Ranking Every Episode of ‘Law and Order: SVU’ (Part 1)
18 years. 18 seasons. Roughly 16,800 minutes, plus more cameos, crimes, and criminals than you could imagine. This week Law and Order: Special Victims Unit airs its 400th episode*, and as a dedicated SVU fan I’m celebrating by ranking every single episode ever. Crazy? Yes. Possibly damaging to my mental and emotional health? Likely. Worth it? God, I hope so.
I’ve been watching SVU for 13 years. The show serves a few purposes for fans. Sometimes it provides emotional catharsis, sometimes it sheds light on real-life issues of violence and discrimination, and other times – okay, most of the time – it’s utterly bonkers sensationalism that’s so salacious and twisted you can’t help but slurp it up.
To rank all 400 episodes, I took a few things into consideration: How original is the premise? How clever is the twist(s)? If the episode is based on a real-life incident, how well does the show comment on it? But most important: How much did the episode leave me crying / screaming at the TV / gasping in shock? Find out my bottom 200 episodes below, then come back tomorrow for the top 200 just in time for SVU’s 400th episode to air on NBC.
(Expect all the SPOILERS. This article also includes some graphic language relating to violence and sexual assault.)
399. “Community Policing,” Season 17 Ep. 5
Listen, I’ve been a devout SVU fan for 13 years, but this was the first episode that really left me angry. Attempting to comment on Ferguson and Freddie Gray, the episode finds three (never-before-seen) detectives shooting and killing an unarmed black man they pursued as a rapist. I’ll give it this – it presents an interesting angle of showing the perspectives of fictional cops we’ve grown to love and trust (and the circumstances are notably different from real-life incidents). BUT when Benson and the squad defend the shooting, my SVU heart broke a little. At least Barba, a supporter of Black Lives Matter, grills them hard in front of a grand jury. But jeez, bad move guys.
398. “Birthright,” Season 6 Ep. 1
A custody battle is spurred by the reveal that a fertility clinic gave a mother another woman’s embryos. An interesting idea on paper, but tedious and plodding onscreen. An SVU episode without sexual assault, twisted sexual relationships, or murder?! No thanks.
397. “December Solstice,” Season 16 Ep. 16
I’d seen this episode and couldn’t remember the plot until watching it all the way through a second time. A playwright daughter has it out for her aging sexist father. Then there’s a trial and … I already forgot what happened again.
396. “Pattern Seventeen” Season 16 Ep. 9
Who knew investigating a multi-city serial rapist could be so boring?
395. “Chicago Crossover,” Season 16 Ep. 7
Ugh. This episode came out in 2014 and SVU still depicted queer homeless youth as feisty caricatures slathered in lipstick. This is also a Chicago P.D. crossover (snooze); the writers couldn’t come up with a more creative title than “Chicago Crossover”?
394. “Choice,” Season 5 Ep. 7
SVU is full of terrible mothers, but this one is pretty tame. Josie Bisset plays a pregnant alcoholic who gets arrested by Benson when she violates a court order not to drink. And that’s pretty much it. Not that I’m begging for soul-shattering episodes only about assault and kidnapping, but c’mon, this is SVU. Gimme what I came for.
393. “Agent Provocateur,” Season 16 Ep. 11
This episode opens to a terrible pop song playing over a montage of a teenage girl getting ready to go out. Then she wakes up stuffed inside of a suitcase. I never called SVU classy but c’mon. Also, the main suspect is a painfully bad Shia LaBeouf rip-off who wears a paper bag on his head.
392. “Intimidation Game,” Season 16 Ep. 14
On one hand this is a suspenseful hour of SVU – there’s a tense rooftop shootout, a kidnapped victim, and Ice-T one-liners. But this is also the Gamergate episode, which did a terrible job of giving insightful, non-sensationalized commentary about this real-life story. You can do better, SVU.
391. “Debt,” Season 6 Ep. 2
Some of my least favorite SVU episodes are about crime rings. They’re set up to be suspenseful pursuits full of undercover work, but often end up being pretty dull and redundant. This one about illegal immigrants definitely is.
390. “Producer’s Backend,” Season 16 Ep. 3
A young actress tried for statutory rape leads the squad to a pervy producer who sleeps with underage girls. Same old story, just set in Hollywood.
389. “Pornstar’s Requiem,” Season 16 Ep. 5
A young girl joins the porn industry and gets assaulted by two college students at a party. Pretty forgettable.
388. “Harm,” Season 9 Ep. 5
A case that leads back to a doctor (Elizabeth McGovern) who teaches military torture techniques. It’s the Lifetime movie version of an SVU episode, mostly for the bad music plays as former prisoners recount their stories.
387. “American Tragedy,” Season 15 Ep. 3
“Hey guys, we gotta do an episode about Trayvon Martin! But instead of depicting George Zimmerman, let’s kill two birds with one stone and make the shooter a Paula Deen-type!”
386. “Sophomore Jinx,” Season 1 Ep. 6
A college professor stalked a girl, watched her die, and then dragged her body outside to engage in some necrophilia. Admirably gross, but a pretty simple case full of too many red herrings.
385. “Maternal Instincts,” Season 17 Ep. 6
Rollins’ sister gets tangled up in a rape case involving a flutist. Ever notice that the later seasons often depend on the detective’s personal lives for drama and suspense? Yeah, those are not good.
384. “Dirty,” Season 12 Ep. 14
A detective for the D.A. has been stealing drug money, and when the ADA finds out the detective plots her murder. Interesting mystery, unsatisfying reveal.
383. “Pixies,” Season 2 Ep. 9
A jealous gymnast kills another gymnast with a brick to the head. Sounds more thrilling than it is.
382. “Spousal Privilege,” Season 16 Ep. 8
After tackling the Ray Rice elevator assault (tacked on to the Solange-Jay Z incident) four episodes before this one, SVU does it again, only with a sportscaster as the abuser.
