[Warning: The following story reveals plot points from Wednesday's episode of Law & Order: SVU. Read at your own risk.]
Think the victims on Law & Order have it rough? In the franchise's 24 years on the air, so many of the fans' favorite crime solvers exited under dark circumstances. Some were killed (RIP ADA Claire Kincaid and ADA Alexandra Borgia). Others left due to illness — who can forget Det. Ray Curtis' tear-jerking departure as his wife's battle with MS intensified? Then there were those more controversial exits: Det. Elliot Stabler suddenly transferred after a shooting in the squad room, and ADA Serena Southerlyn suspected she was fired "because I'm a lesbian."
However, when Sgt. John Munch (Richard Belzer) stepped down from the force after more than two decades on Wednesday's Law & Order: SVU, he was ushered off in high style — in a white tuxedo he wore to his fancy retirement party — rather than a body bag.
Munch truly deserved a special send-off. After his character first debuted on Homicide: Life on the Street way back in 1993 as a member of the Baltimore PD, the character has appeared on nine other shows, including The X-Files, Arrested Development, The Wire, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. Although in recent years Munch's place within the squad shifted as several new faces were brought in, particularly when his long-time partner Finn (Ice-T) began working more closely with Rollins (Kelli Giddish), his veteran status became more valuable than ever. Not to mention Munch's trademark wit, which he always knew just when to bust out no matter how dire and depressing the case of the week. Case in point? When he told Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Cassidy (Dean Winters) at the party, "I see you together and I think you both could DO better." Or when he pointed to his two ex-wives in the crowd and said they wanted to have a three-way — but with Munch's brother, not Munch.
"Det. Munch was not only a brilliant detective but a very, very soulful man," Benson said in her short, but sweet speech.
As fun as it was to see the SVU squad let loose for once and share a few laughs, Munch's best goodbye was when he returned to the squad room late at night to pack up his belongings after everyone has already left. "I didn't want to make a fuss," he told Cragen. And just as Munch sat at his desk one last time, the series showed a flashback 20 years in the making — all the way back to Munch's early days in Baltimore. The show moved back to the present just as quickly and when the phone rang, he immediately answered "Homicide," before laughing and correcting himself.
And this isn't the last we've seen of Munch. Although Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) said in his own speech it might seem that Munch "would just fade away," Cragen went on to reveal that Munch's third — or is it fifth? — act would be as a special investigator for the D.A.'s office. Anyone else excited to possibly see Munch and Barba (Raul Esparza) paired up on a case?
Munch's grand farewell also meant good news for Benson. Although still struggling with her vicious attack at the beginning of the season, Cragen gave her the papers to officially become a sergeant. She might not be "ready for the desk," but Cragen had already made up his mind. " Let's face it, you've been my No. 2 for awhile. Let's just make it official," he said.
Check out an extended cut of Munch's farewell roast below:
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC. Will you miss Munch?