Law & Order's Chris Meloni Previews Future Benson/Stabler Interactions and 'Complications' This Season

Law and Order SVU Stabler Benson Relationship SEason 22 Chris Meloni

The fact that Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson will show up in each other’s lives beyond this week‘s Law & Order: SVU and Organized Crime crossover isn’t just a gift to longtime fans of the NBC procedural, star Chris Meloni says: It’s a necessary step if Liv and El are ever going to make things right with each other again.

Meloni’s much-heralded return to SVU Thursday filled Olivia — and the audience — in on where the character had been since he turned in his badge at the end of Season 12. (Short answer? Italy. Longer answer? Read our recaps of the crossover here and here.)

The first half of the event, in particular, dealt with Stabler’s attempts to explain why he’d ghosted his partner and stayed incommunicado for a decade. But their conversation was interrupted a number of times, even as it continued in the Organized Crime hour. At the end of that show’s premiere, Olivia approached Elliot to talk about a letter he’d given her at the beginning of the episode. But he was so consumed with the (somewhat shady) developments in [Spoiler Alert!] his wife’s murder investigation, he couldn’t focus and basically blew her off. Again.

As previously reported, Benson and Stabler will share scenes again later this season on SVU, at least. And that ongoing look at the discussion is “for lack of a better work, the most authentic way to approach it,” Meloni tells TVLine. “There was a lot of damage done in Stabler’s exit.”

In addition, Liv and El have been thrown back together under terrible circumstances: namely, the car bombing that  killed Kathy Stabler at the crossover’s midpoint. And then there’s everything about the cops’ relationship that went unsaid before Elliot left.

“Human beings, being what they are, and hurt feelings being the dynamic of what that is, you really have to go slowly and you have to address all the complications that are there,” Meloni adds. “Sometimes, you’re not ready to address the elephant that’s in the room, or address it head-on, or maybe you’re not equipped to do it in the moment.”

What did you think of Stabler and Benson’s reunion? And how would you like to see it unfold from here? Sound off in the comments!