‘Law & Order SVU’: The Difference Between Elliot Stabler’s Wife and Olivia Benson

Chris Meloni once compared and contrasted Elliot Stabler’s relationship with his wife Kathy Stabler, and his partnership with Olivia Benson in ‘Law & Order SVU’.

Law & Order SVU has been shipping the team of Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson for years, now. But in earlier SVU seasons, Elliot had his own love interest in his onscreen wife Kathy Stabler. And in an interview, Chris Meloni explained the crucial differences between Elliot’s wife and Olivia Benson.

Chris Meloni shared how important Kathy Stabler was to Elliot

Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay posing as Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson in 'Law & Order SVU'.Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni | Eric Liebowitz/Getty Images
Before Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia came into the picture, there was already a lot of history between Elliot and Kathy Stabler. The two characters weren’t only married, but they were high school sweethearts, having known each other since they were 17. They would go on to have five children on the show.

In an interview with Randee Dawn, Meloni speculated that Kathy was needed to keep Elliot grounded in a way that Olivia couldn’t. Fans saw Elliot’s job take a toll on the character’s psyche on several occasions. But Kathy was capable of bringing Elliot back to much simpler, purer times.

“I think they’re joined from history,” Meloni said. “They were first loves and that look in the eyes, that connection, you’ll never have it with someone else. There will never be another first love. And I think she really loves this man with all of his faults; I think she knows him better than anyone. People say ‘Benson knows you,’ I just think it hasn’t been showcased. I think she doesn’t have all the tools to understand how the job has affected me and what it’s done to me and Benson knows that, but I think she’s the one who can always bring him back to the place he was before he was the SVU detective. She’s his connection to the more innocent time, and vice-versa.”

‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’ showrunner responded to criticism towards Kathy Stabler’s fate

Meloni suddenly exited SVU in 2011, leaving many feelings unresolved between Elliot and Olivia. But after almost a decade away from the series, he’d return to the Law & Order universe. This time, Meloni would star in his own spin-off series Organized Crime. As the title suggests, he’d be a part of a division dedicated to handling more mob or gang-related activity.

However, the initial way Meloni’s Elliot was brought back into the fold rubbed a few the wrong way. Kathy ended up dying in the SVU episode “Return of the Prodigal Son,” which served as a launching pad for Organized Crime. But some didn’t like how Kathy’s death was used to provide motivation for Elliot to take action.

Showrunner Ilene Chaiken once defended the decision in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

“When I joined this show, it was a fait accompli — a premise I was given to work with. I wasn’t in any way put off by it — I was immediately drawn in,” Chaiken said. “When you tell a story about a character who’s been gone for many years, a question you have to answer is, ‘Why now?’ [Kathy Stabler’s death] as a storytelling catalyst is one of the best ‘why nows’ I could think of.”

Series creator Dick Wolf also gave his two cents about the issue. To the showrunner, Kathy’s death simply provided a dramatic piece of intense television.

“I didn’t see anything that was critical of that storytelling choice, [but] you can’t please all the people any of the time,” he said.

Wolf also added that Kathy’s death added a personal touch to Elliot’s job that he didn’t have before.

“These are going to be really bad guys that give Chris a constant source of energy, outrage, belief in justice, and a different way of pursuing criminals than we have before,” Wolf added.

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