According to multiple reports, Matt Olmstead has stepped down as writer-showrunner of the series, which would see Stabler—a character Meloni originated on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit opposite Meloni's real-life pal Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson—overseeing New York City's organized crime division. Producers of the series reportedly wanted to take some extra care with the new spinoff, given the recent protests over police brutality. It had yet to begin production.
Though Olmstead's exit delays the show, reports claim it is still on schedule for the 2020-2021 season.
Meloni left SVU after the season 12 finale in 2011, with the characters learning in the season 13 premiere that Stabler decided to retire following a shooting in the police station. He has not returned to the series since.
In an interview with The New York Post, Meloni admitted he never intended to return to the Dick Wolf series, but that his life circumstances changed.
"I left with zero animosity, but I did leave clearly and open-eyed in going forward and finding new adventures. I was like, That's what I want to do, keep moving forward,'" the 59-year-old explained to the outlet. "I had done the Law & Order way of storytelling, which they do really well, and I was interested in telling stories from a different angle—whether comedic or inhabiting a new world or doing it on different platforms."
When Stabler returns to the franchise, fans may not recognize him: The character has suffered a "devastating personal loss" that brings him back into the police fold.
Unfortunately, it seems we'll now have to wait even longer to find out exactly what that loss is, and what we can expect from the next Law & Order!