Fall TV Preview

SVU Boss Hopeful Chris Meloni Will Return at End: ‘I Think Whatever Tension There Was Has Abated’

SVU Christopher Meloni Return Season 21

Could Elliot Stabler be inching his way back to Law & Order: SVU‘s squad room?

Christopher Meloni‘s eventual return, for which many SVU fans have clamored for years, may be slightly closer to happening, given what showrunner Warren Leight tells TVLine exclusively. With the caveat that the negotiations involved would be “above my pay grade,” Leight says, “Look: I assume that if some year, some decade, couple decades from now, we get to the last SVU, [Meloni] would have to come back before we do the last episode or before the show signs off.”

Leight quickly adds: “However, I don’t think we’re at that point in the show’s run.”

The EP’s take makes Meloni’s appearance on the NBC procedural seem more possible than it has in the past. The actor left SVU in 2011 after protracted talks about his contract broke down; Stabler retired from the New York City Police Department off-screen at the start of Season 13.

As recently as December 2018, Meloni tweeted that he had “zero plans” to take part in the then-airing Season 20.

SVU‘s upcoming Season 21 — which kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 10/9c — will make it the longest-running, live-action series in television history. Meloni’s rep declined to comment, but a source close to the actor tells TVLine that the actor “would very much be interested in returning for a five- or six-episode arc when the series ultimately comes to an end to give fans some closure.”

Since his SVU departure, Meloni has starred in Happy!, Underground and Surviving Jack, and has had roles on The Handmaid’s Tale, True Blood, the Wet Hot American Summer franchise and Pose.

Leight adds that bringing Stabler back into the SVU fold wouldn’t be as easy as, say, cuffing a perp or calling a bus. “It would be tricky, because it’s now been eight years since the characters were seen together,” he notes. “So how’d they get in touch? We haven’t seen it. Where has he been? How do you explain that? There are storytelling challenges to it.”

That said, the showrunner adds, “It would seem to me that someday Meloni’s character could come back.” —With reporting by Andy Swift