Law & Order: SVU without Benson? Perish the thought. In “Next Chapter,” Benson (Mariska Hargitay) was shocked to learn her boyfriend, Tucker (Robert John Burke), was flirting with the idea of retirement. What would he do? Nothing, he said. A cop without a badge.
Throughout the episode, Benson struggled with the idea of retiring and what being a cop does to people, thanks to the case of the week. The episode followed Quinn (Annie Monroe), a young professional at a consulting firm, who was sexually assaulted by a masked man she believed was her college stalker, Ray Wilson (Ben Cole). However, Ray had an airtight alibi, despite evidence at the scene stating otherwise. He was framed. Was it her over-zealous coworker? Nope, it was retired cop Sgt. Tom Cole (True Blood‘s Chris Bauer). With the cops onto him, he kidnapped Quinn, but Benson and Carisi (Peter Scanavino) weren’t far behind.
The episode ended with Sgt. Cole revealing his motives to Benson—he felt Quinn was ungrateful for all he’s done in helping her through the years with her stalker—and an intense standoff. Sgt. Cole got the jump on Carisi and held him at gunpoint. But because it’s SVU, Benson saved the day, taking out the gunman.
“Quinn, this is not your fault,” Benson told Quinn. “You hear me? Guys like Cole, they’re predators. They look for light and they look for goodness and they try to steal it. But promise me, you will not blame yourself for this?”
Throughout the episode, Carisi, who is the youngest cop on the squad, and Benson discussed the idea of the “next chapter” and how being a police officer changes somebody.
“Maybe all those years on the job, dealing with the worst of the worst,” Carisi said when trying to explain Sgt. Cole’s actions. “I mean, how do you come out of that clean?”
“No, being a cop didn’t change him,” Benson said. “He was always bad, it just took time to come out.”
“Lieutenant, thank you for helping me out back there. I owe you one. I hope this doesn’t make you want to retire,” Carisi said.
“Nope,” Benson said. “The exact opposite.”
As season 17 of SVU came to a close in the spring of 2016, Hargitay was candid about her commitment to the long-running drama.
“My heart—I just was actually emailing with Dick [Wolf] today—because my heart is so in it and I am so committed, not only because of the show, but I feel so grateful to be an actor and doing every single day what I love to do. So I feel grateful in that, but also, obviously, how the show has changed lives and how it’s inspired me to start Joyful Heart. And each year the way I see the society truly changing,” she said. “I really think that things are shifting and awareness is shifting…That sort of reinvests me and reinvigorates me.”
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays, 9 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)