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Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Played By: Mariska HargitayA detective in the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, which investigates sex crimes. She is primarily partnered with Elliot Stabler, until he retires. She is tough, empathetic, and completely dedicated to her job, to the point that she is seen as having no personal life. Her dedication sometimes wreaks havoc on her emotional state as she empathizes with victims of sexual assault, having been the child of rape. She has allowed her compassion for victims of abuse to sometimes cloud her professional judgment and impede her ability to remain impartial. As of the 15 January 2014 episode, she is in command of the SVU squad.
- Abusive Parents: Her mother was one as a result of her alcoholism, physically and emotionally.
- Action Girl: She's very competent in a fight. So much so that whenever she's forced to be a Damsel in Distress, it's a huge deal.
- Action Mom: After adopting baby Noah.
- Aesop Amnesia: In the pilot, Olivia allowed her emotions to impede her ability to effectively investigate a case, resulting in her getting chewed out by Cragen who reminded her that police "Don't get to the choose the victims," and that she had effectively used up her one strike with him. Regardless, Olivia has repeatedly committed ethically questionable acts such as giving her brother money despite knowing that he was wanted for questioning in a rape investigation or illegally hacking a corporation's computer records to prove they were performing illegal chemical testing.
- Affectionate Nickname: Her colleagues call her "Liv".
- Alcoholic Parent: Her mother was one. Season 17 seems to have Olivia on the verge of becoming one herself.
- Badass: She is an intelligent, highly effective police officer.
- Badass in Distress: When she gets captured in "Surrender Benson."
- Big Good: In season 15, after Cragen's retirement.
- Boobs of Steel: Olivia's cup size grew quite noticeably following Mariska Hargitay's real life pregnancy between seasons 7 and 8. However having a more ample bosom has done little to slow down Benson's character when it comes to chasing after and subduing perps.
- Bound and Gagged: Season 15 premiere, 'Surrender Benson'.
- Boyish Short Hair: Sported a famously short, spiky hairdo during some of the earlier seasons.
- Broken Bird: It's pretty clear when her line of work is taking a toll on her mental state, and she regularly sees a therapist in later seasons.
- Career Versus Man: In her own words, when men find out what she does for a living, they either "pull away or move in too close". When men are willing to stay with her something will happen to make them leave, either professionally or accidentally.
- The Chains of Commanding: Rollins puts Benson in this position almost immediately after she becomes Da Chief.
- Characterization Marches On: When the show started, she was the resident psycho on the squad, and on more than one occasion had to have Elliot step in and tell her to cool her jets.
- Child by Rape:
- Her mom was raped, resulting in Benson's birth. In later seasons, when Olivia begins connecting with her half-brother, it's implied that Olivia's mother may have lied about being raped in order to keep Olivia from contacting her father. It's ultimately confirmed that Benson's mother really was raped, it was just harder for Olivia to acknowledge once her father was a man with a name and a family instead of the faceless monster she always imagined.
- Benson's adopted son Noah was conceived when his biological mother was raped by her pimp.
- Da Chief: After Cragen retires in season 15.
- Defective Detective: Only when it's convenient for the plot, though.
- Dirty Harriet: Went undercover three times, once as a prostitute ("Wildlife") and twice as a madam ("Hothouse", "Undercover Mother").
- Even the Girls Want Her: Not just because of the Les Yay with Alex; in several episodes, women blatantly hit on her. When girls who are watching just to perv on Stabler start making comments about her chest, you know this trope applies.
- Fair Cop: She even provides the page image.
- Fatal Flaw: Olivia and her belief all women are victims when it comes to dealing with men, given that she was a product of rape.
- Good Parents: To her son, Noah.
- Hollywood Atheist: Early on, she would occasionally mock the belief in God, Stabler's in particular, in light of all they deal with on a daily basis and her own childhood. This was toned down overtime.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: The way we see her dealing with her dysfunctional team at the end of "Jersey Breakdown." Olivia is shown emptying the last of a bottle of wine. Then she gets a call from her partner's ex-wife... and immediately after hanging up, hauls out a new bottle to crack it open.
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: It's comparable to Aveline's. It was really on display in the first few seasons when her hair was shorter.
- The Lancer: To Elliot Stabler, and graduates to The Hero when he leaves.
- Male Gaze: The camera loves to focus on her rather impressive hip-sway.
- Mama Bear: Acts this way toward many victims. And now everyone at the 16th, now that she's the Sergeant, and a more traditional one towards her son, Noah. This especially applies when Noah contracts Measles as the result of unvaccinated children at the doctor's office. As a result, she goes after the parents.
- Meaningful Hair Cut: following her kindnapping and near rape at the hands of William Lewis, she is seen crying and screaming as she hacks her hair short again with scissors at the end of the season 16 premiere.
- Meaningful Name: Olivia is heavily associated with harmony, befitting a law enforcer. Not only that, but she's usually the one who does her work more calmly and peacefully next to her hotheaded partners.
- Mistaken for Gay: It's running gag throughout the series, presumably because she fits the stereotype: a tough girl in a leather jacket with Boyish Short Hair.Olivia: Do you get a gay vibe from me?Elliot: Would it matter if I did?Olivia: You're not answering the question.
- Ms. Fanservice: Gets put in a lot of tight and low-cut tops, as well as in some pretty sexually charged situations in interrogation.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Mentioned by other characters in a few episodes, which never fails to piss her off.
- New Meat: At the very beginning of the series.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Often makes things worse for the victims when she gets personally involved. Fandom at one point had a dark running gag about how anyone Olivia gave her card to was doomed.
