Law & Order: SVU 23×20 “Did You Believe In Miracles?” did something we’ve been asking for all season, maybe even for years: It let us see Olivia Benson in happy moments. Like, actually plural. Moments. As in, more than one!
Certainly, there was nothing happy about the case. But when Olivia wasn’t working, when she was just…Liv and not Captain Benson, she got to experience pure joy. It didn’t come to her in a way that took away from the work or who she is as a seasoned, empathetic, brilliant cop.
Nope. On the contrary, the contrast made everything about the “business” side of Olivia that much more striking.
So, let’s talk about the two—really many—sides of Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU 23×20. And um. Buckle up, kiddos. Because this one’s gonna be a wild ride.
“Did You Believe In Miracles?” definitely played the “predator taking gross advantage of faith” card. Heavily, even.
Here we had Nick Pearce, snuggling up to Claire Lee so he could get closer to her daughter, Beth. And of course he’d done something similar with a previous mother-daughter pairing. That’s pretty much been the theme lately—men who get away with it, over and over again, honing their deplorable “skills” as they go along. Add in the extra ickiness of hooking up with Beth’s dad just to have leverage over him, and…
Nick’s line in interrogation about how he “loves” the Lee family was certainly…something.
With the cultish devotion to Nick, who the Lees originally knew as “Luke,” and their obvious obsession with religion, Beth was remarkably easy to groom. To make her think Nick was helping her bring about some return of God’s son, to make her believe anyone who didn’t want her running off and marrying a grown man at 14 was aligned with the Devil.
And Captain Benson, having seen cases like this over and over, knew exactly what to do: trick Beth into thinking she was on her “side” in all this. Or. Well. Olivia’s always on the victim’s side. She just had to warp that to fit into the worldview “Luke” had given Beth.
Of course she did it so well, too. Because she’s been doing this for so many years, has seen it all…And, unfortunately, because she has experienced, firsthand, not quite it all but certainly enough. Olivia Benson was once that young girl, whose mind had been poisoned by a man who knew just what to do to “get” her. Whatever defiance, or over-inflated sense of personal maturity, or…whatever…SVU’s Captain saw in Beth, she recognized from her former self. She used that. It worked. Because of course it did. It’s Liv.
The timing of SVU 23×20, and the episode’s mention of “grooming” in particular, screams “hey, remember Burton?” Which, yeah. We didn’t need the reminder (and, honestly, don’t need the upcoming episode). Honestly, because of that, it could have gone all wrong—right into “why do you keep doing this to Liv” territory.
But it didn’t.
Why? That’s easy: She got to be with her family, too.
Law & Order: SVU 23×20 really said, “you’re getting two Mama Liv scenes. One of them is going to be huge.”
It’s honestly hard to decide where to even begin, actually. Do we talk about the opening scene, where Liv experienced such pure, unadulterated joy in watching Noah’s old performance? When, instead of being shrouded in so much darkness, she just thrived in the light?
What about a different kind of happiness, the kind where “Badass” Benson—while still tough as nails, terrifying as fuck, and all that—could barely whisper her thanks for her Mother’s Day gift because she was so full of emotion? Couldn’t find a place to put all that warmth after, so often, having to find a way to warm herself up, alone, in the cold?
It was always so important for Olivia to become a mother. Liv’s a nurturer with a heart that’s, frankly, too huge for this trash world and her awful line of work. She’s always had that in her, and as we all remember, there was a time when she thought it would never happen.
So, even just one of these beautiful interactions with Noah would have made “Did You Believe In Miracles?” worth watching again and again. Show me a mother-son duo like that as a way to wash away all the awfulness of, say, Beth Lee’s delusional, oblivious parents any day.
And sure, just like always, duty called. Liv and Noah were going to do whatever she wanted for her day…and…fate kind of interrupted.
Crossing over into EO’s Noah Benson Stabler territory…
We finally have the answer to SVU and Organized Crime‘s 2022 mystery: No, Olivia didn’t accept the Christmas invitation. Which. Fine. We kind of guessed as much, especially after Liv turned down El’s lunch invitation at the beginning of the Brotherhood arc.
But what we do know is this: EO were always supposed to be partners for better or worse. Unlike last time Olivia Benson unexpectedly heard Elliot Stabler call out “Liv!”, this moment wasn’t part of their worse. Yeah, it was there, under the surface; it kinda always will be. (Especially since these idiots still haven’t talked.)
But no, it wasn’t about that. After offering his partner to support her in motherhood—any way she wanted (subtle, El)—all those years ago, Detective Stabler finally got to meet his partner’s son. And that son…knew who he was. At some point, and we don’t know when (but seriously, we need details), Mama Benson explained…something about Elliot to Noah. Whatever it was, it was enough for the kid, even after some of the horrible things he has been through this year, to instantly have an easy conversation with El.
