Elliot Stabler

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Elliot Stabler
Law & Order character
Elliot Stabler - SVU.png
First appearance "Payback"
Last appearance "Smoked"
Portrayed by Christopher Meloni
Time on show 1999–2011
Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Credited appearances 272 episodes (SVU)
2 episodes (L&O)
1 episode (TBJ)
275 episodes (total)
Title NYPD Detective
Family Wife: Kathy Stabler
Maureen Stabler
Kathleen Stabler
Richard "Dickie" Stabler
Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stabler
Elliot "Eli" Stabler Jr.
Parents: Joseph Stabler (deceased)
Bernadette Stabler
Siblings: three brothers
two sisters[1]
Partner Olivia Benson
Dani Beck (temporary)

Elliot Stabler is a fictional character portrayed by Christopher Meloni and one of the lead characters on the NBC police procedural series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit during the first twelve seasons. As a result of Meloni's sudden departure from the cast at the end of the twelfth season, Detective Stabler abruptly resigns from the police force off-screen during the thirteenth season premiere.

Character overview[edit]

Stabler is an NYPD detective with Manhattan's 16th Precinct, which investigates sex crimes. His partner during the first twelve years is Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Stabler is dedicated to his job, but often takes cases personally, thus, affecting his judgment. Nonetheless, Stabler has a 97-percent case-closure rate as of 2007.[2] His badge number is 6313.[1]

Stabler is an Irish American Catholic[1] and lives in Glen Oaks, Queens with his wife Kathy and five children (Maureen, Kathleen Louise, Richard "Dickie", Elizabeth "Lizzie" and Elliot "Eli", Jr.). Stabler was born October 20, 1966.[1] Stabler is devoted to his family and frequently mentions or thinks about them while working cases. He is a practicing Catholic whose faith sometimes complicates the cases on which he works.

Stabler was born and raised in Bayside, Queens. His father, Joseph Stabler, was a policeman who lost his pension and eventually died of cancer. Stabler had a difficult relationship with his father, who physically and emotionally abused him.[3] His mother, Bernadette (née) McGinley,[4] suffers from bipolar disorder, and once nearly killed her son during a manic phase. As a result, Stabler has "erased his childhood", and maintains little contact with his mother.[5]

Stabler was a Marine and served in Operation Desert Storm.[6] In the episode "Annihilated", it is suggested that he was a hand-to-hand combat specialist. He also has three tattoos, notably the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattoo on his forearm (the official emblem of the Marine Corps), and the crucifixion of Christ on his left bicep. One of his best friends died in the September 11 attacks.[1] He has a B.A. from Queens College.[1]

Stabler harbors a great deal of anger that is sometimes fed by his job. When his wife Kathy leaves him in Season 6, Stabler's anger rises closer to the surface, and in a few episodes threatens to boil over. In the episode "Rage", serial killer Gordon Ricketts (Mathew Modine), whom Stabler had investigated 14 years earlier, tells him that they harbor the same kind of rage, and that if it weren't for his family and his job, Stabler would be just like him. When Benson and Stabler catch Ricketts about to kill a young girl, Stabler appears ready to kill him in cold blood; it is only Benson's intervention that prevents him from doing so. In Season 7, he is ordered to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Rebecca Hendrix (Mary Stuart Masterson), after using excessive force on an abusive parent. Stabler eventually opens up to Hendrix about his personal demons, and they become close until Hendrix is transferred. By Season 8, he and Kathy reconcile, and Stabler learns to better deal with his problems.