- Not So Above It All: Despite being the Blue Oni to Stabler's red, Olivia has on occasion shown herself to be just as overzealous in dealing with suspects. At least two episodes have dealt with individuals she put away that were actually innocent, one of whom endures such physical and emotional trauma in prison that upon his release, he actually becomes a serial killer, targeting victims and witnesses Olivia had dealt with before tricking her into fatally shooting him.
- Oh Crap!: In the season 1 finale, after the psychiatrist asks her about the shooting she was involved with a few episodes earlier, Olivia looks like a deer in headlights briefly.
- One of the Boys: Except when called upon to be The Chick by the plot.
- Parental Substitute: Briefly, to Calvin, the young son of a drug addict. And then again in season 15, when she is awarded foster custody of Noah, a dead victim's infant son who had been kidnapped by pornographers earlier in the season; however this one becomes permanent after she adopts Noah at the end of season 16.
- Plucky Girl: Exceedingly positive despite two near rapes.
- Polyglot : Along with a bit of The Cast Showoff , as Mariska Hargitay speaks French, Spanish, Hungarian, and Italian.
- Power Hair: She's had this hairstyle during the run of the show, but the trope is actually subverted as her hair is long and loose when she moves into the role of Da Chief.
- Rage Breaking Point: William Lewis triggers this.
- Rank Up: Gets promoted to Sergeant in season 15 and to Lieutenant in season 17.
- Rape as Backstory: Although not hers, as mentioned. Though she goes through Attempted Rape twice, and Fin barely manages to help her the first time.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The reason she was Put on a Bus for a short while in season 8 was because of Mariska Hargitay's pregnancy.
- Self-Made Orphan: Averted, but Olivia mentions that she very nearly did this in self-defense when her incredibly drunk mother had shattered a bottle and came at her with the jagged edge of the bottle, intent on killing her. She uses this story to get Novak to plea out a young woman who ACTUALLY killed her mother under the same circumstances, telling Novak that she "knows what it's like to want to kill her mother as a result of the increasingly violent abuse."
- Shipper on Deck: For Amaro and Rollins, apparently.Benson: I wish those two would just get a room already.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: For all Olivia's Career Versus Man issues, most of the men she's dated are pretty decent people.
- Straw Feminist: Depending on plot, she gets this way sometimes.
- Team Mom: Even moreso post-promotion to Sergeant.
Det. Odafin "Fin" Tutuola
Played By: Ice-TA detective in the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. He was raised in Harlem and he served in the United States Army, where he saw combat in Mogadishu. A former undercover narcotics detective, Tutuola replaced Monique Jeffries after she left the squad in 2000. He transferred out of narcotics after his partner was shot. Unfortunately, he ends up cutting off ties with this partner, and his crazy daughter goes on a such murderous rampage that they have to call in Eames and the Anti-Terrorism Taskforce.
- Action Dad: To his estranged son, Ken.
- The Atoner: A couple times, usually having to do with narcotics cases.
- Badass Beard: Goatee, but still counts.
- The Big Guy: To John Munch's The Smart Guy.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Let's see, a gay son who resents him, an ex-wife who was raped by her own father, producing a son who committed murder and got away scot free…, and a brother in law who gets out of jail only to be falsely arrested on Christmas Eve… yep, definitely a nice family.
- Black and Nerdy: Is an unapologetic gamer, which Benson teases him over."So, all those years of gaming finally paid off?"
- Black and White Morality: Sees all offenders as scum, reformed or not.
- Breakout Character: Was originally supposed to be a four episode character. However, because he was well received by fans, he was kept him on the show for good.
- Catch Phrase: "That's messed up."
- Chivalrous Pervert: Believe it or not. Though used for comedic effect, it's definitely not brought up often given the sensitive kinds of crimes on the show. Fin doesn't try to cover up the fact that he's subject to a man's needs whenever it comes up, but he doesn't allow that to blur the boundaries required to do his job and he's clearly very angered/annoyed when they come across particularly disturbing cases. One notable instance that this part of Fin's nature is really helpful is when Fin recognizes a young woman that held a position in a low-level public office from a porn he's watched (that's he's later shown in possession of), which allows the SVU detectives to follow a string of unlawful appointments that were coverups to the various flings of a mayoral candidate.
- A Day in the Limelight: Handled a case on his own in "Anchor".
- Disappeared Dad: Fin's undercover work in Narcotics often resulted in him being gone for weeks if months at a time, leaving Ken to essentially grow up without a father, which later caused significant tension between them. Eventually, the amount of Fin's undercover stretches brought he and his wife to divorce.
- Fatal Flaw: He was not a good father or husband. It still haunts him, and it comes back to bite him several times.
- Fire-Forged Friends: He and Munch used to not get along. In later seasons, they were quite willing to go the extra mile to help each other out.
- A Friend in Need: To Rollins, both when she's getting screwed over by her sister and when she later appears to be in over her head with gambling debts, and Fin is the one Amanda calls for a ride when she goes into labour in Season 17. Also to Olivia in subtle ways, pre-Season 12 - he's the only one that knows she's going to therapy post-"Undercover".
- Gay Bravado: Generally rolls with it whenever he's Mistaken for Gay alongside Munch or Lake. He also fusses at Amaro for not being dressed well enough when they go undercover in a gay club.
- Genre Savvy: "Intimidation Game" tries to make Fin out to be this, using his 20 years of gamer expertise to foil a kidnapping plot by deranged gamers, but it amounts to little else but him making lots of painful video game analogies.
