If Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×01 “The Man With No Identity” made anything at all clear about where the series’ second season is going to take us, it could probably be summed up with “Elliot’s in deep.” Not just deep undercover…but in deep trouble. Whatever trust he’s earned from Reggie Bogdani during the months he’s been involved in this operation, it doesn’t at all look like it’s going to be enough to keep the situation from getting far more dangerous than even someone with his decades of experience can handle.
This sense of impending doom builds, moment by moment, from the first seconds of Stabler’s appearance as “Eddie Wagner” in a cocaine deal gone wrong. Even that initial introduction to El’s undercover identity is set up to make viewers nervous. It’s in your ears, with the pounding beats; it’s in the way you only get to see the man piece by piece, first with fingers tapping on the doorframe and then more and more revealing shots of his face until Christopher Meloni hops out of the vehicle and gets involved in the action.
“The Man with No Identity” sets you up—it tells you there’s trouble coming. And then it just never lets up.
Being undercover in this type of crime family requires building up a bond with someone like Reggie, and even after the arrests that open the premiere set everyone on edge, it’s clear Detective Stabler still has the mid-level lieutenant wrapped around his little finger. (Side note: Zaddy has us wrapped around his little finger, too.) He gets to tag along on a visit to Reggie’s mom’s house, where he’s clearly amused seeing the hardened criminal behave as a son and not as a guy on a mission.
It really makes you stop and wonder what that might be like for Elliot to witness. After all, he’s one of the good guys…but, as we learned from SVU all the way back in 2008, it’s not exactly as Elliot and Bernie Stabler have had the closeness that the Bogdanis do.
Then again, any longing that might have been present probably got shattered the minute Bogdani told “Wagner” that his mom had been shot in the head. Again, though, sharing that kind of information and confessing that his mom had some trouble speaking showed that Elliot’s done his job as far as cozying up to Reggie goes. But he’s only mid-level. And the bosses didn’t get where they are by trusting the wrong guys, so Elliot’s first hurdle is Albi Briscu.
Locating the stolen cocaine and finding out exactly who was behind it definitely got Elliot…maybe not in Albi’s good graces, exactly? But at least he has some kind of checkmark in his favor. It certainly didn’t earn him “insider” status to discuss the gang war, though. And then, as we learned at the episode’s ending scene, the Big, Big Guy isn’t so sure about Eddie Wagner at all.
Add to that the unholy alliance with the Marcy Killers, which Elliot most definitely did not see coming, even with his constant vigilance (and neither did I—I love a show that keeps me guessing), and you really have a situation that is way beyond Stabler’s control before the arc really even gets started.
So, yeah. Law & Order: Organized Crime’s season 2 premiere was basically like, “hi, Zaddy needs someone watching his back.” Can’t imagine who a good “someone” for him ought to be, though…Or can we? We totally can…And so can literally everyone else on the face of the Earth, to the point of comedic gold.
We interrupt this very intense drama to bring you Law & Order: EO Comedy Hour
So, on Law & Order: SVU, Bensler exists in the micro. It’s all about the tiny ways that Mariska Hargitay lets us know what Olivia’s thinking, and all the thousand little cuts she makes to our souls while she does it. EO’s interactions, even when they’re not on the same screen, are loaded with tension—sexual and otherwise, let’s call a spade a spade, gang—and subtext galore. It’s all about building blocks and the ghost of an emotional connection that defies meaningless things like time and space.
And then, Law & Order: Organized Crime airs. Suddenly, it isn’t about hints or whispers anymore; it’s about shouting love from the rooftops. Everything is just incredibly loud. (But we’re supposed to believe Mariska, Captain of the U.S.S. Bensler, is an EP on her show and not this one? OK.)
Organized Crime is the macro to SVU‘S micro. Liv and El barely interacted in the SVU premiere but still created multiple moments (I will die on this hill). Here, Hargitay didn’t so much as provide her voice the way Chris Meloni did on the other series, but everything was still a big, loud cry about just how connected these two characters are. Benson and Stabler are a unit. One doesn’t exist without the other—whatever you were led to believe for the past 10 years was a lie.
Elliot’s got complete strangers talking to him about his feelings for someone they’ve never even heard of. Detective Stabler’s not a guy you’d expect to see rattled by someone reading his coffee grounds, and yet, Reggie Bogdani’s mom picked up on the one thing that has always been able to unsettle him: his Captain and ours, Olivia Benson.
I have always loved coffee and known it was the key to all good things in the universe, the answerer of all important questions—a mathematician like myself is, after all, nothing more than a machine for turning coffee into proofs—but after Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×01 “The Man with No Identity,” I’m thinking it’s more powerful than even I could have ever guessed.
“She wants to know why you don’t tell her how you feel.”
“…why I don’t tell her how I feel?”
“The person you love.”
(That incoherent screaming you heard coming from the direction of Cary, NC was…me.)
And the way Elliot went from mildly amused by the whole “let’s read Eddie Wagner’s coffee grounds” thing to panic mode…That, friends, is what we call Acting with a capital A.
If you really think about it, Law & Order: Organized Crime is truly hilarious in these moments. Elliot Stabler can not get involved in any investigation, whatsoever, without calling him out about his feelings for Olivia Benson.
The first season gave us Wheatley’s infamous “one true love of his life” monologue, and now, the coffee told on him. Basically, the whole universe is like, “now, kiss.”
