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About Law & Order: SVU
Based out of the New York City Police Department’s 16th precinct in Manhattan, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit delves into the dark side of the New York underworld as the detectives of a new elite force, the Special Victims Unit (SVU for short), investigate and prosecute various sexually oriented crimes including rape, pedophilia, and domestic violence. They also investigate the abuses of children, the disabled and elderly victims of non-sexual crimes who require specialist handling, all while trying to balance the effects of the investigation on their own lives as they try not to let the dark side of these crimes affect them. Its stories also touch on the political and societal issues associated with gender identity, sexual preferences, and equality rights. While the victim is often murdered, this is not always the case, and victims frequently play prominent roles in episodes. The unit also works with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office as they prosecute cases and seek justice for SVU’s victims and survivors with precision and a passion to win and bring closure to the intense investigations. The series often uses stories that are “ripped from the headlines” or based on real crimes. Such episodes take a real crime and fictionalize it by changing some details.
Originally, the show focused around the detective pairings of Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson and John Munch and Brian Cassidy. Stabler is a seasoned veteran of the unit who has seen it all and tries his best to protect his family from the horrors he sees every day. Meanwhile, Benson’s difficult past as the child of a rape victim is the reason why she joined the unit. Backing them up is John Munch, and his first partner Brian Cassidy. Munch is a transfer from Baltimore’s homicide unit, who brings his acerbic wit, conspiracy theories, and street-honed investigative skills; Cassidy is young and eager to learn from his fellow detectives. These two detective teams received support from Detectives Monique Jeffries and Ken Briscoe. When Cassidy transferred to Narcotics after thirteen episodes, Jeffries was partnered with Munch for the remainder of Season One and Briscoe was phased out. In the beginning of season two, Munch was then permanently partnered with Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, whose unique yet sometimes vulgar sense of humor and investigative experience make him a formidable match for Munch. These detectives were supervised by veteran Captain Donald Cragen, who oversaw the team for seasons 1–15. Cragen’s tough-but-supportive approach to the team’s complex cases guides the squad through the challenges they face every day. Also on the team’s payroll is FBI Special Agent Dr. George Huang and Medical Examiner Dr. Melinda Warner. As the resident psychiatrist for the Special Victims Unit, Huang helps keep the officers sane in a field that could drive ordinary people mad. He has also served as the squad’s resident criminal profiler, and his insights into the criminal mind have often helped the officers to crack the toughest perps, while Warner has become an integral part of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, and her personal skills have contributed to the unit’s high success rate in closing cases.
The Unit did not receive a full-time assistant district attorney until season two, when Alexandra Cabot was assigned to work with the detectives. After Cabot’s departure in season five, she was replaced by Casey Novak, who remained as the ADA until the end of season nine. Kim Greylek became the permanent ADA in the season ten premiere, until Cabot made a return midway through that season when Greylek departed. Cabot remained the ADA through the second half of season eleven. After Cabot’s departure, the ADA void was filled by Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti) and Jo Marlowe (Sharon Stone) until the conclusion of season eleven. Gillian Hardwicke (Melissa Sagemiller) served as the SVU’s ADA during season twelve. In season thirteen, both Cabot and Novak returned as ADAs. From the beginning of season fourteen, ADA Rafael Barba was SVU’s prosecutor, until leaving halfway through season nineteen. Chicago Justice’s Peter Stone became SVU’s ADA after Chicago Justice was canceled after only one season. In the season 21 premiere, former Detective Dominick Carisi Jr. became the SVU ADA.
In season 13, other big changes happened with Stabler having left in the season 12 finale. Detectives Nick Amaro and Amanda Rollins joined the team filling the void left by Stabler. Amaro brought empathy to his cases while dealing with a stressful home life, while Rollins had dogged persistence and instincts help her close cases, but also secrets that could derail her career. During season 15, both Munch and Cragen retired from the NYPD, leaving Benson, after being promoted to Sergeant, to take control of the Unit; she would later be promoted to Lieutenant at the start of season 17 and then Captain at the start of season 21. Season 16 was another period of change with the introduction of Carisi at the beginning and the departure of Amaro at the end. Following Carisi’s move to the DA’s office in season 21, Vice Officer Katriona “Kat” Tamin joined the team after assisting on several cases.
Last episode of Law & Order: SVU on NBC aired on April 23, 2020.