- Good Is Not Soft: Possibly the finest example out of all the characters.
- Heel–Face Door-Slam: Despite Fin and Ken mostly repairing their relationship, Ken is still hesitant to introduce his fiance Alejandro out of fear of Fin's reaction. Because of this, Fin doesn't get to meet Alejandro before Alejandro is brutally beaten into a coma, and deeply regrets it.
- Heel Realization: The episode "Strain" has him discover that his son Ken is gay, and Fin is initially exasperated about this development. After seeing the grief of another father who was estranged from his gay son and lost him suddenly, Fin realizes that justified or not, he was largely absent from Ken's childhood, and the distance between him and his son will only grow if he cannot accept him. The episode ends with Fin calling Ken.
- Hidden Depths: According to the official Twitter Account, Fin enjoys Shakespearean tragedies, his favorite being Cymbeline.
- Hopeless with Tech:Fin: (after watching a video of a Latino gang member bragging about raping a white girl) What, those fools think the cops don't know how to use the Internet?Rollins: Well, it did take me a year to teach you how to.
- Hot-Blooded: Less so than Stabler and Amaro, but if he has to go after your ass instead of you going quietly, he's gonna be pretty pissed when he finally catches you.
- Ironic Name: Tutuola is a Yoruba name meaning "The Gentle One". One need not watch Fin in action for very long to see how non-descriptive that name is.
- The Lancer: As the main character with the second longest tenure on the show, it makes sense. Liv names him as her #2 when higher-ups ask her.
- Meaningful Name: Odafin means lawmaker or establisher of laws.
- Naïve Newcomer: An interesting example. Fin's definitely been around the block a few times, both before and after his run as a narc, but he's woefully out of his depth when it comes to sex crimes. The show gets a good deal of exposition of it.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Rarely called Odafin.
- Only Sane Man: He seems to be the only one who's aware of just how messed up everyone in SVU is. There actually came a point where he, like many in the audience, just wrote Stabler off as an out-of-control lunatic. He wasn't shy about it either, describing Stabler as "a head case" to both Cragen and to Stabler's face.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Fin was just that pissed off about the suspect targeting people close to him.
- Out-of-Character Moment: That time he took a page out of UnStabler's book and threatened to gouge an uncooperative suspect's eyes out with a spoon. He actually produced the spoon, too.
- Out of Focus: Pre-season 12, very few episodes focused on him and even then they were more about his family's problems than Fin himself. Post Season 12, Fin's son Ken is nowhere to be seen, and Fin himself has only had a couple of episodes of any focus.
- Papa Wolf: First appears in the seventh season episode "Strain", when Ken is under investigation. While Fin is more stable in his methods than Elliot, he could still give him a good run for his money. After some initial strain, he extended this to his future son-in-law.
- Perpetual Frowner: An entire episode has a victim pointing out this from the moment she meets him to the moment the episode concludes. He still doesn't smile.
- Rated M for Manly: Compared to his snarky partner Munch, but most especially so after Stabler leaves amongst the new personnel introduced to the series.
- Scary Black Man: Averted. Despite being on a New York detective unit known for using more, uh, unorthodox tactics to wring confessions out of suspects, he's generally more calm and emotionally stable than most of his colleagues, especially in comparison to Stabler.
- So Proud of You: He feels this way towards Ken, telling Rollins that his son is the bravest man he knows.
- The Stoic: Is better at hiding his emotions than anyone else.
- Token Minority: Lampshaded when he replaces Jeffries.
- When He Smiles: Fin often scowls and is quite convincing as a tough, intimidating cop, but the occasional times when he has a genuinely happy smile, such as the ending to "Haunted", his face positively transforms.
Det. Amanda Rollins
Played By: Kelli GiddishA detective from Atlanta, Georgia, who moves to New York City to join the Special Victims Unit. Rollins appears to be a detective who is very anxious to do her job, often being told not to get ahead of herself by Detectives Benson and Amaro, and Captain Cragen.
- Action Girl: Just as much as Benson. Also, like Benson, graduates to Action Mom in the 17th century.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Claims she's the only sane woman in her family and doesn't go home for Christmas (she does visit for Easter).
- "Blackmail" is Such an Ugly Word: Averted, as she doesn't even bother with a euphemism when she blackmails Wilkes' wife into getting the charges against Amaro dropped.
- Cain and Abel: Her relationship with Kim is eventually revealed to be this.
- Chekhov's Classroom: One episode opens with the SVU team undergoing routine training. Rollins is established as an excellent shot, but also as having a blind spot about a female domestic violence victim who actually turns out to be aggressive. Later in the episode, Rollins' scheming younger sister Kim uses both of these traits as part of a Batman Gambit to get Rollins to kill her abusive boyfriend so that she (Kim) can collect an insurance payout on him.
- Cool Big Sis: She's very protective of her younger sister Kim, who takes advantage of this several times.
- Daddy Issues: Temporary Sergeant Murphy points out she's had "complicated" relationships with men, particularly if they're authority figures (see: her former sergeant who assaulted her and the Gamblers Anonymous sponsor who slept with her; this even extends to non-romantic relationships as she stuck up for Cragen after the dead hooker incident and is willing to give the benefit of a doubt a Woody Allen (incest)/Roman Polanski (fled overseas)-type suspect).Rollins: My father was a gambler until mom nagged him out of the house.
Murphy: Did you ever think she had a reason for doing that?