And wasn’t it always destined to work that way? For Olivia’s son to have some kind of instant rapport with her Elliot, just like she did? It is, after all, not all about the genes.
For a woman known for her fearlessness, that left Liv feeling her biggest fear of all yet again: What if he leaves? And it’s worse now. Because it’s not “what if he leaves me.” That would be bad enough—but she’s already managed to survive that, somehow. Now, it’s simply this: What if he leaves and hurts Noah?
It’s obviously why Olivia has been hesitant about letting Elliot and Noah meet. She probably would’ve held off forever if she could. Like I said earlier, though, fate kind of had other plans.
What that left was this…
Pretty much every review has a “Mariska Hargitay is beyond” or she “yet again, has left us without an adequate vocabulary” type of sentiment written into it. We’ve even wondered why, with that kind of talent at the creative team’s disposal, they’d always use it on the same type of powerful moments (the traumatizing kind, in case you’re new here).
But, for once, someone heard us.
I think witnessing Law & Order: SVU 23×20, I’ve finally felt “chosen” for the first time. Because I got everything I could ever dream of, and then some, out of this performance. And I must have been chosen for that, specifically…just to witness…that.
The pleasant surprise, the fondness, and the gut-wrenching fear…We got it all from Hargitay, even as the focus was on this important meeting, this monumental shift in Olivia Benson’s life. Her two boys, each of the single most important people in each part of her life, came together.
This character was hit with so much all at once. As she processed it all, we went on that journey with her. She, and we, experienced so much in so little time and with so many layers.
If you think I’m not going to rewatch that scene a billion times, you don’t know me at all. And it’s not just “oh, I ship it. Look at them together. Noah Porter Benson Stabler” shipper nonsense, either. (Although, yeah, guilty. I do not tell lies.)
The need to witness that again and again, though…that’s to be able to experience the more of it all. Because when we get to see Olivia Benson as someone so undeniably human, rather than the epitome of the Strong Female Character™ trope, we get to see something like perfection. Even if it’s wrapped up in all her imperfections.
Seeing it all come together, all at once, we get to know what talent really is…and, yeah, what it’s like to be “chosen” for something special. Maybe it’ll even be the first time we unironically hashtag “so blessed” on social media while we’re at it
Did you believe we were done talking about SVU 23×20?
- No, really. There is so much inside Olivia Benson…
- Even as “Captain Benson,” she was giving the Lee family all the empathy and care necessary while utterly “wtf” on Claire’s love confession. While being tough, while being utterly done with Nick’s nonsense. Rather than just being the badass, or the one who cares about the victims, or the mom, or the lovesick middle-aged tweenager who can’t speak around her crush and is also just hella vulnerable/terrified…she’s everything.
- “I thought you said I was good.” “You were good!” Literally every proud parent with their kid, ever.
- Sure, maybe I asked for awkward recital pictures? But I will gladly take that video instead.
- While we’re at it: Shoutout to Mr. Ryan Buggle for having to do that, when he is actually quite good.
- No, I can’t believe I just called a child “Mr.” either, but he deserves it. So whatever.
- “He did say that cell service would be spotty once they got up to the woods.” Bestie, that’s the beginning of a horror movie.
- “They just let some guy take their 14-year old away for a week?!” Khaldun is me. I am Khaldun.
- …which makes sense, considering he just drops a random Hebrew phrase later in the episode. (I mean, my Hebrew is shit. But. Whatever.)
- “Mishpachah lo bocharim,” I think, with help from some friends?
- “In my experience…” Nope. Didn’t want to think about that.
- “Test this.” Same, Fin. I know where you wanted that to go. And same.
- Olivia’s increasingly adamant demeanor when she defended that girl’s right to make her own medical choices…Girl. Why aren’t you real? We need you right now…
- “And God told you that this church had to be planted at a cabin in the woods.” Carisi, go off.
- Me, tuning out the part where Liv was twisting her own trauma to relate to this brainwashed kid: “…sleeping together…or getting married…EO. So true.”
- “But apparently, I’m better at talking to psychopaths than teenage girls.” Rollins.
- Basically, when your Captain is a shade master, you can not help but join in the fun.
- “What are you, Biblesplaining to me now?” Stealing it.
- “They’re having supper tonight with their church group.” The sarcasm in that delivery.
- “Happy Mother’s Day. You look great.” “Thank you.” Just kiss already. I’m tired.
- “Will you give them all my love?” So close, Liv…so. close.
- “What do you say, Partner?” And his stupid grin. Shut up.
- Oh, God. I have to put up with them in the second half of this crossover? FML.
- …give it to me. Now.
Are you alive after Law & Order: SVU 23×20 “Did You Believe In Miracles?” If so, share your thoughts!