Now that Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime have completed their 22nd and first seasons, it’s time to do what I do best — overanalyze the relationship between Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). We’ve had 22 years of the longest slow burn in television history. Beware of spoilers!

The First Conversation

When Stabler first showed up in the premiere of SVU, his presence was chaotic. It had been 10 years since he and Benson last spoke. No one thought that the overdue conversation would start in the hospital where his wife was fighting for her life. Elliot’s confession of “I knew if I heard your voice, I wouldn’t leave,” and Olivia’s admission that Elliot was “the single most important person” in her life was all we needed to hear to know that “Bensler” still exists.

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christopher meloni mariska hargitay law and order svu organized crime

Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson and Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler in NBC’s Law & Order: Organized Crime

“I LOVE YOU”

After Kathy’s passing, fans are taken through a rollercoaster of extreme emotions from Stabler, which includes an obvious battle with PTSD. Sleepless nights and vengeance for his wife’s death lead him on a dark path that his family attempts to pull him out of by staging an intervention.

The meeting with his kids wouldn’t be complete without the one person that has the most influence on him: Liv. Upon feeling ambushed, Stabler snaps when Olivia is trying to talk to him in front of his kids, and he intensely shouts “I love you” at her. After an awkward silence, he follows up with, “I love you all” while looking at his family.

The Hand Hold

Actions speak louder than words. When Olivia comes to Stabler’s new precinct to iron out some details on a case, it showed. Liv commends Elliot on looking and seeming better (thanks, therapy), and in the hallway, she turns to leave. They grab each other’s hands as she walks away. Both hold on for what seems like forever. You don’t grab your platonic friend/former co-worker’s hand like that!

dylan mcdermott tamara taylor christopher meloni law and order organized crime

Dylan McDermott as Richard Wheatley, Tamara Taylor as Angela Wheatley, and Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler in NBC’s Law & Order: Organized Crime

Wheatley as Team #Bensler

Bensler’s most unlikely stan in both Dick Wolf series ends up being the big bad of this season — Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott). Wheatley makes several references to the love of Stabler’s life. Partially out of annoyance over his ex-wife and Stabler starting to spark some fire. As terrible of a person as he is, he became a great ally for the Bensler shippers. Thank you, Wheatley, for acknowledging what we’ve been saying all along.

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christopher meloni mariska hargitay law and order svu

Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson and Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler in NBC’s Law & Order: SVU

To First Partners

After the wedding of Finn Tutuola (Ice-T) and his first partner didn’t happen (they didn’t want to bring the government into their relationship), Benson and Stabler have a moment of reflection where they cheer to first partners. All while Olivia is half-wearing Stabler’s coat outside the beautiful non-reception. A romantic and fitting end to the season.

Fans will have to wait and see whether or not the second season of Organized Crime and the 23rd season of SVU finally gives us what we want. Based on the longest game of will-they-won’t-they, my prediction is that we’ll at least get an official acknowledgment. It’s time to take their relationship to a level it’s never been before — canon.

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