- This ends up being Hilarious in Hindsight when she ends up getting pregnant by Murphy
- Dark and Troubled Past: Her family of origin is a Dysfunction Junction, she's gotten in over her head with gambling debts, and she was sexually assaulted by a higher-up at her precinct in Atlanta.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mainly to Carisi when she's annoyed by him.
- Deep South: Hails from Georgia.
- Dirty Harriet: Inherited this role from Olivia, having gone undercover as a drunk party girl in an effort to lure out a Dirty Cop rapist.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: This is frequently her response to squadmates attempting to help her with her gambling or family issues.
- Easily Forgiven: Averted hard: Benson has no problem chewing her out for dragging her gambling debts into her work life, threatening to transfer her to another unit for her behaviour. It takes a while before Benson forgives Amanda, and is outright snide towards her before that.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Gets an absolutely brutal knife in the back from her younger sister.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: She's pretty popular with the guys in-universe, both inside and out of the squad room.
- The Gambling Addict: Was heavily in debt to a loan shark who also happened to be a suspect he went to prison so she considers the debt void. She currently attends Gamblers Anonymous.
- Fair Cop: Dem cheekbones. Dose eyes. Dat Hair. Even Stephanie March felt threatened.
- The Farmer and the Viper: Learns the very, very hard way that kindness is wasted on her sister.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Amanda's sister Kim has substance abuse issues and an abusive boyfriend who she set up to be shot by Amanda (she has a history of threatening him) for insurance money which she forged her sister's name to; she also knows about the gambling debts. When Amanda learns the whole truth and Amaro gets Kim on tape, she skips town along with all of her sister's possessions — literally, the only things Amanda has left is her fridge, an ice tray, and Kim's goodbye note.
- Honey Trap: She's acted as bait to catch more than one criminal.
- Humiliation Conga: Between "Rapist Anonymous" and "Gambler's Fallacy," season 15 is this for her.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: When the squad visits the shooting range for practice, she's the best shot of all of them.
- Ironic Name: Amanda means "having to be loved", "deserving to be loved" and "worthy of love", which are all poignant for a character who was awfully betrayed numerous times.
- Karma Houdini: Deconstructed. So deconstructed. Her gambling debts cause her to stumble into working for the owner of a sketchy gambling parlor, then rescued by an undercover cop working as the owner's enforcer, who gets her involved in the case. It backfires partially as the wife of an involved party gets raped, getting SVU involved and nearly blowing Rollins' cover; when the dust clears, the undercover cop commends Rollins for her work and tells her to stay clean, but a furious Benson, not happy with being put on the spot as a newbie squad commander (including lying to Amaro and Fin about what Rollins was up to), says that if SVU wasn't so understaffed, Rollins would be on her way to a new department. Borders on Pyrrhic Victory, as a matter of fact.
- Love Makes You Dumb: Poor Amanda had this publicly exposed in "Rapist Anonymous." Additionally, the blackmail stunt she pulled to save Amaro from prison time has a strong chance of turning out this way.
- Male Gaze: One time she goes undercover, she wears a mini-skirt and gets a Foot Focus.
- Mama Bear: Kim recalls how she threatened to shoot a guy in the knees if he bothered their mother again when they were kids.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Has a heartbreaking moment of this when she realizes she's been manipulated by her sister into killing a man.
- Never Live It Down: Her gambling addiction is this for Rollins in-universe, although somewhat deservedly as its consequences constantly pop up.
- New Meat: In season 13, along with Amaro.
- Off the Wagon: She's gambling again, as of "Rapist Anonymous"
- Out-of-Character Moment: Tried to provoke Amaro into hitting her in "Spousal Privilege", apparently because she wanted to call him out on his pride at being better than the abusers while ignoring his own anger management issues (she saw him yelling at Maria over the phone on top of the suspect of the week being her weakness, an abusive authority figure). Amaro doesn't take the bait and leaves. She may have been drunk (this took place in a bar) and the next several episodes focus on their traumatic pasts.
- Pregnant Badass: Is revealed to be pregnant with Declan Murphy's child as of Season 17, not that this slows her down in her police work. Also a case of Real Life Writes the Plot , as the actress was pregnant in real life.
- Properly Paranoid: She is the first to seriously suspect William Lewis of being Not So Harmless, even when the SVU squad doesn't officially have anything to hold him on. On the flip side, in "Dissonant Voices," Rollins is the only person who suspects the allegations against the music teacher are false, and is unsympathetic to the other characters' My God, What Have I Done? reaction when they realize she's right and they've ruined his life.
- Ship Tease: Has had plenty of it with Fin. And with Amaro in season 15. In one episode, Benson opines that they should Get a Room! and another character asks Amaro if he's the boyfriend. And then she gets some with Carisi in Season 17.
- Southern-Fried Genius: Rollins is the squad member most likely to be seen doing computer stuff during investigations.
- Tall Poppy Syndrome: Kim regards her horrible treatment of Amanda as justified at least in part due to her seething resentment over Amanda having made something of herself.
- The One Who Made It Out: Of her dysfunctional family and their hometown in Georgia. Kim shamelessly uses accusations that Amanda now thinks she's "too good for them" to manipulate her.
- They Do: With Amaro, though probably not for very long.
- Thicker Than Water: She worries over her little sister's fate even after it's clear Kim has catapulted herself waaaaaay over the Moral Event Horizon.
- Trapped by Gambling Debts: Rollins initially gets out of the debts she owes due to the guy going to prison, but even after that she's haunted by them, most notably when Kim uses her gambling problem as part of her Frame-Up of Amanda, and then later in Season 15 when she falls Off the Wagon and gets sucked into Murphy's undercover operation as a result.
