If you're like us, you've marked your calendar for Thursday, September 23rd because that's the night Law & Order: Organized Crime returns. We're all eager to find out what's going on as the new season is right around the corner.
Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 will see Stabler (Christopher Meloni) go undercover in an Albanian crime syndicate, and as fans of Law & Order know, going undercover tends to lead to a lot of complications both personally and professionally. Stabler's closest friend Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) certainly has her feelings after her own traumatic undercover experience.
"[Stabler] was introduced back into the franchise under very stressful circumstances, obviously, both vis—a—vis his wife and, you know, trying to come to terms with what exactly Benson is to him and his new life, both personally and professionally," Meloni teased to press during NBC's presentation at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "So, we now have Elliott undercover, and I think Benson recognizes certain tell-tale signs that he might need to talk to people or, you know, maybe it's not the most healthy place for him to be in the moment. But it does put a strain on how Benson and Stabler engage each other...We engage each other I guess from a more professional angle there for a few shows, and a little bit from the personal side."
Aside from Benson, Stabler will have Sergeant Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt) on his side, but NYC's toughest detective is going to have his wits about him in the first chapter of the season. He'll be joined by Season 2 guest stars Dash Mihok as Reggie Bogdani, Vinnie Jones as Albi Briscu, and Lolita Davidovich as Flutura Biscu.
TV Guide spoke to Organized Crime's executive producer/showrunner Ilene Chaiken and picked her brain about what we might expect and about some of the season two guest stars, what's facing Stabler in this crime syndicate, and of course, what is in store for Stabler and Benson's relationship.
The further we get from Kathy Stabler's death, how are you going to balance the relationship between Benson and Stabler going forward, knowing what fans are expecting?
Ilene Chaiken: We are, of course, dealing with the Stabler-Benson relationship, tension, history in a very kind of attentive way from the beginning. We're trying to deal with it honestly and in an adult way. We don't want it to just be a tease...We'd like to think that our show is beyond the "Will they or won't they?" ruse that's so familiar in television, even though "will they or won't they?" is always going to be an issue. They're two adults, and they're two fairly articulate, adults. Each of them has issues, but they do know how to communicate, and they're going to communicate. They will get to it. Of course, life gets in the way...Stabler is undercover when we come back in Season 2 and being undercover makes it hard to get together and talk about your feelings.
Back in the spring, Dick Wolf teased a three chapter plan for this new season. Are you sticking with that?
Chaiken: We're sticking with it. I'd like to think that it will be the pattern of the show, that if we do 22 episodes a year or for any number of years, we'll always tell three stories. They may not break out in the exact same number, but you can look at these three stories in their seven or eight episode story pods as self-contained stories. So it's just like doing a single episode, except that we do it in eight episodes. We have a big story to tell. We begin it and we resolve it, and then we move on and tell a new story.
Wolf also referenced a lot of iconic cop/criminal movies of the past. Is that still back of mind?
Chaiken: In a way, it's always back of mind. There's a great tradition of telling crime stories in cinema, right? But we are telling contemporary stories. Organized crime seems to be largely, ethnically, and geographically defined clans, syndicates, whatever they are. They each have an identity. So, to Dick's point, each of our pods will be about a different group of criminals. In some cases, it'll be more easily identifiable as the mafia, or cartels, or something else. In [other] cases, it will still be trans-global organized crime, but it might have a bit more of a unique and modern nuance.
Besides the crossover with SVU, are there any plans to include the One Chicago universe in Organized Crime?
Chaiken: No, not now, although nothing is off the table. I mean that's really more of a question for Dick Wolf than for me because I don't know what the rules of the universe are, but anything in the Law & Order universe is fair game and right now it's SVU and Organized Crime, but the Law & Order universe always seems to be expanding as well.
What more can you tease about the undercover unit that Stabler is joining?
Chaiken: Stabler's partner and boss is still Sergeant Bell and she is basically running him. This is an operation and our show operates around operations. This is who we're going after. These are the criminals. This is the crime that we're pursuing right now. Stabler is going undercover with an Albanian syndicate. He's undercover and he's pretty much a lone wolf. He is "The Man with No Name"…but he does stay tightly connected to his sergeant, and his unit, and the task force. Our story will take on some new folks — and that's actually story for us, what happens inside the task force. Bell is going to be forced into an uncomfortable alliance with a former boss of hers. They're going to run a joint task force to pursue this Albanian mob and that is going to lead us [to the third story pod]. The third pod is actually being set up in the first pod, and it ties into this joint task force.
What kind of twists do you have planned for Season 2?
Chaiken: We have a lot of twists planned. I hope they're effective, but yes, there are loads of twists, really in every storyline. I like to think that's what we do. Stabler has some very interesting relationships in this first part with the Albanians. Look out for Dash Mihok as Reggie Bodgani, Vinnie Jones as Albi Briscu, and also Albi's wife Flutura, played by Lolita Davidovich - that's possibly my favorite relationship of this story and a fabulous turn by Lolita. It's juicy and unlike anything we've done before. There's just so much great intention in her performance and in her interactions with Stabler.