by Chris Harnick | Fri., Apr. 3, 2020 6:19 AM
Elliot Stabler is coming home.
Christopher Meloni is returning to the Law & Order fold with a new series featuring Stabler leading the NYPD's organized crime task force. Meloni left Law & Order: SVU after season 12. SVU, now in its history-making season 21, has remained anchored by Mariska Hargitay ever since.
Hargitay took to Instagram to welcome her former partner home—and to wish him a happy birthday.
"Happy Birthday @chris_meloni Congratulations and welcome home Elliot Stabler," she wrote on the picture of the two of them laughing on set of SVU. Hargitay included the hashtags, #ItsBeenAWhile #MissedYou #ElliotStabler.
Meloni responded, "Saddle up, gurl, we ridin agin [sic] And TY for the BD wishes."
When Meloni left the show, SVU explained Stabler decided to retire—without telling Hargitay's Benson—after a shooting in the precinct. Benson and Stabler were partners on the series from the start. Their partnership had legions of devoted fans, some of whom have refused to watch the show without Stabler on the series. While Meloni's show will be separate from Law & Order: SVU, it will be set and shot in New York, so viewers can expect to see Benson and Stabler together once again.
Meloni participated in The Paley Center Salutes Law & Order: SVU, a special dedicated to the show becoming the longest-running primetime American drama in history. During his interview, Meloni said of the Benson and Stabler relationship, "It's always been a huge part of our relationship and I think part of the success of the show."
"She and I hit it off right from the get-go," he said about working with Hargitay.
Hargitay described their on-screen partnership as "instantaneous ease, chemistry, trust, comfort."
In addition to Meloni, Hargitay has said goodbye to many costars over the years.
"It was really hard. It's been really difficult over the years to see people leave and painful and scary. I didn't want them to go," she said. "It's life. One door closes and another one opens. People come into our lives and then they leave their lives. You feel all of that and it's a lot to feel and you keep on going. You keep on going."
Law & Order: SVU will wrap up season 21 early due to production shutdown related to the spread of coronavirus. The finale is now dated for Thursday, April 23 at 10 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)