- That One Case: A rapist she'd tracked along the eastern seaboard resurfaces in New York in one episode.
- The Unfavorite: Her sister Kim is clearly the apple of their mother, Beth Anne, who supports Kim even when she's on the run. When Kim is arrested for drugging a john who then raped a woman under the influence and for shooting her pimp, Beth Anne actually blames Amanda for not helping her sister out and that she shouldn't return home until she "figures out how to be a real family."
A.D.A Rafael Barba
Played By: Raúl EsparzaThe latest A.D.A. to work with the SVU, Barba is a bit more fierce than his predecessors, and usually less willing to bend the rules for a victory, unless it's personal- such as allowing Benson to lie on the stand during her kidnapper's trial. He's also a little… eccentric, with his flashy clothes and occasional vacations.
- Abusive Parents: Padre Sandunguero hinted that his father may have been this.Barba: "I know what it's like to have to face down your old man. Mine's dead fifteen years and my hand still curls into a fist when I think about him."
- Ambiguously Gay: Speculation is rampant as to whether he's gay or bisexual. The one consensus seems to be that he is definitely not straight. The coordinated (and pastel!) suspenders, pocket squares, and ties certainly don't help.
- Ambiguously Bi: This is more likely. October Surprise confirmed that he is attracted to women, but he also has Ho Yay with Amaro and, strangely, a few suspects; the one from the infamous belt incident, the perp who attacked other gay men in Criminal Hatred, and the crowner: Comic Perversion. He called the perp good-looking, to which the perp replied that he "wasn't so bad himself, but he didn't swing that way" (and Barba said nothing about himself); when Barba referenced what the perp did to his victims, the perp said, "I didn't realize we were having a menage a trois"; and when Barba mentioned the victim having bruising and tearing from violent anal sex, "I'm sure you've been there, bruised that, right?" Barba seems to point out that the male perps are "good-looking" quite a lot, actually. It also helps that his actor, Raúl Esparza, is an out bi man himself and already seems to share a lot of background with Barba.
- Author Appeal: Raúl Esparza tweets and instagrams about food a lot.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: He's definitely badass, as shown when he lets a rapist strangle him in his first episode. And he's always wearing nice suits. As a Running Gag, he always seems to button the top button of his suit jacket as he begins to cross-examine a witness, even multiple times an episode.
- Big Eater: He seems to be eating in almost all of his scenes in season 14, though not a single scene in 15 showed him eating.
- Bothering by the Book: Excellent at this.
- Breakout Character: Promoted to regular after his first season thanks to fan response.
- Brutal Honesty: A trademark of his in dealing with SVU detectives, victims, witnesses... and people in general. He tells the victim of the very first case he works with the SVU squad that the biggest secret she's trying to hide will be the one that the defense will use against her the most, and outright tells her that she won't like him when they're done with the trial. When she expresses dislike for him immediately, he just smirks.
- Crusading Lawyer: But decidedly more pragmatic than his most notable predecessors, Cabot and Novak.
- Deadpan Snarker: One of the snarkiest characters, especially now that Munch has left.
- Disappeared Dad: His father has been dead for fifteen years. Barba's emotions towards him are more anger than fondness.
- Drink Order: Coffee during the day, scotch in the evening or when drowning his sorrows. Both fixations have been remarked on by other characters.
- Establishing Character Moment: The belt stunt in his very first episode made it very clear that the "big brass... ego" that was attributed to him earlier in the episode was no Informed Ability.
- Hello, Attorney!: Played by Raúl Esparza. Enough said.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: He saves his childhood friend Eddie from getting hung out to dry by their mutual lifelong friend Alex Muñoz, but publicly, Barba is the one branded as a disloyal Sellout for tanking Muñoz's chance to be New York's first Hispanic mayor.
- Honor Before Reason: Barba all but explicitly admits to this in "Comic Perversion" when he openly regrets allowing Olivia to talk him into taking a nigh-unwinnable case. Risking his career to help his treacherous friend Muñoz qualifies as well.
- Humiliation Conga: October Surprise, from around halfway through until the end. Yelina, his ex-girlfriend and best friend Alex's wife, taunts him about their former relationship; Alex throws it in his face again while Barba is trying to help him; Amaro gets angry at him and threatens to report him while throwing his past in his face; he learns that Alex has been sexting underage girls and must go after him; Alex once again insults him and uses Yelina against him, saying they both think he's jealous of Alex, and questions how much money Rafael is getting to go after him (implying that he truly DOES think Rafael is a sellout); Alex does a press conference and calls Barba a sellout again, "the lapdog of this city's aristocracy", resulting in the poor people of the city turning on Barba; he drowns his sorrows with Amaro and Benson before going to Alex's arraignment and is heckled by the reverend who worked Alex's campaign.
- Jerkass Façade: Seems to have become this instead in Season 15. He actually tears up while giving a summation in a murder case based on Treyvon Martin, and he promises a rape victim that he's in her corner and that he's only pushing her hard because defense will. Unlike in his first episode, he goes softer on her when she needs it. He also has become close to the squad, especially Olivia. He still acts tough in court or when challenged, but otherwise, he's really not a Jerkass anymore.
