TVLine. That means the assistant district attorney will be in the thick of his grief over his sister’s murder when next we see him. And how is he handling it?

“Not well,” Chernuchin says.

Viewers will recall that Stone’s sibling Pamela was killed by cartel baddie Diego Diaz in the season-ender; she took her final breaths in her brother’s arms.

“He’s feeling guilty and he’s trying to get over his guilt,” the EP previews. “It doesn’t affect his work, but outside the courtroom, he’s not the same guy he was.”

Though Philip Winchester’s ADA will open up a little to co-workers Benson and Carisi, he won’t fully begin to explore his intense mourning until he encounters a new expert who’ll consult with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office: Lisa Abernathy (played by Homeland‘s Sandrine Holt).

Lisa is “a new forensic psychiatrist, and she sees through a lot of his nonsense,” Chernuchin says. (The character also has a wife and children.) The role is recurring, though the EP says he’s not sure how often Holt will appear on screen throughout the season. “We want her as much as we can get her, because I like that aspect of the stories,” he adds. “I love the psychological part of these stories, what makes people tick. The best way to do that is with a shrink.”

Therapy has played a huge role on the procedural since its early years. BD Wong’s Dr. George Huang served as the unit’s profiler (and sometime counselor) from Season 2 through Season 17, and over the seasons, characters like Mariska Hargitay’s Benson and Chris Meloni’s Stabler have visited mental health professionals in times of trouble or to deal with post-traumatic stress issues.

SVU is entering a milestone season, tying the original Law & Order and Gunsmoke for longest-running primetime dramas.

“Hopefully,” Chernuchin adds regarding Lisa Abernathy, “she’s going to add something fresh and new to the show.”