381. “Melancholy Pursuit,” Season 17 Ep. 8
The squad finds a girl’s dead body and uses her DNA to find her killer. Never seen that on a crime show before!
380. “Funny Valentine,” Season 14 Ep. 16
Real-life celebrity incidents are perfect scandalous fodder for SVU, but the show often depicts those stories of real-life violence and weighty topics as cartoonish. That was especially the case for this Rihanna-and-Chris Brown-inspired episode.
379. “Institutional Fail,” Season 17 Ep. 4
Whoopi Goldberg plays the head of child services who’s accused of manslaughter. Episodes about good intentioned people who screw up might be more reflective of real-life, but don’t make for engaging TV.
378. “Gambler’s Fallacy,” Season 15 Ep. 17
You’ll hear me say this again and again, but SVU episodes that are more about the detectives’ personal drama than twisty cases are always the most disappointing. Points for giving Rollins an interesting addiction to explore, but can we get back to solving crimes?
377. “Traumatic Wound,” Season 14 Ep. 21
A group of friends orchestrate the gang-rape of their friend (Lola Kirke) at a concert. In a weak twist, it’s a former vet and bouncer with PTSD who miraculously remembers something that helps the squad prosecute their suspects.
376. “Granting Immunity,” Season 16 Ep. 19
Tribeca teenagers gone wild! Rainbow parties! Nude photos on the internet! Missi Pyle as an anti-vaxxer mom! There’s way too much going on in this scattered episode.
375. “Fallacy,” Season 4 Ep. 21
Just another negative portrayal of a trans person played by cis actress Kate Moennig. Her character is a trans woman who murders a guy who threatens to out her. Points for trying to tell a story about the real-life violence in the trans community, but still, not great Bob.
374. “Scheherazade,” Season 8 Ep. 10
When a terminal cancer patient (Brian Dennehy) asks to see his daughter one last time, he reveals he committed a series of bank robberies and murders 35 years ago, but someone else took the fall for it. One of those episodes that tries something different, but it ultimately ends up being a bore.
373. “Padre Sandunguero,” Season 16 Ep. 12
In this episode Amaro finally stands up to his abusive father. Feels more like a soap opera than a cop procedural.
372. “Poisoned Motive,” Season 14 Ep. 22
This episode starts out with a bang (pun intended, sorry) when Rollins gets shot by a sniper, but it quickly devolves into a forgettable exploration of Fin’s Narcotics backstory. At least 2 Chainz shows up with a fantastic line about his face being sewed onto a soccer ball.
371. “American Disgrace,” Season 16 Ep. 2
Too bad the real Solange-Jay Z elevator incident was ten times more exciting than SVU’s take on it.
370. “Parents’ Nightmare,” Season 16 Ep. 22
I’m sorry but did the writers have so few ideas that an episode about a dad plotting the kidnapping of his own son to make his “spaced out” ex-wife pay more attention seemed like a clever idea? I mean, it had my attention but that’s your twist?
369. “Fashionable Crimes,” Season 17 Ep. 20
When Rollins asks a model if a famous photographer forced her to have sex with him she retorts back, “He didn’t hold a gun on me! Well, actually, he did. But it wasn’t loaded.” If you’re going to take on Terry Richardson’s sexual assault allegations, maybe don’t make it so laughable.
368. “Amaro’s One-Eighty,” Season 15 Ep. 11
Another episode where Amaro is a carbon copy of Stabler. He shoots a kid in this episode, but we’ve been there, done that.
367. “Dreams Deferred,” Season 14 Ep. 9
The squad teams with a sex worker (Patricia Arquette) to track down a murderer in what’s a fairly traditional manhunt episode with some added sentimentalism.
366. “Chat Room,” Season 1 Ep. 18
Stabler is talking to his wife about predators and she says, “They’re out there” and he corrects her with, “Honey, they’re in here,” and points to his computer monitor. This is an episode about DUN DUN DUN the internet.
365. “October Surprise,” Season 15 Ep. 6
The Anthony Weiner episode where a mayoral front-runner uses the online alias “Enrique Trouble.” Doesn’t quite have the same ring as Carlos Danger.
364. “Missing Pieces,” Season 13 Ep. 5
What begins as a suspenseful search for a missing baby becomes a manslaughter case with the parents as prime suspects. Turns out the baby died of SIDS and the parents blamed themselves. Anyone else feeling depressed?
363. “Sheltered Outcasts,” Season 17 Ep. 19
Carisi goes undercover in a homeless shelter and meets a convicted sex offender who returns from Season 9. Turns out the rapist was a defense attorney, but what a waste to bring back such a creeper from the past just to be a red herring.
362. “A Misunderstanding,” Season 17 Ep. 12
In one of the show’s most generic and overdone storylines, a student rapes a younger student. Running outta ideas are we?
361. “Wednesday’s Child,” Season 15 Ep. 14
Rosanna Arquette adopts children and uses them for child porn. Who is Wednesday and why is this episode called “Wednesday’s Child”? I honestly can’t remember.
360. “Devastating Story,” Season 16 Ep. 18
SVU tackles Rolling Stone’s “A Rape on Campus” story, which has a moment or two of insightful commentary on campus rape culture, but fails to criticize the media as strongly as it could’ve. Like so many other recent ripped-from-the-headlines episodes, this one just isn’t as fascinating as the real life story.
359. “Persona,” Season 10 Ep. 8
This episode starts with a case of spousal abuse starring Clea DuVall, then pivots to an unsolved crime involving a woman who murdered her rapist husband. Doesn’t live up to the great title.
