“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” turns 22 this year. This is an accomplishment marked by bragging rights and two decades of heinous crimes, all investigated by an elite squad played chiefly by Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T, and Richard Belzer.
Hargitay, who played the role of Olivia Benson, has been holding down the show since its 1999 premiere, dealing with family tragedies and some serious occupational hazards while also moving up the ranks to Captain. Also, the 23rd season lost a fan-favorite officer after Katriona “Kat” announced she was leaving the force after being shot.
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With 23 series and international spin-offs which aired around the world, “Law and Order” is arguably the most successful franchise in television history. Its formula of following the cops as they solved the case, then the lawyers trying to prosecute the suspects, is somehow able to stay fresh through 30 seasons of the drama.
One of the landmarks in the “Law and Order” puzzle is the partnerships among the detectives. Some are memorable and make certain seasons endlessly rewatchable, while others are so forgettable fans don’t even mention them. To honor the procedural that started the craze, here are “Law and Order” partnerships ranked from best to worst.
Worst: Olivia Benson And Nick Amaro
After Elliot Stabler abruptly resigned from the squad, Amaro was introduced in season 13 to fill the void.
He shared some of his predecessors’ worst traits; he had a hot temper that clouded his judgment, leading to multiple I.A.B investigations and Benson’s job on the line.
Benson and Amaro didn’t hit it off right away—the SVU vet was clearly resentful of having to break in not one, but two new additions. Eventually, Amaro got a handle on the job but lost his grip on his personal life, having multiple meltdowns at the station.
Once again, Benson had to help keep that mess in check, having only learned so much from dealing with Stabler.
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Even though it was a given that the detectives’ line of work bred familiarity, once Stabler left, every new SVU member showed up unloading their baggage onto Benson. This hastened the character’s ascent to “agony aunt” status.
Although Benson’s speech to Amaro at his farewell party seasons later tugged at heartstrings, Amaro was more of a pain than a partner.
Best: Olivia Benson And Elliott Stabler
There’s been a general consensus that this duo is easily the most iconic pair from SVU. They work so well together, it’s like they are two halves of a whole.
Countless fan fiction sites and an entire USA Network marathon have been devoted to blurring the lines between these two partners, who worked alongside each other on and off for a decade.
Early on, their vastly different approaches were much more complimentary; Benson urged caution whenever she saw Stabler about to lose it, and he occasionally had to rein her back in on the job. They could practically read each other’s minds, a bond that helped make them the most effective detectives on the squad.
Over time, that closeness became co-dependence, which the show explored by separating the partners, only to bring them back together.
However, there was always something toxic about the characters’ over-reliance on each other, which stemmed from the writers’ over-reliance on this narrative angle.
For all the titillating times Olivia and Elliot went undercover as a married couple, there were twice as many blowups over the little uncommon grounds they did have. Stabler’s exit is still felt today, but at least his departure left room for Benson to have something more than half a life.
Worst: Amanda Rollins And Dominick Carisi
Rollins and Carisi are basically Benson and Stabler 2.0, only with fewer boundaries.
The sensitive nature of their work revealed a lot about the characters’ personal lives, but Rollins and Carisi flashed their baggage along with their badges.
Rollins wasn’t always written that way. Earlier on, she kept her gambling addiction and weird family to herself.
But ever since she had her first child, the Atlanta native couldn’t keep her personal life out of the squad room. Neither could her partner, who took every opportunity to talk about law school, his big family, and Rollins’ growing one.
They’re great friends, and possibly more, but not ideal partners.
Best: Olivia Benson And Amanda Rollins
It’s strange that it took so long to partner two female detectives on the show, given how well Olivia worked with the female assistant district attorneys and medical examiner.
Early arrogance aside, Benson and Rollins made a solid team. Benson might not have wanted to train two new detectives after losing her best friend and partner, but Rollins definitely benefited from the tutelage.
In her first season, Rollins was brash and brusque. This would seem to make her a bad fit for Benson, who is the embodiment of empathy.
Rollins honed her investigative skills and bedside manner under Benson’s supervision, but she also brought some much-needed new blood to the squad room, making her a fine partner for everyone’s favorite detective.