In the season 12 finale, Stabler is forced to shoot and kill a young woman who opens fire in the Special Victims squad room. Before dying in Stabler's arms, she had killed two suspects involved in the rape and murder of her mother and injured a third, as well as killing recurring character Sister Peg (Charlayne Woodard).[7] After the shootout, Stabler is placed on administrative leave[8] and abruptly resigns from the police force.[9]


He married his wife, Kathy, when they were both 17 years old, and in the beginning of the series they have four school-aged children: Maureen (September 30, 1984),[10] Kathleen Louise (July 13, 1989),[11] and twins Richard ("Dickie") and Elizabeth ("Lizzie") (both February 21, 1993).[12] Richard (he stopped using his nickname upon entering adolescence) is named after Col. Richard Finley, a friend whom Stabler greatly admired. After years of the stress involved with being married to a police officer, Kathy Stabler leaves her husband, taking their children and temporarily moving in with her mother.[13] Stabler later signs the divorce papers, saying, "when love warps to hate, there's nothing you won't do," and he wants to keep that from happening on either side. However, after being cleared in the death of a suspect, Stabler realizes that he cannot bear to lose either his job or his family, so he seeks reconciliation with his wife.[14] A short time later, Kathy announces that she is pregnant and asks Stabler to come home.[15] After a serious car accident, Kathy delivers a healthy baby boy, Elliot Stabler, Jr (Eli) (November 17, 2007).[16]

Of his five children, Kathleen and Dickie have most directly affected his job. Kathleen is twice charged with DUI;[15] he uses his clout as a police officer to make the first charge disappear, but he eventually realizes that he has to let her face the consequences of her actions, and she is sentenced to community service.[17] Kathleen then steals her father's credit card and gives it to her boyfriend, who rings up thousands of dollars in charges.[18] She is later arrested for breaking and entering and robbery, at which time doctors and her family realize that she suffers from bipolar disorder, which she inherited from her paternal grandmother, Bernadette Stabler (Ellen Burstyn). After speaking with her grandmother, Kathleen agrees to treatment.[5] In the episode "Turmoil", Dickie is nowhere to be found after a fight at school. It is later revealed he is trying to join the Army, something Stabler disapproves of. It later turns out that Dickie's friend, Shane, has been murdered.

Stabler is fiercely protective of his children and becomes defensive if a suspect asks about his family. In the episode "Tragedy", he reveals he helped deliver all of his children to that point; it is thus suggested that he sees aspects of them in every abused child. As a result, he harbors an intense hatred of pedophiles, admitting in the episode "Slaves" that he sometimes fantasizes about killing them; he almost loses his job as a result. Stabler has occasionally seen aspects of himself in a child abuser, as in the episode "Shaken", when an abusive parent reminds him of an incident in which he lost his temper and slapped his daughter Maureen, then a toddler. While he restrained himself from hurting her further, he was frightened by his loss of control. In the episode "Confession", he beats up a pedophile (Tom Noonan) who posts a picture of Elizabeth on his website.

Child victims tend to respond to him. In the episode "Resilience", Stabler successfully reaches out to a 15-year-old girl (Rachael Bella) who regresses to a childlike state after being attacked by her father. SVU's resident psychiatrist, Dr George Huang (B.D. Wong), theorizes that only Stabler would be able to reach her, as he is a father, and she is looking for another father figure. Perhaps due to his nature as a protective, devout father, children often responded to him very positively.

In the 12th season episode "Gray", Stabler attends a rally, in which Kathleen is involved. The rally provides rape awareness to the college campus; much to his own surprise, he is listed as a guest speaker. Seconds after he is introduced, an adolescent woman comes running into the rally accusing out loud that a man (who is running behind her as well) has raped her. Stabler has no other option than to arrest the man at the rally. As the investigation continues, Stabler finds out Kathleen was the rape victim's "Designated Buddy" the night the victim was raped. She then provides her father a confidential report on the accused rapist for a prior incident.


Olivia Benson[edit]

Stabler's partner is Olivia Benson. They are close friends, but their relationship is not without friction. The two sometimes argue over the cases they work on; Benson tends to be quicker to side with the victims, while Stabler tends to be more impartial. In the season 3 episode "Ridicule", in which three women are charged with raping a male stripper, Benson and ADA Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) are quick to believe the man's story, while Stabler takes a cynical view of his claim from the start.

