Tonight, Law & Order: SVU marks its 500th episode. And while NBC’s procedural has remained true to its roots throughout the past 23 seasons — sexually based offenses are still considered especially heinous, and in New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit — the show looked a bit different when it premiered in September 1999.
The detective roster featured different names. Capt. Cragen, not Benson, kept everyone in line. The squad room was a lot bigger. “Rollisi” wasn’t even a spark in the Powers That Be’s eye. And Stabler’s shirts were decidedly looser than they’ve been since his Organized Crime-heralded return. (We’re not complaining.)
So ahead of tonight’s milestone hour (9/8c), we took a look back at SVU‘s very first episode, titled “Payback.” Prepare yourself for baby faces, the old precinct set, Olivia’s no-nonsense ponytail and Munch being Munch. If you’re a relatively recent SVU acolyte, get ready to meet the original crew. And if you’ve been around since the beginning, see how much of the inaugural episode you remember — one line of Stabler’s, for instance, really hasn’t aged well.
Click through the gallery — or go to it directly here — to perp-walk down memory lane with us, then hit the comments with your thoughts on the show as it hits 500 episodes.