358. “Design,” Season 7 Ep. 2
Estella Warren guest stars and has the line, “I’m too beautiful for prison.” She’s pregnant and claimed she was raped, but turns out she drugs rich guys and uses electro-ejaculation (look it up!) to steal their sperm. Weirdest of all, she sells their “super sperm” to a doctor intent on creating genius babies.
357. “Perverted Justice,” Season 16 Ep. 21
An Orange is the New Black double-hitter: Poussey (Samira Wiley) plays a woman who recants her accusation that her father raped her 17 years ago and Caputo (Nick Sandow) plays a detective having an affair with her mother. A relatively minor slow burn episode until the finale throws an uncomfortable curve ball.
356. “Lost Traveler,” Season 13 Ep. 9
A repeat of the SVU trope of unremorseful teens who bully and kill a classmate.
355. “Snitch,” Season 9 Ep. 10
An episode about a polygamist, a murder case, and female circumcision with a Method Man cameo should be way more exciting than this.
354. “Anchor,” Season 11 Ep. 10
Oh goodie, a timely episode about a racist extremist who kills the children of immigrants.
353. “Gridiron Soldier,” Season 15 Ep. 16
Hazing, sexual assault by football coaches, and gay hate crimes; there’s way too much going on here.
352. “Comic Perversion,” Season 15 Ep. 15
It’s the Daniel Tosh rape joke episode, only the standup comic is accused of rape to make matters more dramatic. The best part is an Ice-T line. When Rollins says, “He’s bating you, Liv,” Fin replies, “Masturbating!”
351. “Dissonant Voices,” Season 15 Ep. 7
Two teenage girls accuse their famous music teacher (Billy Porter) of pedophilia because they couldn’t get on his American Idol-like reality show. Clay Aiken, Ashanti, and Taylor Hicks guest star as the judges. Painfully cringe-worthy.
350. “Criminal Pathology,” Season 17 Ep. 2
Part 2 of the Season 17 premiere finds a serial killer confessing to his crimes, à la Robert Durst in The Jinx. The worst part is how the writers use the stereotype of crossdressing psychotic men. It’s in poor taste, especially since the next episode tackled violence against trans people.
349. “Undercover Mother,” Season 16 Ep. 15
There have been so many sex trafficking episodes of SVU. In this one a mother goes undercover as a brothel owner to try to find her kidnapped daughter. It’s not as original or suspenseful as it’s set up to be, but hey, at least Benson and Finn go undercover as pimps.
348. “…Or Just Look Like One,” Season 1 Ep. 3
A dead girl’s body is dropped outside a hospital. A former model turns out to be the killer, which we knew because the killer is almost always that suspicious, seemingly irrelevant character we meet early on.
347. “Betrayal’s Climax,” Season 15 Ep. 13
A gang rape case gets complicated when the victim says she experienced multiple orgasms during the assault, and yet again, an SVU episode title is a little too on the nose.
346. “Obscene,” Season 6 Ep. 3
A Howard Stern-like radio host becomes connected to the rape trial of a popular TV actress and later a staged shooting. A mediocre episode that gets a bonus point for its opening: On the set of a police procedural.
345. “Mean,” Season 5 Ep. 17
Jawbreaker meets Mean Girls, only if Gretchen and Karen murdered Regina, only not as great as that makes it sound.
344. “Hysteria,” Season 1 Ep. 4
Oh great, a guy sleeps with a woman of color because he wanted “something strange” and some “jungle fever” before getting married. And there’s a cop who gleefully admits to killing 18 sex workers. The world is trash.
343. “Gray,” Season 12 Ep. 9
A guy’s lube mixed with his medication ends up causing fetal abortions, then a girl dies of Toxic Shock Syndrome. It happens!
342. “Bombshell,” Season 12 Ep. 19
Benson and Stabler go undercover as a swingers couple. Rose McGowan plays a woman who used to date her twin brother. Only on SVU!
341. “Military Justice,” Season 15 Ep. 8
Shiri Appleby plays a Coast Guard officer who’s gang raped by her fellow officers. An important topic, but doesn’t get the powerful episode it deserves.
340. “Reasonable Doubt,” Season 15 Ep. 22
Bradley Whitford is a Woody Allen-esque child molester, but that’s just a distraction from the fact that Amaro and Rollins are totally hooking up.
339. “Silence,” Season 3 Ep. 23
Moral of the story: Don’t trust the Catholic Church.
338. “Wanderlust,” Season 1 Ep. 5
A teenage girl falls for an older man in her apartment building and when he refuses to take her away with him, she strangles him and stuffs her underwear in his mouth. As one does.
337. “Ghost,” Season 6 Ep. 16
A dead body leads to a bunch of nasty murders tied to the Colombian drug cartel. It’s nothing special except Alex returns to testify against the hitman who tried to kill her.
336. “Perfect,” Season 4 Ep. 24
A doctor leads a cult of young women who he says he’s impregnating with the cells of dead babies (?!?). He’s actually just getting them pregnant with her own sperm. Cults, man. Don’t join ‘em!
335. “Thought Criminal,” Season 15 Ep. 23
A photographer has a secret torture chamber but claims he only uses it to imagine sex crimes, not act on them. (Um, okay.) An interesting premise, but without a crime there’s not much going on.
334. “Secrets,” Season 2 Ep. 12
Sex addiction, an underground sex club, and Munch and Fin debating the privacy of people’s sex lives.
333. “Confidential,” Season 11 Ep. 15
A 20-year-old rape case gets reopened. Feels more like a traditional L&O episode than an SVU.
332. “Fight,” Season 9 Ep. 8
In a slog of an episode, two brothers get framed for raping a girl by a gang leader who wanted their tuition money.
331. “Street Revenge,” Season 13 Ep. 19
A group of street vigilantes get in the way of an investigation. Then Benson punches a guy in the face.