- Jerkass Has a Point: All the A.D.A.s come off as this at one point or another, but Barba is the prime example. Barba is in the habit of constantly questioning the credibility of witnesses, victims, suspects, and even the SVU detectives, much to their chagrin. In his first case, he explicitly tells the detectives he doesn't care if the victim is telling the truth - he only cares that she appears credible since that's all that matters to the jury. Even after becoming closer to SVU, Barba still takes everything they say with a grain of salt, best shown in an episode dealing with a domestic abuse case:Olivia: The arresting officer says she wasn't abused, but we can't take [the arresting officer's] word for it.Barba: I take your word for it all the time.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: His charm is rather like a shark's — beautiful and deadly. And he's not exactly the nicest person around. But every so often, his softer side slips through.
- Latino Is Brown: Esparza has stated he rarely gets to play Latino roles thanks to this trope, and is thrilled that Barba averts this.
- Love Makes You Crazy: In "Funny Valentine," Barba admits to a touch of this regarding the girl he was in love with in high school:Barba: She could have massacred my whole family and I would have looked the other way.
- Motor Mouth: Rollins blames his caffeine habit.
- Must Have Caffeine:Muñoz: I thought we could grab a cup of coffee.Barba: I'm already on my fourth cup. (Note that this scene takes place early in the morning, and throughout the day he is seen drinking at least two more cups.)
Rollins: (After Barba talks fast enough that the detectives can't get a word in edgewise) You ever think about going off caffeine?Barba: That would be a no. So, why are we here?
- And in another episode:
- Mutual Envy: With his childhood friend Alex Muñoz. Muñoz is jealous of Barba getting a scholarship to Harvard and leaving their old barrio; Barba is envious of him because his mom said Alex would one day be the mayor of New York but never said that about him, and because Muñoz married the girl Barba loved (and may still love).
- Negated Moment of Awesome: In "Reasonable Doubt," anticipation builds for Barba's cross-examination of the Creator/WoodyAllen-Creator/RomanPolanski stand-in defendant. Barba himself can barely contain his eagerness to rip the guy to pieces on the witness stand. However, anyone hoping for a "Twenty-Five Acts" level of verbal beatdown is left disappointed, as the defendant flees the country in the middle of the trial.
- Not So Stoic: Normally snarky and unflappable, Barba is visibly emotional during his summation in "American Tragedy" and when looking at the perp's fantasies of torturing young boys in "Thought Criminal."
- Only Sane Man: Inherited this role from Huang. Perhaps the best proof of this is Jersey Breakdown; at the end Benson is drinking, Rollins is gambling, and Nick is stalking his ex wife, but he isn't shown to be doing anything but his normal routine.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- Taking an actual illegal career risk to help his old friend Muñoz "get out in front" of the case that's building against him. Given Barba's ambition and the fact that he's normally a strict Rules Lawyer, it shows just how deep his loyalty to Muñoz goes.
- Also, allowing Benson to perjure herself in Psycho/Therapist shows both how much he cares about her and how desperate he is to put Lewis away.
- In "Padre Sandunguero," he's noticeably off his game in court when he has to cross-examine Detective Amaro's father, who triggers memories of Barba's own implied-to-be-abusive father. You can see Barba clenching his fist while questioning Amaro Sr., which he earlier in the episode admitted to doing whenever he thought of his own father. Afterwards, he admits with some bewilderment that he doesn't know how the cross-examination got away from him.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: In season 15, due to fan response.
- Refuge in Audacity: In his first episode, he goaded a defendant into strangling him, right in front of the judge and jury, and in Criminal Hatred, Benson expresses incredulity when she asks him if he's really going to accuse a gay man of committing hate crimes against other gay men. His response? "Watch me."
- Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: More than once, other characters have brought up a legendary case Barba won before joining the Manhattan SVU squad, securing a seemingly impossible conviction against two johns who raped a prostitute after she had already serviced one of them.
- Romantic Runner-Up: An episode reveals that he's an Unlucky Childhood Friend to a woman who married his (cheating) Rival Turned Evil who was running for NYC Mayor.
- Rules Lawyer: Prefers to manipulate the system, rather than defy or challenge it. Prime examples are Lessons Learned and Downloaded Child.
- Self-Made Man: Grew up in a poor neighborhood; when he and Benson are investigating an elite private high school, Barba mentions he would have given anything to be able to attend, but bitterly notes "the only kids they took from my neighborhood were athletes." He eventually earned a scholarship to Harvard, and made the most of it.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: This man rivals Mycroft Holmes in the suit porn department.
- Ship Tease: Plenty of it with Benson, to the point that they are the Fan-Preferred Couple over Benson and Cassidy. Examples include walking so closely together in Funny Valentine that they almost appear to be holding hands, talking about old loves as they do so; Benson being constantly concerned for Barba in October Surprise and even agreeing to give his friend the benefit of the doubt because he asked, and at the end, when Barba expresses doubt over doing the right thing, pats his hand; and Barba making it clear that harming Benson in any way makes him furious in episodes such as Betrayal's Climax. It also helps that both Mariska Hargitay and Raul Esparza ship the characters in real life.
- Sixth Ranger: In a sense to the SVU detectives; he becomes close to the main team, and often investigates crimes and interrogates criminals right alongside them despite being a lawyer and not a cop.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Some fans see him this way, although not necessarily in a bad way.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Though snarky and somewhat distant with most of his coworkers (minus Benson) and other people he encounters at work, when we see him interacting with his friends and best friend's wife, who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend in October Surprise, he is warm and kind. He hugs all of them at various points and gives big smiles (which account for four of the maybe five times he is shown smiling in the series.)
- That Was Objectionable:Barba: Objection! Argumentative and... ridiculous!
