Did SVU just set up a love triangle for Benson?
In the last minutes of Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 22, Barba said that he loved Benson unconditionally the same way she loved Stabler. Are we talking platonically or romantically here?
This was all set in motion by Barba defending a domestic violence survivor who killed her abuser in one of the strongest storylines SVU has had in a while. Will Barba's declaration keep people talking all summer long?
The case itself was one of the most compelling of the season.
Deliah started the hour wanting her social worker to help her get her locks changed so that her abusive husband couldn't walk in on her and ended up killing him, but the story was not as straightforward as it seemed.
Deliah's mental health issues seemed to include an inability to stay away from Ty for long. She gave into what DA Maxwell saw as a series of BS excuses to spend time with the guy, and it only led to more abuse, escalating to the point that Deliah ended up killing him.
Rollins and Carisi tried to tell Deliah not to contact Ty, and as Carisi pointed out at trial, Deliah could have lived without her charger for one night rather than go to get it from Ty. From the district attorney's office's point of view, Deliah was bringing this on herself.
That wasn't what was happening, but it did make her case far more complicated to deal with. Ty had a lot of nonsensical excuses for why he broke the order of protection, and the judges kept buying them.
He knew exactly how to manipulate Deliah into thinking she needed to see him. She was dependent on him in many ways, even though she was supposed to stay away from him.
An order of protection doesn't have a carve-out for rebooting WiFi.
That was a recipe for disaster. Ty knew it, and he exploited Deliah's weaknesses to keep her coming back so he could torture her some more.
That's why she killed him, but DA Maxwell didn't understand why Deliah didn't just leave the guy instead of stabbing him in the back after voluntarily going to his place.
The case also gave Barba a convincing reason to return to SVU: as Benson pointed out, the overworked and probably inexperienced public defender couldn't possibly give a woman like Deliah a competent defense.
Barba vs. Carisi is always fun, and this was that all-too-rare episode where SVU returned to its roots and had both the police and the courtroom side of things.
As an aside, it's too bad Ellis wasn't available. I've always had a soft spot for Andre Braugher. But that wouldn't have worked as well since Benson has no animosity toward Ellis.
Barba didn't understand why Benson was angrier at him than at Stabler. A better question is why she's more furious at him than Burton, who she was willing to forgive even though he was a predator who abused her and several other women.
Barba doesn't realize how much animosity Benson had toward Stabler when Stabler first returned. They've more or less worked through this now, so Benson isn't still mad at Stabler.
I'm not sure why Barba thinks she should be. He wasn't in the picture when Stabler left SVU, so all he knows of Stabler is what he saw in court during Wheatley's trial.
However, he was right that he and Benson were going around in circles about this. He gets that Benson didn't like him defending Wheatley and didn't like him claiming he was protecting her by doing it. She certainly said it enough times!
It seemed like there was nothing he could do to resolve this. I don't understand why someone like Barba, who prides himself on his integrity, would defend someone like Richard Wheatley, but what's done is done. Let's move on.
And what the heck was that speech about unconditional love?
There was a time when I thought Barba and Benson might make a good couple. They had good chemistry, got along well, and Noah liked Barba too.
But all that was before Barba left SVU, became a defense attorney, and returned periodically to needle Carisi in court and take cases Benson wished he wouldn't.
At this point, they don't have much of a friendship, never mind anything else. Benson needs to cut out the animosity over Barba's defense of Wheatley, and they have to find a way to move forward as friends or part ways permanently.
Meanwhile, Carisi seemed angry that Rollins didn't tell him that she was the one who called Barba, but his aggravation over this quickly evaporated.
The next time the two were together, they were back to their usual loving relationship.
Was Carisi upset because Rollins brought in the one guy who could beat him in court?
It wasn't clear what was going on, and then it disappeared without warning. What was the point of that?
The most interesting aspect of the finale was what Benson's therapist said to her.
Benson's Therapist: Oh, Olivia, everyone's depressed now. We've talked a lot about what you want, what you like. I'd like you to ask another question.
Benson: What's that?
Benson's Therapist: What you deserve. You deserve happiness, Olivia Benson.
Benson repeated his advice almost verbatim when she told Deliah that Deliah deserved to be free.
Maybe Benson's therapist can help her talk to herself the way she talks to other survivors.
I'm expecting this to be a major theme next season. Benson has always been the person who takes care of everyone else and neglects herself, and it's time for that to change.
Your turn, SVU fanatics. Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts!
SVU doesn't return til the Fall of 2022, but in the meantime, you can watch Law & Order: SVU online right here on TV Fanatic any time you feel like it.
Law & Order: SVU airs on Thursdays at 9 PM EST / PST.