Before I explain the main reason why Law & Order: SVU‘s best and brightest sergeant, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), finally deserves true love, I’d like to preface this with a disclaimer. Olivia Benson doesn’t need a romantic partner to be happy. No one needs a romantic partner to be happy. However, our “good time girl” has been on the hunt for a stable relationship for 22 seasons. And she’s nowhere closer to where she was in the first season when hooking up with guys both on and off the police force was just a means to an end — if you know what I mean.
From having saved countless sex trafficking victims and kidnapped children (including her own at one point), to her own nail-biting abduction, this woman has been through too much and given so much of herself to not have exactly what she wants. I think it’s clear, she wants a life partner.
She started out this show casually dating/cultivating a situationship with fellow cops on the police force. A couple more dates here and there led her to her first serious round with Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters). The two of them have a bond, be it at times unhealthy, that she arguably hasn’t had with anyone else. As much as they loved each other, Cassidy needs so much more support than Liv is capable of providing.
She’s had a few temporary, but passionate, love affairs. Honorable mention can go to Assistant District Attorney David Hayden (Harry Connick Jr.). The ADA treated her well during their time together, but their fate was obvious when they couldn’t even go on vacation without being called back to work.
The only other canon relationship I’m willing to acknowledge in her quest for true love is the Internal Affairs Captain, Ed Tucker (Robert John Burke). Tucker is the authoritative figure I didn’t really see her getting serious with, yet the writers had other plans. He could have been “the one.” Once Tucker met and bonded deeply with her son, Noah (Ryan Buggle), it seemed like the final piece of their instant family was finally in place.
Of course, this beautiful development was ripped away from everyone just as we were getting used to Tucker being a permanent fixture in their lives. He was ready to turn in his seniority for a passport to create memories — and she was not. What made this even sadder was this past season he reentered her life as a married man. He had a heart to heart with her about his terminal illness and then took his own life. RIP Ed.
Maybe the ultimate love of her life is her son, Noah. For all who watched that journey, Liv had to go through hell and back and hell again to finally claim Noah as her own.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the fact that personally, I have been “shipping” Olivia’s long lost work partner, Detective Elliott Stabler (Christopher Meloni), as her soul mate for the past nine years, without apologies. Is he married? Depends on the time of day. Did he leave the show 10 seasons ago? He sure did. However, I have been extremely patient in waiting for him to return home.
Home is wherever Liv is, and that is undeniable no matter how anyone chooses to ship them. In my imagination, Elliott has lost countless nights of sleep thinking about the love he has had to deny himself for over 20 years. I am fairly aware of how dramatic this sounds. But, if you spent years of your life binge-watching over 400 episodes since college, you would be dramatic, too.
The good news announced earlier this year is that Christopher Meloni will be returning to NBC as Elliot Stabler to lead his own Law & Order show, centered around organized crime. He and Olivia have to cross paths at some point, and this will provide us with the emotional reunion we’ve all been dying to witness.
Truth be told, I love this character immensely. I legitimately wouldn’t mind whoever she ends up with by the time the show ends. It’s safe to say, as long as Mariska is willing, SVU will be cranking out new episodes well into the future. Her happiness is all that matters, and Olivia Benson deserves true love that will finally stand the test of time.
This article was originally published 10/18/20