SPOILER ALERT: This report contains details about last week’s episode of Law &Order: Organized Crime
Law & Order: Organized Crime is something new for Dick Wolf and that’s saying a lot for its creator and executive producer who’s been reinventing the crime procedural for over 30 years.
The latest iteration of the Law & Order franchise that premiered on NBC last week will offer three arcs of eight episodes each pitting Christopher Meloni’s Detective Elliot Stabler — who left SVU in 2011 — against a trio of villains. “It’s literally completely different storytelling,” Wolf said at a virtual press briefing to discuss the series.
“They’re “going to be really bad guys that give Chris a constant source of energy, of outrage… and a different way of pursuing criminals,” he said. “The way we had [done] it before, he could always ask, ‘What are you going to be doing this year?’ and you could just go and tick [things] off… This is a very long, but not too long, period. It really gets inside both your protagonist and your antagonist. All you have to do is look at the casting in the first episode and realize that this in not episodic casting. We are shooting for bigger game.”
Meloni’s return was ushered in by a crossover event that nudged him across primetime from Law & Order: SVU into Organized Crime, premiering just after. The two shows led Thursday’s primetime ratings with about 14 million viewers each. Organized Crime was the broadcast network’s highest drama debut since 2018 (New Amsterdam) and NBC’s biggest even digital launch.
Stabler had been based in Rome battling terrorism, sex trafficking, and organized crime. In SVU, Stabler’s wife Kathy is killed by a car bomb likely meant for him and linked to a mob syndicate/drug cartel with links to Puglia, Italy. Stabler stays in NYC and joins a new elite task force to battle the mob and avenge his wife. His new boss is Danielle Moné Truitt as Sgt. Ayanna Bell.
Chaz Palminteri makes a short-lived appearance as mobster, Sinatra. His son Richard, played by Dylan McDermott, appears to be the first arc bad guy.
The crossover SVU reunited Stabler with longtime partner Mariska Hargitay, now Captain Benson. The duo starred together on the first 12 seasons of SVU from 1999-2011 until Stabler abruptly retired from the force, off-camera, in the Season 13 premiere. Hargitay also crossed over, popping up several times in Organized Crime, including the dramatic last scene. Given the sighs and intense looks on both sides, she seems bound to reappear.
How often? “We are going to do it whenever it gives both shows a different way to shine. And obviously there is a portion of the audience that says, ‘Jeez, this is frustrating, why don’t you just put them both in the same show again?’ It’s not exciting. This to me is much more engaging,” Wolf said.
The show is set in the Covid era, the plotline in Episode One seems linked to mask smuggling. The pandemic lends itself to mob stories, Wolf said. “I thought the oldest mob activity there is, or was, hijacking, and here is an opportunity to combine hijacking and Covid.”
“But Law & Order is fiction — we take the headlines, but not the body copy,” he noted.
Wolf was joined by Meloni and Ilene Chalken, executive producer/showrunner. The new show will see Stabler spending more time with his kids than he ever has. At work, he’s still a hothead. But Meloni said that part of “Elliot 2.0 is having a clearer understanding that the world is unjust and how is it that you adapt yourself to [that] reality.”
Episode two airs tomorrow.
The series, filmed in New York, is produced by Wolf Entertainment and Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group. It’s the seventh iteration of the historic franchise that launched flagship series Law & Order in 1990.