330. “Home,” Season 5 Ep. 16
A mom convinces her son to shoot her other son. Then we find out the same mom abused a third son years ago and lied about it. That’s tonight on a shocking episode of Law & Order: Terrible Mothers!
329. “Child’s Welfare,” Season 13 Ep. 16
The first trio of episodes introducing Benson’s half-brother Simon in Season 8 were great. But did he really need to return to get Benson’s help on a custody case?
328. “Deadly Ambition,” Season 14 Ep. 15
The entire episode is about Rollins shooting and killing her sister’s abusive boyfriend. Must have been a sex crime-free week in New York City!
327. “Underbelly,” Season 8 Ep. 7
Stabler kisses Beck and you’re like, “Dude, Benson’s only been gone for six episodes.”
326. “Hardwired,” Season 11 Ep. 5
The squad captures the head of a pedophile-rights group, then Rosie Perez is blamed for her husband’s abuse of her son. At least it ends happily.
325. “Daydream Believer,” Season 16 Ep. 20
I’m not a big fan of Chicago Fire/PD crossovers but this one’s not bad. Dallas Roberts is creepy as hell as a twisted rapist serial killer. 10 points to Barba for knowing just how to make this guy crack by teasing him with forensic photos in the courtroom.
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324. “A Single Life,” Season 1 Ep. 2
The series’ first story about a sexually abusive father ends not with the detectives grilling him in the interrogation room, but a powerful confrontation between an adult daughter and her dad.
323. “Catfishing Teacher,” Season 17 Ep. 10
A female counselor at my high school was caught having a relationship with a teenage boy. Same thing happens here, only worse; a male coach has also been assaulting boys. One of the few recent episodes not inspired by current events, this has all the makings of a classic SVU episode. It’s just not that sharp.
322. “Unholiest Alliance” Season 17 Ep. 17
It’s Spotlight, only instead of journalists the squad tries to uncover the Catholic church’s sex trafficking ring.
321. “Beef,” Season 11 Ep. 20
Sometimes the dullest episodes end up having a pretty intriguing payoff. A vegan is killed after she tries to expose an unsanitary meatpacking company and while one guy confesses, the killer ends up being an old granny who makes the meatballs. (Don’t eat the meatballs.)
320. “Beautiful Frame,” Season 14 Ep. 11
A woman’s affair with a cop leads to a rape and him framing her for murder.
319. “Signature,” Season 10 Ep. 11
Erika Christensen guest stars as an FBI Special Agent who, uh, isn’t cut out for Special Victims work. She can’t handle it and ends up killing a serial killer, then when she gets caught, she kills herself. Bleak.
318. “Depravity Standard,” Season 17 Ep. 9
With 400 episodes, there have been plenty of opportunities for SVU to follow-up on cases from earlier seasons, but they’ve rarely done it for a full episode. Except in this one, which brings back Tom Sizemore’s kidnapper from a Season 14 episode.
317. “Glasglowman’s Wrath,” Season 16 Ep. 6
The Slender Man stabbings, a story made for SVU re-enactment.
316. “Wonderland Story,” Season 15 Ep. 5
Finn Wittrock plays a douchey tech millionaire who rapes his best friend’s fiancee. But who cares what the plot is, it’s Munch’s goodbye episode. 😭
315. “Decaying Morality,” Season 16 Ep. 13
A teenage girl accuses a pizza shop employee of rape. Her father kills him, but it turns out the guy was innocent and it was actually her dentist uncle. And then I never went to the dentist ever again.
314. “Manhattan Transfer,” Season 17 Ep. 16
Part 1 of “Unholiest Alliance” kicks off a scandal full of predatory Catholic priests, dirty cops, and a sex trafficking ring. Benson gets transferred to another bureau because of her relationship with Tucker.
313. “Imposter,” Season 18 Ep. 3
Is catfishing someone for consensual sex the same as rape? One of the weakest SVU episodes tries to make that argument when a con man pretends to work at a university so he can sleep with moms desperate to get their kids into school. You know the writers don’t have a good story when a uneventful episode ends with a sudden (and pretty unnecessary) suicide.
312. “Hate,” Season 5 Ep. 13
A guy who kills and rapes Arab women because his dad left his mom for an Arab woman.
311. “Brief Interlude,” Season 14 Ep. 23
You’re really going to make me sit through a murder case with multiple suspects and tell me the killer was just some random homeless guy on bath salts? What a waste!
310. “Streetwise,” Season 9 Ep. 11
Mae Whitman is a wealthy private school girl who pretends to be a homeless punk (dreds included), starts a street gang, and convinces her new boyfriend to kill one of her classmates.
309. “Monster’s Legacy,” Season 14 Ep. 13
That time convicted rapist Mike Tyson played a rape victim.
308. “Lust,” Season 4 Ep. 4
What do you do when your wife threatens to divorce you when she finds out you’ve been stealing her money to take ecstasy with prostitutes? Murder her in Central Park of course!
307. “Parole Violations,” Season 16 Ep. 17
In typical Law & Order word play, this episode brings a whole new meaning to violating parole when Carisi’s brother-in-law accuses his parole officer of raping him. It’s an interesting twist about male rape victims and features a sly final move from Barba in the court room.
306. “Secrets Exhumed,” Season 14 Ep. 14
Now this is just ridiculous. Marcia Gay Harden’s Dana Lewis guest starred in 3 great episodes, always as the hero. Now her FBI agent is suddenly a killer who murdered the pregnant woman her ex left her for, then she frames a serial killer for it. Harden, you deserved better.
305. “Recall,” Season 8 Ep. 3
This case is as simple and as boring as they come. Beck and Stabler can’t find enough evidence to convict a rapist on one case so they track down another victim and convince her to testify.
304. “Internal Affairs,” Season 15 Ep. 4
Cassidy goes undercover to catch dirty cops who raped a drunk girl. It’s a refreshing break from the sensationalized ripped-from-the-headlines eps, and sustains tension outside of Benson’s William Lewis arc throughout the season.
