Mariska Hargitay Mariska Hargitay

Hitting the 300-episode benchmark is an impressive achievement for any series, but by the standards of the Law & Order franchise, SVU still has a ways to go before it approaches, let alone overtakes, the longevity of the still-missed mothership, which clocked more than 450 hours before NBC's abrupt pulling of the plug two years ago.

SVU's best days (i.e., the Benson-Stabler era) are decidedly in the rear-view mirror, and that's where tonight's episode No. 300 (9/8c) looks. We get glimpses of a younger Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Munch (Richard Belzer) as their present-day versions reflect on a missing-child cold case from 1999 (SVU's premiere year) that shares unmistakable similarities with a current child abduction. How times have changed, and how they haven't, as the transitional Morningside Heights neighborhood (bordering Harlem) still features a wall-sized mural in memory of the missing boy from 13 years ago. Is it a coincidence that the newly missing kidnap victim is the son of a real-estate scion (Hamish Linklater) directly responsible for the shifting demographics of this hood?

Less sordid than the SVU norm, but no less impassioned in its zeal for protecting innocent victims, this episode benefits from a tangible understanding of life in this city and how a community (and police department) can be haunted for years by a senseless crime.

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