As the longest-running drama currently on television, “Law & Order: SVU” could be coasting on its seniority at this point. But as it’s done for much of this season — and even the past couple seasons — the show finds a way in its Season 15 finale to shake things up again.
These are not just small adjustments, either. In the course of the episode, “Spring Awakening,” we see:
- Amaro jailed for punching out acquitted pedophile Simon Wilkes, bailed out and — thanks to some strong-arming by Rollins — reinstated to the force, albeit probably with some lousy post far away from the SVU squadroom.
- Munch returning to serve as fatherly figure to Amaro one more time.
- Lt. Murphy turning the squad back over to Benson after he accepts an undercover assignment.
- And, finally, Olivia taking a baby boy into her care after the child’s mother, who was involved in a very messy case the squad was working.
It has been, to understate vastly, a trying year for Olivia Benson. The mix of surprise, confusion and joy on her face when the judge asks if she’d be willing to be a foster parent to little Noah is a wonder to behold, and a cathartic moment both for Benson and the show’s fans.
A moment like that also has to be what keeps someone like Mariska Hargitay wanting to come back for 15, soon to be 16, years. “SVU” has long been more emotionally invested in its characters than original-recipe “L&O,” but in showing a willingness to do stories beyond that week’s horrible case — even if it’s a string of horrible things, a la the Benson/William Lewis arc that played out this season — the series has kept itself (mostly) fresh for both the audience and presumably the actors.
As for next season, Amaro won’t be back with SVU right away, and Benson will have to balance being back in charge of the squad and raising a child. Per this TV Guide interview with showrunner Warren Leight, we’ll also probably see a new face as Amaro’s temporary replacement — in other words, still more changes.
“SVU” diehards probably can’t wait.