303. “Acceptable Loss,” Season 14 Ep. 4
Why write an episode about sex trafficking rings or terrorism when you can capitalize on both at once?
302. “Jersey Breakdown,” Season 15 Ep. 12
A rape investigation leads to an ADA who’s secretly partnered with a sex trafficker.
301. “Forty-One Witnesses,” Season 17 Ep. 13
An intoxicated woman is dragged out of a coffee shop to be assaulted and, as the title says, a hell of a lot of witnesses watched and didn’t do anything. Sometimes New Yorkers just suck.
300. “Heightened Emotions,” Season 18 Ep. 4
A fairly traditional case about consensual sex that turns into a violent rape, only the victim is an Olympic pole vaulter with bipolar disorder who gets off on being an escort.
299. “Friending Emily,” Season 14 Ep. 6
In SVU’s attempt to modernize their kidnapping storylines (just look at that episode title), this one follows a guy who kidnaps girls and live-streams child porn.
298. “Damaged,” Season 4 Ep. 11
Ari Graynor plays a former victim of abuse who later repeatedly assaults her younger sister, then has her murdered when she threatens to tell.
297. “Intersecting Lives,” Season 17 Ep. 22
The first installment in a two-parter where Brad Garrett’s Riker’s correctional officer rapes multiple female prisoners. Best line: “What’s going on?” Barba: “Not much, just someone trying to kill me.”
296. “Presumed Guilty,” Season 14 Ep. 10
SVU throws their holiday party in the Medical Examiner’s office. (How do I get an invite?) Denis O’Hare reprises his Criminal Intent priest who’s investigated for a molestation the Monsignor committed.
295. “Criminal Stories,” Season 15. Ep. 18
A cocky reporter, played by none other than Alec Baldwin, is profiling SVU. He gets in the way of an investigation when his articles claim a rape victim is lying.
294. “Beast’s Obsession,” Season 15 Ep. 20
Controversial opinion, I know, but this episode really pisses me off. Sure, it’s some of Hargitay’s best acting. Sure, having your show’s hero get kidnapped by the same man for the second time, forced to play Russian Roulette, and nearly raped (for the, what, 4th time?) makes for suspenseful TV. But this episode went way too far, and much like Season 15 overall, felt emotionally manipulative. Leave Benson alone.
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293. “Post-Mortem Blues,” Season 15. Ep. 21
The episode picks up from the end of “Beast’s Obsession,” and makes us rewatch Benson playing Russian Roulette all over again. I’d rather not.
292. “Limitations,” Season 1 Ep. 14
A victim refuses to give up her rapist’s identity, claiming she’s moved on from the assault from five years ago.
291. “Lunacy,” Season 10 Ep. 4
A taxi cab rapist case connects to Stabler’s old mentor (James Brolin), an astronaut who killed a woman who got in the way of his efforts to go to the moon.
290. “Entitled,” Season 1 Ep. 15
A wealthy woman from a well-known family is suspected of killing a salesman. Besides being a Law and Order crossover, it’s mostly an overly complicated snooze.
289. “Reparations,” Season 12 Ep. 21
A man plans to assault a woman who’s the granddaughter of a KKK member who raped his mother years ago.
288. “Spectacle,” Season 12 Ep. 16
A student streams a video of a kidnapped girl to get the detectives’ attention so they’ll help him on the cold case of his missing brother.
287. “Sin,” Season 8 Ep. 17
An Evangelical preacher kills the gay man his closeted son had been sleeping with. Best line about a gay hook-up: “I asked him to pick me up after the Satan’s House rehearsal. Then we went back to his place.”
286. “Avatar,” Season 9 Ep. 2
Kevin Tighe plays a creeper who stalks and rapes a woman he met online, then frames someone else by stealing their video game avatar. But that’s not even the weirdest bit. The woman’s sister is raped by her boyfriend, who suffers from sexsomnia – aka “sleep sex.” It happens!
285. “Lost Reputation,” Season 14 Ep. 1
The least compelling episode of the three-episode arc where Cragen is framed for murder.
284. “Class,” Season 7 Ep. 17
A guy murders a college student because she lost a bunch of money playing poker.
283. “Next Chapter,” Season 18 Ep. 7
Boo, I guessed the twist 10 minutes in. A retired cop becomes obsessed with a young woman, then rapes and kidnaps her. It’s a typical high-stakes hostage situation where, yet again, the writers put the detectives in grave danger (Carisi almost dies) to make up for a trite plot.
282. “Game,” Season 6 Ep. 14
A GTA-like video game inspires two people to murder and rape a sex worker.
281. “Stocks and Bondage,” Season 1 Ep. 9
I can only imagine the glee of the writer who came up with the episode title about a kinky businesswoman who gets killed because of money laundering.
280. “Bully,” Season 12 Ep. 18
A super convoluted murder mystery where a man tries to make an accidental death look like a drunken suicide. How do you get a corpse drunk? Shove a wine bottle up her butt, of course.
279. “Fat,” Season 7 Ep. 20
Long before she got revenge on rapists in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara made her acting debut as a formerly overweight girl who beats up people who are overweight.
278. “Learning Curve,” Season 13 Ep. 21
A private-school student jumps through a whole serious of ridiculous hoops to cover up his affair with a teacher, including his father paying a gang to commit hate crimes. Then the kid ends up shooting the teacher when she breaks it off.
277. “Runaway,” Season 2 Ep. 16
That one time the SVU squad went undercover at a rave.
276. “Decline and Fall,” Season 18 Ep. 9
A rich and powerful septuagenarian slips a bartender Quaaludes and rapes her, forcing his grandson to testify against him.
