Mariska Hargitay to SVU Spinoff Star Christopher Meloni: 'Welcome Home'

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This week marked Christopher Meloni‘s birthday, but the real gift went to Law & Order: SVU fans everywhere, courtesy of Meloni’s former co-star Mariska Hargitay.

“Congratulations and welcome home Elliot Stabler,” Hargitay posted on Instagram on Thursday, following it with the hashtags #ItsBeenAWhile and #MissedYou.

Hargitay, of course, was referencing news from earlier in the week: Meloni will return to the SVU character he played for 12 seasons, via a new Dick Wolf procedural with Stabler at its center.

Stabler will be the boss in a SVU spinoff set in the New York City Police Department’s organized crime division. NBC already has given the series a 13-episode Season 1 order.

Meloni left the procedural in 2011 after contract negotiations between NBC and the actor broke down at the end of Season 12. Stabler retired from the police force off-screen in between seasons, and his longtime partner — Hargitay’s Olivia Benson — didn’t find out until the start of Season 13. Since then, the character has been referenced from time to time, but Meloni has not made an appearance on the series.

Hargitay and Meloni, however, are friends in real life and have frequently shown up in each others’ social media posts.

Are you excited about Stabler’s return to the NYPD? Take a good look at the photo below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!