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Law & Order SVU Dean Winters Detective Brian Cassidy Dann Florek Captain Donald Cragen Mariska Hargi

Law & Order: SVU fans have had quite a week. From learning that one former star never wants to return to learning that another will, it has been pretty wild. Earlier this week, it was announced that Christopher Meloni would be reprising his role as Elliot Stabler for an upcoming (and untitled) spinoff series. However, was he supposed to put in an appearance before then?

Like many of its peers, Law & Order: SVU has been forced to have its current season end early Following that news, the series’ showrunner revealed what fans would be missing out on now that the episodes will not air. That's where Christopher Meloni and Elliot Stabler factor in.

Remember, how fans were supposed to see the return of two characters in those episodes? Well, TVLine has now confirmed that Elliot Stabler’s wife and “troubled son,” were supposed to be the ones set to appear on Law & Order: SVU before the end of the season. Their episode would have been used to somehow set up Stabler’s return to the franchise for that spinoff.

This news means Christopher Meloni wouldn't have actually returned to share scenes with the cast of Law & Order: SVU, a desire that fans have had for nearly a decade. Meloni left the recently renewed series back in 2011, and the appearance of Stabler’s family members would have certainly flowed nicely with the news of Meloni reprising his fan favorite role.

Last year, Law & Order: SVU’s showrunner, Warren Leight, offered a hopeful update on Christopher Meloni potentially returning to the series, but with one twist. Leight suggested that Meloni would return when Law & Order: SVU ended its run. Fast forward to 2020, and Meloni will be reprising his role as Stabler minus Law & Order: SVU.

Mariska Hargitay was quick to welcome Christopher Meloni back to the franchise following the announcement. The pair’s on-screen chemistry during their time together on Law & Order: SVU has caused a lot of people to ship Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler as a couple. Since Stabler will be anchoring his own spinoff, time will tell what the future holds for the two characters.

Obviously, crossovers are a big thing these days. The One Chicago franchise is proof of that. Hence it would not be entirely surprising for Stabler and Benson to theoretically reconnect on screen at some point. In this writer's opinion, this info about Stabler’s family appearing on Law & Order: SVU does sound like a clear set-up for some potential crossover action

It remains to be seen if Law & Order: SVU will eventually welcome Stabler’s wife and “troubled son” back. For now, franchise fans can take comfort in knowing that Christopher Meloni will be making his TV return as Elliot Stabler at some point.

New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. A premiere date for Christopher Meloni's spinoff is still pending but, while you wait for one to arrive, you can check out this spring’s premieres.

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