275. “Stalked,” Season 1 Ep. 8
A stalker and rapist assaults and kills the ADA who prosecuted him in a previous case. He gets Benson to meet him at the park and holds a knife on her.
274. “Protection,” Season 3 Ep. 12
The head of a drug-trafficking ring has a six-year-old boy killed after he witnesses a murder. Then a hitman shoots up a church during the little boy’s funeral. On a lighter note, Fin gets to go undercover as a drug addict.
273. “Scorched Earth,” Season 13 Ep. 1
A hotel maid accuses an Italian diplomat of rape in Rollins’ first episode. Benson finds out Stabler has resigned without a goodbye. And yes, I’m still mad about it.
272. “Closure,” Season 1 Ep. 10
A woman struggles to remember what her rapist looks like. But more importantly, Benson and Cassidy sleep together for the first time.
271. “Choreographed,” Season 8 Ep. 9
Bob Saget plays a jealous husband who injected a GPS into his wife’s shoulder. When he finds out she was cheating, he kills his wife’s lover’s wife, then framed the husband. Unnecessarily confusing? Yep.
270. “Folly,” Season 2 Ep. 17
A madam throws boiling spaghetti on a male escort. Forget that she tried to murder him, wasting good pasta is the most heinous crime of them all.
269. “Branded,” Season 12 Ep. 6
A woman gets revenge on her three rapists years later by hiding inside a delivery box to break into their homes, drug them, and carve into their chest, Dragon Tattoo-style.
268. “Bedtime,” Season 11 Ep. 18
Closer to a soap opera than a crime procedural, this one finds a former detective (Jaclyn Smith) murdering the wife of the man she loved and pinning it on a serial killer named the Bedtime Butcher.
267. “Valentine’s Day,” Season 13 Ep. 18
Chloe Sevigny plays a woman who has at least 5 affairs, then plans her own kidnapping and rape to get ransom money from her husband. It doesn’t stop there; she also seduces a juror, which leads to a mistrial.
266. “True Believers,” Season 13 Ep. 6
When a black man is accused of rape and gun possession, Andre Braugher’s DA attempts prove that the NYPD’s case is racially motivated.
265. “Nationwide Manhunt,” Season 17 Ep. 13
Serial killer buddies Greg Yates (Dallas Roberts) and Carl Rudnick (Jefferson Mays) break out of prison in a Chicago PD crossover. A woman also hides a burner phone and carving tools in lasagna, and now I’ll never not be suspicious when I eat lasagna.
264. “Star-Struck Victims,” Season 17 Ep. 16
SVU does the Bill Cosby allegations where a vlogger accuses a TV actor of rape and Rollins goes undercover to catch him.
263. “Consent,” Season 2 Ep. 10
Two sorority sisters drug another girl (Tammy Blanchard) to set up one of their ex-boyfriends for date rape.
262. “Ace,” Season 11 Ep. 22
Benson and Stabler go undercover as a couple trying to adopt a child from a Bulgarian baby trafficker.
261. “Delinquent,” Season 12 Ep. 23
A 14-year-old commits a series of rapes as a result of child abuse by his nanny.
260. “Lessons Learned,” Season 14 Ep. 8
Teachers abusing male students is a story we’ve seen again and again on SVU, but this episode about allegations in an all-boys private school didn’t feel like a rehashing of old tropes. It’s told with more heart than melodrama.
259. “Transgender Bridge,” Season 17 Ep. 3
After 16 seasons of endorsing transphobic attitudes the series finally included a positive portrayal of a trans character in a story about a hate crime. There’s some educational moments around gender identity and the rise in violence against the trans community. But the episode still focuses more on the grief of the boy accused of the crime than on the trans girl’s perspective.
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258. “The Third Guy,” Season 1 Ep. 16
Denis O’Hare plays a delivery man with a mental disability who rapes and kills an elderly woman after finding her tied up by robbers in her apartment.
257. “Terrorized,” Season 18 Ep. 1
In a ripped from the headlines twist, an Islamic terrorism trial becomes a rape case when the killer’s wife reveals she’s a victim of sexual assault. It’s an interesting angle on recent mass shootings, and asks how to handle a terrorism accomplice who’s also a victim.
256. “Contact,” Season 1 Ep. 19
A serial rapist targets women on the subway. Benson goes on a date with a reporter who wants to act out a rape fantasy. Wrong woman to try that kink on, buddy.
255. “Outsider,” Season 8 Ep. 12
I love stumbling on old SVU episodes where the detectives guest star as victims or perps before they joined as full-time characters. In this one Kelli Giddish plays a rape victim.
254. “Retro,” Season 10 Ep. 5
Ya know what sucks? When your husband dies on a safari, then you get a blood transfusion that saves your life, only it gives you HIV, then you give you’re daughter HIV and decide to take her to an AIDS denialist doctor.
253. “Rescue,” Season 12 Ep. 10
A girl was raped and found with blue ink inside of her. The perp turns out to be a paramedic who assaults women in the back of ambulances. As SVU continues to teach us, trust no one.
252. “Name,” Season 7 Ep. 7
A construction site in a playground digs up the bones of a boy’s body from a 1970s cold case. It’s a bummer of an ending when they find the killer, who’s dying of cancer and doesn’t remember the victim’s name.
251. “Pop,” Season 12 Ep. 11
A teenage fight club leads to a domestic abuse case where the wife frames Stabler for assaulting her husband.
250. “Bang,” Season 12 Ep. 22
John Stamos plays a “reproductive abuser” who willingly gets multiple women pregnant – he has 47 kids and counting. One of the mothers stabs him with an injection knife that, I kid you not, makes his chest explode.
249. “Prodigy,” Season 3 Ep. 13
Michael Pitt has always been good at playing menacing, twisted weirdos. He’s not the killer or rapist here, but he helps the squad catch the bad guy. Always helpful to have a sociopathic animal killer on hand.
