The following contains spoilers for Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 3, Episode 7, “All That Glitters,” which debuted Thursday, Nov. 10 on NBC.
There’s been a decades-long, slow-burn tease of the Law & Order franchise developing Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler’s friendship into a romance. The main characters of Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime, respectively, started out as partners and close friends — but hints of deeper feelings were always brewing. In fact, those romantic feelings were explicitly addressed in Stabler’s return to the franchise with a line in a letter he wrote to Benson: “In a parallel universe… It will always be you and I.” But the introduction of a character from Stabler’s past in Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 3, Episode 7, “All That Glitters” outright insults Bensler shippers.
Tia Leonetti is a member of the Italian police who worked closely with Stabler during his time in Rome. They became good friends and inspired each other to keep going. It is even mentioned that Stabler’s deceased wife Kathy loved Tia. But there is more to the relationship than being former colleagues, the episode teases. And from her no-nonsense demeanor to her appearance and her working relationship with Stabler, it’s clear Tia is written as a mirror of Benson. Is she a legitimate threat to Bensler or just a red herring meant to get shippers agitated? Either way, it’s not great.
Why Benson and Stabler Are Important to Law & Order
Benson and Stabler have been one of TV’s longest running “will they/won’t they” pairings, thanks in part to SVU‘s impressive 24-season run. Their fierce loyalty to each other and deep friendship spilled over into sexual tension for decades. Despite Stabler’s equal loyalty to his wife, their feelings for each other were palpable. When Stabler left Law & Order: SVU, his absence made a notable impact on Benson. Even with her later relationships seeming to be serious, the Bensler ship remained seaworthy.
It was all but confirmed that they were in love in SVU Season 7, Episode 7, “Fault,” when Benson risked it all to protect Stabler. This caused the two partners to finally acknowledge some of their intense feelings. “Look, we both chose each other over the job,” Benson said. “We can never let that happen again.” With Stabler finally returning to the Law & Order universe, things were looking up. Though tragic, Kathy’s death and Stabler’s “parallel universe” turn of phrase seemed to set the Bensler wheels back in motion. There were a few Benson and Stabler scenes across the two shows as well.
But things have stalled in the current season, with less crossover appearances except for the season premiere. Now the introduction of Tia Leonetti is a clear rebuttal. After decades of waiting for Benson and Stabler, Organized Crime trying to suggest a romance between Stabler and Tia is a slap in the face to fans.
Why Law & Order: Organized Crime’s Tia Insults Bensler
Crashing back into Stabler’s life, Tia is given a backstory that ties deeply to his past. In fact, their relationship is suspiciously familiar: colleagues who became very close friends with flirtatious, deeper connections. With Kathy out of the picture, Tia is obviously poised to be a love interest for Elliot. “All That Glitters” ends with a Wattpad-eqsue cliffhanger: Tia calls Elliot unexpectedly and reveals she is right outside his door, suggesting she wants more from their relationship. But does Stabler let her in?
The ending of the episode not only mirrors the amorphous relationship of Stabler and Benson, but it poses an unecessary additional obstacle to a Bensler relationship that’s already weathered two decades of hurdles. It’s disappointing to have Elliot involved with someone else, but that’s a trope The Rookie also used. It becomes infuriating when Tia is written very much like Benson and has the exact same backstory with Stabler. The best Bensler fans can hope for is that her similarities will inspire Stabler to pursue Benson — but if Stabler and ia become an item, it may be one too many bridges burnt for Bensler shippers.
Law & Order: Organized Crime airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. on NBC and streams on Peacock.