- The Dandy: He is obsessed with his immaculate suits.
- The One Who Made It Out: Grew up in an extremely poor barrio in the Bronx with his two childhood friends, Alex Muñoz and Eddie Garcia. Eddie and Alex stayed in the barrio, and Alex "single-handedly saved the neighborhood", while Barba took a scholarship to Harvard and never looked back. Not only does Alex resent him for this, it's implied that fellow Cuban-American Amaro disapproves as well. And once Muñoz gets charged with possession of child pornography and solicitation of a minor because of Barba, he gets the poor people who supported Muñoz to turn against Barba as well.
- Took a Level in Kindness: In his first episode, Barba doesn't seem to care for the victim at all and at one point reduces her to tears. Over the rest of the 14th season, he softened to where he was as much of a shark as ever in the courtroom but showed his softer side for the victims. Then, in season 15, this is taken Up to Eleven when he cries over one case, often promises the victims he is in their corner and goes gentler on them when they need it, and is shown being especially gentle to younger people. It is implied that William Lewis' attack on Olivia, which he blames himself for, may be the main reason for this.
- Tranquil Fury: Generally reacts with mild snarky irritation when a case isn't going his way or the detectives insist on making his job difficult. However, when pushed further, this is in full effect, such as when confronting Muñoz in October Surprise and when Olivia is threatened in Betrayal's Climax.
- Waistcoat of Style: He can often be seen wearing this when he's not in his standard nice suit or suspenders.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: It's implied in October Surprise that Barba has this issue with his mother, having never gained as much of her confidence as Alex Muñoz did.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Amaro gives him one of these for his kid-gloves treatment of Muñoz.
- Worth It: When Amaro calls him out on the foolishness of risking his job for his Ungrateful Bastard friend Muñoz, Barba shrugs and basically dares Amaro to report him. Later averted. Though he didn't get in trouble, Muñoz's ungrateful, entitled attitude ends up leading him to insult Barba on national television. Barba no longer thinks it was worth it.
Det. Dominick "Sonny" Carisi, Jr.
Played By: Creator/Peter ScanavinoWhen Detective Nick Amaro is briefly reassigned to Queens, Carisi is transferred to the Manhattan Special Victims Unit on a temporary basis. He eventually becomes a permanent member of the squad. Boasting experience in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, he takes a while to grasp the complex sensitivity required for SVU cases, as he'd previously been involved with Homicide. He attends law classes at Fordham night school, and as of Season 17, he's passed the bar exam.
- American Accents: Carisi couldn't be from anywhere other than Long Island.
- Big Brother Instinct: Sonny is pissed when he finds out his sister's fiance might've cheated on her.
- He later extends this to said fiance; he is initially very skeptical of the guy's story of being raped by his parole officer, but is quick to realize it's true and convince the squad to take the case. He is absolutely livid that the rapist will likely get away due to the belief that a woman cannot rape a man, and even defends Brian(the fiance) to his sister when she doesn't believe that he's innocent.(bonus points for the fact that he didn't much like or trust the guy prior to this)
- Brutal Honesty: Often acts as a devil's advocate for the victims by presenting viewpoints like this.
- Catch Phrase: "Call me Sonny."
- A Day in the Limelight: "Parole Violations", in which his sister and her fiance have a prominent role.
- Devil's Advocate: The rest of the squad is usually very quick to jump to conclusions, thus Carisi usually winds up playing this role. While he does bring up valid points and contributes to investigations, certain opinions don't earn him many friends.Carisi: Rape advocate. I don't even get what that is. I mean, there's no burglary advocate, there's no carjacking advocates...Rollins: When's the last time a carjacking victim got asked, "Are you sure you didn't want your car to get stolen?"
- Expy: Shares his cop-attending-law-school routine with Cyrus Lupo from the mothership Law & Order. Even his ambiguous relationship with the squad's ADA resembles Lupo's relationship with his own, Mike Cutter.
- Fair Cop: With Amaro gone, he's now the resident handsome cop in the squad.
- Fan Boy: Of Walter Briggs from episode 16 of season 16. To a lesser extent he enjoys hanging out with Barba, who he sees as a role model (much to Barba's annoyance).
- The Friend Nobody Likes: It takes a while for the rest of the SVU team to fully warm to him. Rollins and Barba seem to find him particularly irritating at first.
- Fin: (After arresting Carisi, who's working undercover) Want me to rough Carisi up? Make his cover look better?
- Friend to All Children: While not exactly highlighted, he knows a decent amount about caring for baby's and helps Rollins when she is initially struggling with how to raise a child on her own. And in the Dugger family inspired episode, he is shown entertaining all the rape victim's siblings at the station, and they seem to like him, despite the situation. This is probably because he grew up with three younger sisters.
- Insistent Terminology: "Call me Sonny." Nobody does, which Rollins lampshades at one point:Carisi: (to a new character) Dominick Carisi. Call me Sonny.Rollins: (offhandedly) Why? No one else has.
- His family seems to use the nickname, as seen in "Parole Violations".
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Carisi can be abrasive and initially had trouble dealing tactfully with victims, but he's basically a good person.
- Mr. Exposition: He's all too eager to talk legal with the rest of the squad, ADA Barba, and even the defense attorneys.
- New Meat: As of Season 16.
- Only Sane Man: A discussion between him and his sister indicates the he thinks his parents aren't the most supportive of people and that he's the only one out of his siblings that isn't prone to unstable relationships.Bella: I should've listened to Gina and Teresa the first time - they always said Tommy was no good -Carisi: Oh my GOD, I love our sisters, I really do. But they're crazy, okay! Teresa doesn't even talk to a guy that makes less than six figures, and Gina, she's been engaged what like ten times!
