Mariska Hargitay Knows Benson and Stabler's Romance on 'Law & Order: SVU' Is 'Such a Long Time Coming'

The actress teased that fans will have to "wait and see" if Captain Olivia Benson and Detective Elliot Stabler finally get together but she acknowledged the pair "love each other deeply"

Christopher Meloni Upcoming Apparent Lip-Lock with SVU Costar Mariska Hargitay
Photo: NBC

Mariska Hargitay is keeping Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fans on their toes.

On the Today show Thursday, the 59-year-old actress teased that the relationship between her character Captain Olivia Benson and Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) could finally turn romantic.

"Benson and Stabler love each other deeply. It's so deep," she told host Savannah Guthrie. "The show is probably only going to go another 23 years, so I think we should just wait and see."

Last month, Benson and Stabler had an emotional moment which led the pair to almost kiss.

"I think both of us, it was such a long time coming, we just want to make sure and get it right," Hargitay shared of the scene with Meloni, 61. "The good news is we are so comfortable around each other, it was effortless and fun and we trust each other, it was beautiful that way. We just focused on the work."

The long-awaited moment happened in the Jan. 26 episode when the two detectives caught up at Benson's apartment after Stabler helped pick up her son, Noah (Ryan Buggle), who had been staying with his half-brother's family upstate after she was attacked by gang members. Stabler questioned why his former partner didn't call him with the assault happened, and Benson explained that she knew he'd "try to protect" her.

"Is there something wrong with that?" Stabler asked as Benson remained silent. "I care for you."

His words were loaded with years of romantic tension, which was clearly overwhelming for his former partner. Stabler moved closer, saying, "Liv, look at me."

After the pair touched foreheads, Stabler appeared to lean in to kiss her — but Benson pulled away, saying, "Elliot I want to — I want to but I can't."

Stabler asked, "Why not?"

"Because what if it doesn't work out?" Benson asked in response as Stabler said, "And what if things work out?"

Benson was unfortunately still hesitant and eventually fully backed away.

"Elliot, I'm not ready for this," she said, before repeating several times: "I'm not ready for this."

SVU Stabler and Benson
Zach Dilgard/NBC

Fans watched as Benson and Stabler worked alongside each other in Manhattan's Special Victims Unit for 12 seasons. But Meloni exited the long-running series, now in its 24th season, in 2011 before returning in 2021 for season 22.

Benson and Stabler have shared many smoldering, fraught moments many times since Meloni launched the Stabler-centric spin-off Law & Order: Organized Crime in 2021. But a recent promo for the late-Janaury episode had fans more hopeful than ever.

Hargitay recently revealed how Benson actually feels about Stabler.

"The energy's there. Olivia's been in love with him for many a year," Hargitay said on The Drew Barrymore Show in January 2022. "And I think that we are slowly finding our way back to it, but I want to give him the amount of time he needs to grieve [his late wife] Kathy Stabler."

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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime air back to back on NBC every Thursday starting at 9 p.m. ET.

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