248. “Infiltrated,” Season 8, Ep. 6
Benson’s undercover name is Persephone Jones. That is all.
247. “Hooked,” Season 6 Ep. 15
A porn producer murders one of his actresses when she contracts HIV. Then the actresses’ best friend (Hayden Panettiere) kills a doctor who videotaped all three of them having sex.
246. “Girl Dishonored,” Season 14 Ep. 20
It’s commendable that SVU tackled campus gang rape, suicide, slut shaming, and silenced victims, but by cramming so much into one episode, it barely scratched the surface of these issues.
245. “Blast,” Season 7 Ep. 13
A drug addict kidnaps his little sister (who has freaking leukemia) to get ransom money from his parents to pay off a drug dealer. He later holds Stabler and Warner hostage at a bank heist.
244. “Twenty-Five Acts,” Season 14 Ep. 3
The Fifty Shades of Grey episode where Anna Chlumsky plays the author of an S&M book (horribly titled Twenty-Five Acts) who is raped by a TV host re-enacting scenes from the book. Best of all, Barba chokes himself with a belt in court.
243. “Honor,” Season 2 Ep. 2
An Afghani ambassador kills his daughter when he finds out she isn’t a virgin, then kills his wife when she testifies in court.
242. “Conned,” Season 11 Ep. 19
A female psychiatrist misdiagnoses a 16-year-old as schizophrenic then gets pregnant with his child and claims he’s her soulmate. This episode is full of some ridiculous sexual puns like, “Easy come, not so easy go.”
241. “Pursuit,” Season 12 Ep. 17
Debra Messing plays the host of a To Catch A Predator-type show who’s being stalked by the serial killer who murdered her sister years ago. That same killer murders EADA Sonya Paxton.
240. “Bad Blood,” Season 1 Ep. 11
Benson tries to find her mother’s rapist while the squad investigates a hate crime against a gay man.
239. “Web,” Season 7 Ep. 21
It’s not always creepy old guys behind online porn. Connor Paolo guests stars a second time as a teenage boy running a kiddie porn site.
238. “Above Suspicion,” Season 14 Ep. 2
The third episode in the Cragen dead escort shabockle leads to a ridiculous shootout where three cops all arrive on the scene shouting, “I’m a cop, don’t shoot!” Then Benson finally rekindles her Season 1 romance with Cassidy.
237. “Misleader,” Season 1 Ep. 17
A son kills his wife for cheating on him with his father and getting pregnant with what would’ve been his brother-in-law.
236. “Chasing Theo,” Season 18 Ep. 8
We’ve seen this episode so many times – a child gets kidnapped to teach an irresponsible parent a lesson. Only this time the parents are two lesbians. Bonus points for depicting well-written queer characters who aren’t victimized because of their sexuality.
235. “Abuse,” Season 2 Ep. 11
In her first guest role, Hayden Panettiere plays the daughter of two country singers. She becomes attached to Benson and pretends to be abused to get her parents to pay attention to her.
234. “Alien,” Season 7 Ep. 11
A young girl is bullied at school for being the daughter of two lesbians. When the bully chops her hair off, she grabs the scissors and stabs him in the back, paralyzing him.
233. “Justice,” Season 3 Ep. 19
A judge’s stepdaughter winds up dead, and later reveals that he raped her, got her pregnant, and sent her away to boarding school to hide it. His wife killed her own daughter when she learned who fathered the baby.
232. “Educated Guess,” Season 13 Ep. 8
Only an SVU episode would open with a naked guy running through Central Park while hallucinating. Natasha Lyonne plays a patient in a psychiatric hospital whose uncle has been raping her for years.
231. “Father’s Shadow,” Season 13 Ep. 13
Michael McKean plays a producer who drugs and rapes actresses during their auditions, including one played by Miranda Lambert. His son (Cameron Monaghan) holds his father’s girlfriend hostage, and Benson, doing what she does best, ends up talking him out of killing himself.
230. “Blood Brothers,” Season 13 Ep. 3
Kyle MacLachlan plays an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like politician who has an affair with his housekeeper. Only it’s messier than the real-life scandal and involves the rape of a 13-year-old girl and murder of his secret son.
229. “Russian Brides,” Season 13 Ep. 7
Cragen goes undercover when the body of a kidnapped Russian mail-order bride leads to a scam by the Mafia. It’s one of the rare times we see Cragen get vulnerable and talk about his past.
228. “Remorse,” Season 1 Ep. 20
A TV reporter (Jennifer Esposito) reveals she was raped in a news segment, only to die from a bomb planted inside of a flower vase. In a twist, it wasn’t the rapists who killed her but a weirdo who became obsessed from watching her on TV.
227. “Transitions,” Season 10 Ep. 14
Aisha Hinds plays a trans woman who attacks a man who disagrees with his transgender daughters. For an episode from 2009, it’s impressively sensitive to struggles in the trans community, except that it uses the reveal that a character is trans as a “shocking” twist.
226. “Assaulting Reality,” Season 17 Ep. 21
The Bachelor meets UnREAL when a woman on a reality dating show accuses another contestant of rape. The two execs behind the show (Wendie Malick, Michael Gross) tweak the footage to blame a producer (Larisa Oleynik).
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225. “Tangled,” Season 3 Ep. 5
A woman’s plot to kill her lover’s wife goes wrong when the guy she hires for the murder is actually in love with her, so he kills her lover too.
224. “Trophy,” Season 12 Ep. 7
A serial rapist leads Benson to Maria Bello’s character, who is also a child of rape, and Benson becomes her son’s legal guardian. But the real winner is Fin’s line: “He’s got a solid alibi. He wasn’t born yet.”