He can’t run—the idiot sure as hell tried for a decade—and he can’t hide from it, from her. And neither can we. Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler are endgame, and that’s that on that. (We’re lying. We’re going to keep talking about it, forever.)
Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×01 “The Man with No Identity” and the many sides of Elliot Stabler
When we’re not talking about the Bensler of it all (which, to be honest, is rare), there’s still a lot about Elliot Stabler that is far more complicated than some folks want to give him credit for. But here’s the thing: Chris Meloni isn’t just great to have back in the Law & Order universe because of EO, or because we love to thirst over that ass (and those arms, and basically everything…). It’s also about just how much he’s able to flesh the character out on Organized Crime.
If y’all don’t see how Stabler’s rage was always about the injustices of the world, especially when it had to do with crimes against children, I’m sorry for your lack of ability to read the room. But when he’s undercover as “Eddie Wagner” and gives Campbell an extra punch with that “nobody likes a dirty cop” line, that’s part of him channeling it all in a productive way. Because Elliot, not his fake identity, can not stand someone like Campbell, and since he has to be violent while he’s playing the part of “Ashes,” he’s putting the pummeling where it belongs whenever he can.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that, the deeper into shit El gets, the more he’s going to have to actually hurt innocents…But, at least so far, Law & Order: Organized Crime is showing us that our man (Olivia’s man) still has his soul intact with moments like that.
Even more compelling evidence for the existence of Stabler’s soul is, of course, is seeing Elliot drop by to see Eli. Family has always been absolutely everything to this man—God knows he sacrificed his own heart for it for over 20 years—and his relationship with his youngest son is really just…pure. You can see that, in just a few short months, he’s really worked on putting himself back together.
There’s a closeness with Eli, who only tried out for the soccer team because his dad (the internet’s Zaddy) encouraged him to do so. Eli also seems to respect his dad’s work but love him enough to say he misses him—no toxic masculinity here—and doesn’t seem to resent anything about it like the older Stabler offspring did, at times, back in the day.
Again, that’s growth on Elliot’s part, in how he is when he’s home and how he relates to his baby boy. Dare I say he’s better with Eli than he ever was with the older four kids? Come fight me. I want a debate.
“I miss you. I know that you’re doing work, and you’re the only one that can do it…I just…don’t want you to feel guilty.”
(Not me crying.)
And my God…The way he just smiles to himself, kind of collecting himself before going back into the danger zone as Eli walks away? Like, can I get pregnant from that?
At this point, to not see the genuine, deep down, good in Detective Stabler, you’d have to be ignoring everything Meloni is showing us about Elliot on purpose. He was never any of the things that his worst moments would imply about him, but over the decade that we’ve missed him (dearly), he’s clearly grown up. A lot.
Oh, hey. More Organized Crime 2×01 “The Man with No Identity” thoughts.
- The “previously on” had Elliot sniffing Olivia’s hair on SVU. What a personal attack.
- That…is a bare left hand. #soblessed.
- Thank you to whoever decided that the camera needed to be behind Meloni when “Eddie Wagner” got arrested. I will be sending the bills for the extra air conditioning my apartment needed after seeing that to Dick Wolf Productions, but I’m still grateful for the thirst trap. See also: The fitted shirt and jeans, the bare arms…Yeah, I’m shutting up now.
- Or am I? This show is so hard to review because it’s, like, “oh. Zaddy. Hi. Mmmm.” (Mariska, call me and tell me how you’ve worked with this guy all these years without losing it.)
- The dynamic between Bell and Brewster is so, so, so interesting. I can’t wait to (hopefully) see what exactly happened between them back in the day.
- Speaking of Bell: “I do not want to be used as a pawn for someone’s political ambition.” Only legends here, gang.
- Are we…really still playing the Angela game? Sis, he’s not into you. At all. He’s taken. Stop being all “omgz is that Elliot?!!” when Bell’s on the phone with people. Go. Begone. Olivia Benson is too good for this world—sis should’ve just let Angela go not-so-gently into that bad night.
- Also, if Richard Wheatley vowed to be “the worst enemy of every criminal organization on the face of this Earth,” does that mean even more risky business for “Eddie Wagner” or…??? I am. Afraid.
- Those of you who’ve followed me over the years know my complete and total obsession with Boxing!Harvey on Suits. Add Fighting!Elliot to that. He’s even hot when he’s getting his (considerably beautiful) ass kicked, and I love that for me.
- Again with this show being 50% Meloni thirst trap, 50% damned fine drama, I guess…
- But when does it get to be extra hot Fighting!Elliot in the form of Olivia absolutely beating the shit out him for abandoning her? (And then, they can make out. Angrily…)
- “…Life-changing, soul-cleansing, redemptive pleasure.” Wheatley bullshitting about working with the U.S. Attorney’s office to clear him of all charges except making Kathy go boom? Or me thinking about Bensler? Hm.
- Something, something, “coffee grounds are full of misfortune, so stay away.” I mean. His wife did just get exploded…But really, the important part is “stay away.” Women, don’t bother trying. We know it’s tempting (look at him), but Zaddycakes belongs to Olivia Benson. Jot that down.
Agree? Disagree? Don’t hesitate to share it with us in the comments below!
Law & Order: Organized Crime airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC but will air an hour early at 9/8c, for two back-to-back episodes, on September 30.