Was Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 25 a Milestone Celebration?

Olivia Benson sitting at her desk in her office.

On September 20, 1999, the world was first introduced to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The show was going to dive into the experiences, stories, and lives of victims and survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse. Topics that had previously been pushed to the side as taboo.

With Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay as the lead detectives, the show started finding its ground, creating a space for survivors to feel heard, seen, and cared for. Not every episode would be perfect, and survivors would have criticisms regarding certain storylines and how they were treated.

Nevertheless, the show created a space for survivors to see their stories on the screen and show the world why speaking up on these topics mattered. It also opened the floor for survivors worldwide to connect as they became fans of the show. Fandom created a safe space for these viewers.

A Milestone?

Olivia Benson sitting on a couch next to another woman.

In 2024, the show premiered its 25th season between January and May. What should have been a memorable season to celebrate this huge milestone and the show itself ended up being one of the most boring seasons of the show. Instead of focusing on what truly mattered, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 25 spent half its time introducing new characters and trying to get the audience to like them.

Since Stabler’s departure on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 12, Benson had taken the lead. Her character grew from detective to captain, becoming the squad leader. As important as the Benson/Stabler duo has been for the show, when looking back on it, most people will remember Benson above everyone else.

The 25th season was a record in TV history, so viewers expected it to celebrate Benson’s character more than it did. Instead, the season found her obsessed with one case only.

As happy as we can be that the case had a positive resolution, we wonder if it made Benson sacrifice her attention to other cases. At times, she even left current crime scenes to attend the parents of the other victim. Even though we understand her thought process, it doesn’t make sense with who Olivia Benson has claimed to be.

Benson spends the entire show claiming she won’t ever turn her back on any victims, but by focusing only on Maddie’s case, she is forgetting about the rest of the victims that need her.

When Maddie’s case is resolved, she changes her perspective and focuses entirely on finding the man who took Sykes’s sister. Once again, she has tunnel vision and can only focus on what she puts in front of her.

Carisi and Fin standing in Benson's office.

Throughout the season, there were mentions of how long Benson had been working at SVU, the fact that she is the only person who could last there that long, and her dedication to the victims. Nevertheless, none of that felt worthy of a milestone season.

One moment reminded us of Benson’s longevity in which an old case resurfaced as the victim graduated from the police academy. The moment Benson gets to hug this survivor, we feel the way the captain feels.

Her hard work, dedication, and even years of trauma have been worth it because the people she has helped have been able to go on with their lives despite the horrifying things that have happened to them.

But is this enough for a milestone season? Are these tiny glimpses of Benson’s glory enough to celebrate who she is and what her character means to viewers around the world?

We already know all those things about Benson that the season was trying to push. We know she doesn’t turn her back on victims, that she has dedicated most of her life to survivors and her job, and how dedicated she is to her team.

And Stabler?

Benson sitting while holding her compass necklace.

A milestone season should have delivered the healing in Benson’s journey that we have been promised for many seasons. Even though we see a few therapy sessions in which Benson is trying to deal with her past, it was nothing new. Nothing that made us feel she was getting somewhere.

The one thing that gave us hope that maybe something would happen with her character was the presence of the compass Stabler gifted her at the end of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24. Benson doesn’t take off the necklace throughout the season.

Stabler’s purpose was for the compass to lead Benson to happiness, so, as viewers, we waited for that to happen during this season. However, that doesn’t seem to happen. The only glimpse of happiness at her door is the final phone call between the two characters.

Truthfully, not every viewer expects Benson’s happy ending to be with Stabler. However, the show (and the actors themselves) have been pointing toward this since his return. After becoming the longest slow burn in TV history, seeing them get together would be interesting and exciting.

But Stabler shines for his absence on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 25, and fans of the duo don’t get to see them together. This is yet another missed opportunity on a season that should have been memorable.

Yes, the show stopped being about the two of them when Stabler left, but the hope of something happening between them came back to life when he returned (and his wife died). Yet the season didn’t use this to get viewers excited and engaged. On the contrary, Stabler isn’t mentioned until the end of the season.

Is The Team Synchronized?

Bruno and Velasco interrogating a suspect.

One of the major things that makes this milestone season entirely forgettable is the lack of synchronization in the team. It is very rare that we get to see every squad member in the precinct or that Carisi appears in every episode.

For one character to get a storyline, another one had to disappear. Velasco, for example, becomes the great interrupter of the season. Most of his scenes involve him interrupting another scene to deliver a line or two.

Few are the moments in which the entire team shares the squad room. Truthfully, those have been some of the season’s best scenes. When the squad works together, we get better results and far more entertaining storylines.

The question, however, is why the show decided to introduce new characters during a milestone season if they wouldn’t get the screen time they needed to become part of the show.

Sykes in a gray hoodie in Benson's office.

For characters to be accepted (liked or disliked) by a fandom, they must have enough time onscreen. But if the regular characters don’t even get the time they deserve, fans won’t be happy with the new characters, who are further stealing screen time.

This was another missed opportunity to give characters who have been around for many years (Fin and Carisi) their milestone celebration. Instead, the show focused on characters like Curry and Sykes.

As important as it is to have more female characters, introducing these two was done in a way that sacrificed the stories of other beloved characters. Ultimately, Curry stays with the squad, making her a character to explore in future seasons.

Sykes, on the other hand, is entirely forgettable. Her character brought nothing to the table, and she was never willing to become a part of the team.

Benson standing in the squad room.

As exciting as it was to celebrate two and a half decades of such a beloved show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 25 dropped the ball. Instead of being a celebratory milestone season, it became a forgettable season of the show.

Yes, we were again reminded of Benson’s power and that every victim matters. But even then, a show that deserves the praise and the celebration didn’t meet the fans’ expectations. This could have been partly because the season was shorter than what we are used to.

Nevertheless, SVU fans remain loyal, and upon its return for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 26, we will be seated and ready for more episodes. Hopefully, the upcoming season will deliver on the details the previous season missed.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 25 is streaming on Peacock.


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Lara Rosales is a bilingual writer with a BA in Latin-American Literature. She works in PR, hosts a podcast (Cats, Milfs & Lesbian Things), and writes on the internet about TV and movies. Some of her articles can be found on Tell-Tale TV, Geek Girl Authority, Collider, USA Wire, Mentors Collective, Instelite, Noodle, Dear Movies, and Flip Screened.

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