223. “Imprisoned Lives,” Season 15 Ep. 2
Based on the Ariel Castro kidnappings, the squad chases down a kidnapper who’s been holding three women prisoner in his home for nearly 18 years.
222. “Vulnerable,” Season 4 Ep. 3
A nursing home manager (Mary Kay Place) injects patients with epinephrine to give them heart attacks so she can then save them and look like a hero. It happens!
221. “Slaves,” Season 1 Ep. 22
Based on the Colleen Stan kidnapping, a Romanian woman is abducted and hidden underneath a kidnapper’s bed until Benson and Stabler rescue her.
220. “Rapist Anonymous,” Season 15 Ep. 9
Rollins starts dating her sleazy Gambler’s Anonymous sponsor. When a woman (Amy Seimetz) breaks up with her boyfriend, she accuses him of rape, lures him to her apartment, sleeps with him, and pushes him off the roof.
219. “Closure (Part 2),” Season 2 Ep. 3
Tracy Pollan reprises her rape victim from the Season 1 episode of the same name, now stalking her rapist to try and catch him. When the perp’s wife testimony leads to a mistrial, she shoots and kills him.
218. “Criminal Hatred,” Season 14 Ep. 12
In a twist on hate crimes, a slew of gay men are attacked murdered by another gay man because they were closeted. A stripper tells Fin she likes his new haircut. (Note: Fin’s hair hasn’t changed by more than a one-sixteenth of an inch in the past 10 years.)
217. “Sugar,” Season 11 Ep. 2
Stabler goes undercover on a sugar daddy website (called Tasty Sugar) to find the killer of a woman whose body was stuffed in a suitcase. Eric McCormack also plays a sugar daddy.
216. “Rotten,” Season 4 Ep. 3
A police officer has a vendetta against drug dealers after his brother died of an overdose. so he starts assaulting and killing them.
215. “Spring Awakening,” Season 15 Ep. 24
Surprise surprise, Amaro loses his temper then winds up in an orange jumpsuit. Munch returns after retiring a hot minute ago. Noah enters Benson’s life, and DA Trevor (Hargitay’s real-life husband Peter Hermann) returns.
214. “Rhodium Nights,” Season 13 Ep. 23
12 seasons later Cassidy returns! Then Captain Cragen gets framed, and finds a woman with a slit throat in his bed.
213. “Undercover Blue,” Season 14 Ep. 17
Cassidy gets framed for rape by a drug dealer’s girlfriend. Amaro learns that a kid being used as a drug mule is actually his son from an undercover relationship years ago.
212. “Strain,” Season 7 Ep. 5
In a sensational opening fit only for SVU, a couple find a dead man’s body posed in a store window display. He’s one of two victims killed by an activist who murdered two gay men who gave his now-dead brother AIDS.
211. “Goliath,” Season 6 Ep. 23
A police officer starts acting out and rapes his wife (Amy Landecker), a reaction caused by an anti-malaria drug given to him by the Army in Afghanistan.
210. “Justice Denied,” Season 13 Ep. 17
A flashback explains the opening of Season 6’s “Quarry” when Benson interrogated a rapist for nine hours, only now that rapist is revealed to be innocent when the real perp starts committing crimes again.
209. “Totem,” Season 12 Ep. 20
A rare episode where only women are the sexual abusers. A female piano teacher is suspected of assaulting and killing a young girl. But wait! It was her half-sister, who’s mentally unstable after years of being molested by her mother, who she still lives with. Isn’t this show so uplifting?!
208. “Uncle,” Season 8 Ep. 4
The one where Munch realizes his uncle is a mentally ill homeless guy and murder suspect played by Jerry Lewis.
207. “Noncompliance,” Season 2 Ep. 6
Two men at a homeless shelter who suffer from schizophrenia are involved in a murder case. One murdered a woman, the other witnessed it, but can only testify if he agrees to take medication.
206. “Born Psychopath,” Season 14 Ep. 19
A 10-year-old child abuses his little sister, drowns his dog, then holds another kid at gun point before shooting Amaro.
205. “Making a Rapist,” Season 18 Ep. 2
Making a Murderer, only if Steven Avery got out of jail and raped and killed the daughter of the woman he was wrongfully convicted of killing. Plus Joe Biden shows up, confirming he is indeed our nation’s coolest former Veep.
204. “Forgiving Rollins,” Season 16 Ep. 10
After facing her gambling addiction in Season 15, Rollins get another big backstory episode. It’s some of Kelli Giddish’s best work on the show as she faces her former boss, who raped her years before. A lot of the episodes around the squad’s personal lives feel distracting. This is one of the better ones.
203. “Nocturne,” Season 1 Ep. 21
SVU has a thing for devastating stories about piano teachers who molest kids. (Maybe don’t get your kid private lessons.) In this one, a former victim of child abuse testifies against his old instructor, but it turns out he’s also become a piano teacher who abuses his students.
202. “Loophole,” Season 8 Ep. 13
This episode opens with Stabler getting tossed through a window by a guy on PCP. But wait, it gets nuttier! What appears to be an investigation into child porn reveals a company has been testing pesticides on children in an apartment building, and Benson almost passes out because of it.
201. “Spooked,” Season 11 Ep. 6
A rape and murder case that’s been covered up by an FBI agent leads the squad to investigate a Mexican drug cartel. Then Benson seduces the FBI agent to tap his phone, all after she was taken hostage at an airport.
200. “Russian Love Poem,” Season 1 Ep. 12
I honestly couldn’t care less what this episode is about. The best part happens a minute and a half in. With a straight face Hargitay delivers the line, “Do you think there was a reason that the killer sodomized your husband with a banana?” It’s all downhill from there.
*The 400th episode of SVU, “Motherly Love,” which premieres Wednesday on NBC, is the 399th episode to air. It’s the 400th episode that was written, including the Donald Trump episode “Unstoppable” that was shelved.