Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×08, “Ashes to Ashes,” officially made the series’ “Eddie Ashes” arc eight for eight in terms of quality, high-stakes (read as: high-stress) episodes. But what does it all mean for Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni)?
It was kind of striking, watching Detective Stabler handle the aftermath of the explosion at the boxing gym. He could have frozen after witnessing something so strikingly familiar to how he lost his wife—whether some of us miss her or not—but he didn’t. Whatever this man’s demons are, whatever his response to his trauma is, it’s not that. And we’ve kind of seen, along the way, that Elliot’s more likely to get obsessive over work than to shut down.
When faced with injustices, especially those involving children, Stabler’s been known to get overly aggressive. But Law & Order: Organized Crime has been making the case all along that, while he’s certainly imperfect, he’s not Mr. Excessive Force either. So, even after being this close to wrapping up this whole Kosta Organization case and seeing it all quite literally blow up in his face, El didn’t go the toxic route either.
He just…became a true leader in the last, twisting and turning, often heart-stopping, moments of this investigation. After splitting with Sergeant Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt), each clearing their own entrances, he made sure to check in with her via radio the first chance he got. Later, after they’d found the traitorous court reporter, he made sure Ayanna got medical attention, even as she tried to protest. And we could talk about how Stabler’s technically of a lower rank than Bell, but at the end of the day, he’s her partner.
And as Captain Olivia Benson will tell you, there’s no better partner than Detective Elliot Stabler…notwithstanding the 10 years of the bald bitch ghosting her. (We love him, but we’re always gonna be bitter, ok?)
It didn’t matter whether they were approaching dangerous suspects like Kosta and Briscu or simply sitting in a court room as Agnes Bogdani started waving a gun around. Elliot Stabler put his body between his partner and the danger. That’s what he is trained to do and has always done incredibly well.
And it’s worth pointing out that Bell let Stabler take the lead on several occasions, most notably in negotiating with Albi on the boat. She knows he’s good at the job, history of not-great methods be damned. Whatever hothead reputation he had from the old days, and whatever obvious mess he was in the immediate aftermath of Kathy’s death, he’s still managed to gain Bell’s trust. As we know, that’s very important in a partnership—even one that’s truly platonic and not, you know, a couple of idiots lying to themselves for 23 years and counting.
So, when you think about the arc that Law & Order: Organized Crime has set up here and what it’s meant for our leading man, one word that definitely comes to mind is “leader.” Because we’ve definitely seen him as a leader in ways, large and small, during these eight episodes. That does not, however, mean that Elliot has always made the right choices. He’s the hero on this series, but he’s still human an therefore fallible. That’s important to recognize.
Flawed heroes are the most interesting ones, and every deity ever named (especially the one named Olivia Benson) knows Organized Crime‘s leading man is just that—flawed. He made an incredibly stupid decision, even after being warned by Jet that he could lose his ability to communicate with her, to go into the “rat hole” without backup.
Then, there was the whole affair with Flutura and constantly trusting her, which we’re still thinking Elliot needs to get himself six months’ worth of negative tests for before putting that tongue—much less any other parts—near the one true love of his life. We can talk about his blindspots with respect to Reggie and Flutura, or even the way he risked blowing his cover to be Rita’s Officer Monte Cristo until we’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, these were always the things that told us Detective Stabler was still in there somewhere.
Which brings us to a couple of other words we can use to sum up what’s gone down here, now that Eddie Ashes has finally been put to rest and Elliot Stabler is finally home: honor, guilt, and family. There were so many things El did during his time undercover that he obviously regretted, and as Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×08 “Ashes to Ashes” showed all of his flashbacks toward the end of the episode, all those regrets piled on top of each other in a really gripping way. So, that covers your guilt…and honestly, when has Elliot Stabler not been riddled with guilt for one thing or another?
“I did a lot of things I’m not proud of.”
“All part of the job, right? To protect and to serve.”
“Did what I had to do.”
But then, there’s the honor part. As far as the pretending to be a criminal side of his undercover operation went, Detective Stabler did what he had to do as Eddie Wagner, no more and no less. When it came to keeping his promise to Albi Briscu not to out him, that was a clear line. He never crossed it, not even in the very end—even though it meant risking it all yet again.
That’s honorable; that’s loyalty. It’s a fucked up kind of loyalty because, well, nobody should be loyal to criminals—especially not when they’re actively lying to them about who they are. But at the same time, there are just certain things you should never do, and Elliot knew that was one of them. With juggling so many lies and so much of his trademark guilt over things like destroying Reggie Bogdani or his disingenuous affair, that was one vital shred of decency and honor Elliot could hold on to. And he gripped it for dear life.
