Law & Order: SVU boss wants this to be their best year yet

Will Hart/NBC Photo
Will Hart/NBC Photo

Law and Order: SVU may be in its 17th season but the NBC procedural has no intention of slowing down, or backing down from controversial subjects, if executive producer and showrunner Warren Leight has anything to say about it. This will be Leight’s last season as showrunner and he’s seizing the opportunity to go out on top. “I want this to be the best year I’ve done out of the five,” he told reporters on a conference call last week.

“I think we’re taking bigger chances. I think we’re pushing the narrative more quickly,” Leight said. He also explained that it’s oddly fitting that this is his last year and he finds himself in the same position as many of the characters. With the loss of Danny Pino’s Amaro and the arrival of some new faces such as Andy Karl’s Sergeant Mike Dodds, who first appears Wednesday night, the squad room is in a state of transition. “I’m in transition this year and so–in a strange sort of way, we put a lot of the characters into transition as well,” said Leight.

He previewed that the show, which always grabs stories straight from real life headlines, had no shortage of cases to pick from as of late. “A lot of what we’re going after this year is hypocrisy,” he said. Leight went on to say how “there’s just been a state of stories about powerful men behaving badly and doing their best to cover it up. And that’s an interesting area for us to explore as the season goes on.” Being able to address those real-life issues puts SVU in a unique position on the television landscape, because according to Leight, “so many TV shows now are, you know, the zombie stories and the superhero stories and there’s very few places left to really discuss issues of sexual politics and rape culture and moral hypocrisy in our life.”

Will Hart/NBC Photo
Will Hart/NBC Photo

As mentioned, Benson’s (Mariska Hargitay) SVU unit will be getting an addition to help them solve these crimes: Andy Karl’s Sgt. Mike Dodds, the son of Deputy Chief William Dodds (Peter Gallagher). “He doesn’t like to depend on his father for work but he loves to live up to the reputation of being really good at his job,” said Karl on the conference call with Leight. And while Karl said that Mike is “certainly not going to try to take any privileges by being the son of the chief,” Leight did warn that “everybody is walking on eggshells because they don’t know if he’s going to rat them out.”

Wednesday’s episode, “Maternal Instincts,” will not only introduce viewers to Dodds but is also a big one for Kelli Giddish’s Amanda Rollins as we see the return of her sister and meet her mother (Virginia Madsen). Leight warned that this is “the most dysfunctional family drama we’ve done in a long time. And it’s just–it’s almost too much pressure for Rollins to bear.” That pressure comes from the fact that Rollins’ family views her as “the one who got away,” and she’s “considered to be the one who’s betrayed the family,” explained Leight. He warned that this episode will be “a tough journey” for Rollins.

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Law and Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC and CTV Two.