From the very first Law & Order series, creator Dick Wolf has boldly torn plot ideas from the nation's newspapers. In keeping with that tradition, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has tackled the topic of a Catholic Church sex scandal, and, in so doing, has placed one of its most vital characters in harm's way.
Law & Order: SVU showrunner Warren Leight Teases Olivia Benson's Career Crisis
For 17 years, Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson has faithfully served the public in the Special Victims Unit as detective and, very often, as an advocate for victims of sex crimes, but all of that will soon be coming to an end. In fact, the Law & Order showrunner reveals they gave Hargitay almost as much notice as Detective Benson received within the show. Leight says they just handed the script to Mariska and told her to brace herself.
On Law & Order: SVU, Benson is transferred out of the unit, due to her affiliation with Internal Affairs Bureau officer Tucker (Robert John Burke), who is implicated in a sex trafficking ring. The ring is uncovered as a part of the recent investigation into the Catholic Church. School girls from the church were found to be working at a party that also happened to have a considerable gathering of public officials as guests.
Leading up to Benson's transfer, Barba (Raul Esparza) tells Benson about Tucker's involvement, which, in turn, leads to him learning of Olivia's relationship with the Internal Affairs officer. Leight says Barba is angrier than he should be over Benson's unprofessional entanglements, but adds that much of his anger stems from his own jealousy.
"I don't know that that's a couple that's meant to be, but even if you're not sure that you think you should be with someone, you can be jealous about them being with someone else," says the Law & Order showrunner. "It's just really interesting watching Barba, who is the first one to find out what's going on."
Where Did They Send Olivia Benson?
The Law & Order: SVU showrunner reveals that Mariska's character is transferred to community relations bureau, forcing Benson (and probably Hargitay herself) to roll her eyes with both boredom and disgust. Leight says the other women in that unit view Olivia as kind of role model, subjecting Mariska's character to an overabundance of hero worship.
"There's a woman saying, 'Oh my God, we're all so excited to have you here. We can't wait. We're going to learn so much from you.' She's starstruck," reveals Warren Leight. "There are all these 'Policemen are your friend' posters hanging on the wall. It appears to be [Benson's] worst nightmare."
While Law & Order fans are frantic over the possibility that Mariska Hargitay is on her way out, Leight cautions fans not to count Olivia Benson out just yet. There's still a sex trafficking ring to bust. While both Tucker and Benson are out of their elements, forced to step down from jobs they loved, they still haven't given up. The Law & Order: SVU showrunner suggests these two officers will band together to bring down the ring of corrupt officials involved with the Catholic Church's sex scandal.
Where does this leave Olivia and Tucker, as a couple? Leight implies that there may yet be hope for their romance, if they can overcome the obstacles presented by this case. It may boil down to Benson's ability to move on from the past without harboring resentment.
"It's the question of, do you embrace life or do you cut yourself off? If you don't risk having people in your life, then you don't risk losing them," says the Law & Order: SVU showrunner.
The next episode of Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday, March 23, on NBC.
[Image by NBC]