Benson and Stabler are separated at times during the show. In the episode "Fault", she asks for a new partner after Stabler expects her to jeopardize his life to shoot a convicted sex offender (Lou Diamond Phillips) who had kidnapped two children and killed one of them. Instead she is briefly reassigned to Computer Crimes in the season 7 episode "Fat", and replaced by a Queens SVU detective, Lucius Blaine (Anthony Anderson). Benson returns to SVU in the next episode, "Web". In the season 8 premiere "Informed", Benson teams up with an FBI agent and eventually goes undercover in Oregon to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group.

Dani Beck[edit]

Stabler is assigned a temporary partner named Dani Beck (Connie Nielsen) while Benson is on loan to the FBI in Season 8 (Mariska Hargitay was pregnant and on maternity leave). Beck seems to be working out well until she realizes that she will not be able save every victim working as a detective. She left in the episode "Cage".

Jo Marlowe[edit]

Jo Marlowe (played by Sharon Stone) was Stabler's training officer. She is appointed by Jack McCoy to be the new ADA for the SVU Squad during a four-episode run in Season 11. Stabler reveals that he has not seen her for 15 years when she first arrives as the new ADA. According to Capt. Cragen in "Ace", Marlowe was a Lieutenant in 1995 when she left the NYPD after her command decision resulted in the deaths of two of her officers. In the episode "Shattered", she reveals that she was diagnosed with an "aggressive" type of breast cancer and had a bilateral radical mastectomy a year before joining the SVU squad.

Awards and decorations[edit]

The following are the medals and service awards fictionally worn by Detective Stabler, as seen in "Dolls".

American Flag Breast Bar.jpg American Flag Breast Bar
NYPD Medal of Honor breast bar.svg NYPD Medal of Honor
NYPD Unit Citation Bar


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Hate". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 5. Episode 13. January 13, 2004. NBC. 
  2. ^ "Haystack". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 8. Episode 15. February 20, 2007. NBC. 
  3. ^ "Ripped". Law & Order: SVU. Season 7. Episode 4. October 11, 2005. NBC. 
  4. ^ "Intoxicated". Law & Order: SVU. Season 6. Episode 19. March 15, 2005. NBC. 
  5. ^ a b "Swing". Law & Order: SVU. Season 10. Episode 3. October 14, 2008. NBC. 
  6. ^ "Goliath". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 6. Episode 23. May 24, 2005. NBC. 
  7. ^ "Smoked". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 12. Episode 24. May 18, 2011. NBC. 
  8. ^ "Mega Buzz: Tiva Time on NCIS? Plus: Fringe's Future and Stabler's SVU Exit". TV Guide. August 30, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Scorched Earth". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 13. Episode 1. September 21, 2011. NBC. 
  10. ^ Maureen is said to be 15 in episode "Wrong Is Right". Law & Order: SVU. Season 2. Episode 1. October 20, 2000. NBC. 
  11. ^ Kathleen is said to be 19 in episode "Swing". Law & Order: SVU. Season 10. Episode 3. October 14, 2008. NBC. 
  12. ^ Lizzie is said to be 15 in episode "Confession". Law & Order: SVU. Season 10. Episode 2. September 30, 2008. NBC. 
  13. ^ "Doubt". Law & Order: SVU. Season 6. Episode 8. November 23, 2004. NBC. 
  14. ^ "Dependant". Law & Order: SVU. Season 8. Episode 14. February 13, 2007. NBC. 
  15. ^ a b "Screwed". Law & Order: SVU. Season 8. Episode 22. May 22, 2007. NBC. 
  16. ^ "Paternity". Law & Order: SVU. Season 9. Episode 9. November 27, 2007. NBC. 
  17. ^ "Alternate". Law & Order: SVU. Season 9. Episode 1. September 25, 2007. NBC. 
  18. ^ "Trials". Law & Order: SVU. Season 10. Episode 1. September 23, 2008. NBC.