And then, there’s the family part. It’s in the way we saw Elliot bond with Reggie, even as he knew he shouldn’t. Or maybe in how he weirdly sort-of adopted the real Eddie’s son…He probably never expected, much less wanted, to become attached to these people. But the Elliot Stabler we’ve known for more than two decades, and who has been an even better man than ever before on Law & Order: Organized Crime, has always been a family man. He’s always cared about and wanted to protect everyone around him. In its own, messed up way, that extended to these people he was around, day in and day out, during this operation.
“You know what I think? I think you’re going to miss the Albanian life. All the excitement. Passion. The fun. I could see you loved it.”
Even for as much as Elliot remained Elliot all this time, that’s not to say that Liv’s worries about Eddie taking over weren’t founded. It would have been far too easy, especially considering he still wasn’t fully healed from Kathy’s death and, with the operation finally over, now has to return to the mess he left behind for his own life.
So, yeah, you can tell—particularly during the scene where El shaved that beard, with a second round of flashbacks—that he’s hesitant to fully be Detective Stabler again.
There’s no escape when it all gets to be too much now, save for turning away and pretending to still be asleep when he doesn’t want Kathleen to see how messed up he is over all his regrets. Meloni made sure viewers would see, in those closing moments of Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×08 “Ashes to Ashes,” just how utterly haunted Elliot Stabler is—how difficult it is for him to even look himself in the mirror.
But that’s what he has to do, and he’s never backed down from a challenge (except, you know, the challenge of picking up his freakin’ phone in late 2011). So, I guess we’ll see what happens next.
More thoughts on Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×08
- Bell and Stabler really hugged in the 16th episode, huh? SVU found dead at episode 192.
- ….buuuuuuut then again, it’s much easier to hug your partner when you’re not worried about being wildly in love with said partner, huh?
- Did you think about Liv cutting her hair after you-know-who when you saw Elliot shaving, too, or are you normal?
- While we’re at it, do you just want to bawl your eyes out for Reggie? Or are you normal? Dash Mihok really just sold all that pain and loneliness out there in Reggie’s new life.
- And even before that, when Agnes was arrested and Reggie was falling apart? Oof.
- Bell had ringing in her ears from the explosion. I had constant ringing in my ears, blurred vision, and an irregular heartbeat from all those side shots of Meloni with his knees bent that accentuated his ass. Law & Order: Thirst Trap. Forever true.
- “You got a problem?” “Yeah. A Black woman with a bullet in her back.” –Ayanna Bell, QUEEN.
- “See anything interesting?” “Yeah. A bunch of old stuff.” “Anything. Else.” Ainsley Seiger, master of shade.
- But really. What in the Richard Castle/Fox Mulder/every dumb male ever…nonsense was Elliot’s decision to run off without backup???? I can’t.
- But hear me out: Elliot’s bad choice here, Olivia putting herself in every hostage situation ever as if it’s nothing…total soulmate shit.
- So, to be clear: That one article said it was “beginning to strain credulity” for “Goddess Mariska Hargitay to still be Badass Benson at her age…but Zaddycakes Meloni can bust through doors at 60. No disrespect to this man, but full offense to the double standards and the ageist nonsense from months ago that I’m never, ever letting die.
- Can we just? The moments of recognition from both Kosta (Michael Raymond-James) and Briscu (Vinnie Jones) were so good. The acting, the pacing…just…so good.
- “She’s giving you the cold shoulder. Big time.” “Can’t blame her, I guess.” “Oh, get over yourself, Eddie.” “Oh. That’s cute. She still calls you Eddie.” I just. Who said Law & Order: Organized Crime wasn’t a comedy? Seems fake.
- “He was fun, like a horny altar boy having sex for the first time in his life. Except he lasted longer.” I mean. FIRST of all, Olivia Benson deserves better when it’s finally her turn to take Elliot Stabler for a ride. SECOND, maybe if he actually cared about Flutura, he would’ve bothered to use some skill. And FINALLY, maybe if he’d put a baby in Liv instead of knocking Kathy up for the 84th time, she would’ve had him better trained by now.
- “Mmm. Ok. I’d gladly pay a year’s salary to unhear those words.” I love you, Ayanna Bell. And same.
- “You know how men are. They tell you one thing, but it’s always a lie.” The criminal ain’t wrong.
- “I’m not mad. I’m hurt. You hurt me.” Ok but that’s Mariska’s line? Where is she? Marsha? Hey, Marsha…
- Elliot: “I made a promise to you. I never broke that promise. Nobody knows. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?” Me, an intellectual: Cory Ellison from The Morning Show found dead.
- “She was the only one who didn’t trust me—not for a minute. She tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen.” “See? Believe women.” Again: I. Love. Sergeant. Ayanna. Bell. Queen.
- Speaking of: Anyone else thinking Bell vs. Kilbride after Wheatley 2.0? Already prepared to stan.
Law & Order: Organized Crime airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC. We’ll see y’all back here after the SVU/OC crossover on December 9.