- Outnumbered Sibling: Sonny seems to be the only son in a family of at least four children.
- Porn Stache: Sports an impressive one in his first two episodes.
- Raised Catholic: Comfortable referencing his faith in his job, and particularly brutal murders have him making the sign of the cross on scene. He's also clearly uncomfortable with the idea of abortion, but doesn't force that opinion on anyone, even his own sister.
- Token Religious Teammate: Like Stabler, and he's a lot more invested in crimes that are justified with religion. His faith is especially tested when the squad directly takes on a case involving the Catholic Church.Carisi: [God's] here now, Father, and he sees you. So look up, and you tell him how truly sorry you are, and you ask for his forgiveness, and he will look into your heart, and he'll forgive you.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Appears to be becoming this with Barba. The latter is the first to seize an opportunity to mock Carisi ("Am I right, Counselor?" "Seldom."), but when Carisi needs it, Barba allows a more supportive side to shine through. Carisi also appears to count Barba as something of a legal inspiration.Carisi: You've been pretty hard on me, but I want you to know that if I did pass [the bar], a lot of that's because of the time I spent working with you. I admire your...Barba: Suicidal streak?
Former Main Characters
Det. John Munch
Played By: Richard BelzerA detective and now a Sergeant in the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. A conspiracy theorist and dedicated detective, Munch is first partnered with Brian Cassidy, whom he thinks of as a kind of younger brother, alternately poking fun at him and imparting (often questionable) advice on life and women. When Cassidy leaves the precinct in 2000, Munch is briefly partnered with Monique Jeffries, and then with Odafin Tutuola. He and the gruff, uncompromising Tutuola get off to a rough start, but gradually came to like and respect each other. As of the Season 15 episode "Wonderland Story", he has retired from the Special Victims Unit, although he has taken a role as an investigator for the DA's office, allowing him to have a recurring role.
- Agent Mulder: Munch is the most likely to catch the phrase "that's nuts!" when suggesting a lead. To his credit, he's right most of the time. It's most notable on the occasions where a cop is the perp, as Munch will usually be the first to suggest that possibility.
- Big Brother Mentor: Serves this role to everyone at some point, though Cassidy especially saw him as one. Amaro also feels close to Munch and is the most devastated when he leaves.
- Cartwright Curse: Expect any woman he's got any remote romantic interest in to be unavailable by some means by the end of the episode.
- Conspiracy Theorist: An avid consumer and producer, with particular interest in the Kennedy Assassination and government cover-ups. Ironic as it is for a cop, it actually makes him a better detective. He's naturally suspicious and very difficult to fool, with an uncanny attention to detail, a lot quicker at connecting dots than the others, and the least susceptible to "The Thin Blue Line".
- Deadpan Snarker: Has a sarcastic comment for almost everything.Teenager, as he's being arrested: I want my parents!Munch: Yeah, and I want the troops home, the Kyoto Protocol signed, and a Tijuana oil job from Miss February.
- Dirty Old Man: Sometimes comes off as this, but most of his comments are harmless and in good fun. Other times, people just assume he's automatically this because of his line of work.Teenager: Let go of me, you dirty old man!Munch: Who you calling 'old'?
- Friend to All Children: Though he won't actually admit to liking them, he is very good at working with young children, as well as very kind to them.
- Hidden Depths: He seemed quite happy to get into a public pillow fight in "Authority".
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: On the surface, he's a grizzled cynic with a sharp tongue. Underneath is a soft spot the size of Baltimore, especially where children are involved.
- Kavorka Man: And freaking how, although not nearly as showcased as in Homicide.
- Long Runners: At the end of season 14, Richard Belzer will have played Munch for 20 years (and 21 seasons) as a regular on two different shows (along with cameos and crossover appearances on 8 others), tying him with (or putting him one year ahead of, if measuring by seasons) Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane (on Cheers and Frasier), James Arness as Matt Dillon and Milburn Stone as Doc Adams (both on Gunsmoke) as American television's longest running live action character.
- My Greatest Failure: Munch told his father that he hated his guts. They would be the last words he would tell his father before he killed himself.
- Out of Focus: In later seasons. Munch is often underused, Season 9 featured him in only about half of the episodes and overall Munch has missed 65 episodes of SVU compared to just three episodes of Homicide.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Whenever Munch goes undercover, this usually ensues, and it's a rare instance of this trope being both Played for Laughs and weirdly effective. In one episode his undercover "disguise" as a pedophile involved no more than dressing slightly differently and smiling. In another case, his disguise consisted of dressing like a hobo and shouting conspiracy theories.Finn: "That's the same old crap he says every day, only louder."
- Properly Paranoid: He's appeared in an X-Files crossover. With a world like that in the background, he has every right to be a little paranoid. Lampshaded in another episode when he plays the part of a deranged hobo spouting Conspiracy Theorist rhetoric to draw out youths assaulting the homeless: Fin says it's "the same stuff he says every day, only louder".
- Put on a Bus: He's transferred to the Cold Case unit after "Manhattan Vigil". He comes back for a while, then he retires from the Special Victims Unit in Season 15's "Wonderland Story", although Belzer has stated he'd like to return in the future. Fortunately, Munch has become an investigator for the DA's office, leaving the door open for a recurring role.
- Quip to Black: He and Elliot are tied for these.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: In the few times he allows himself to get personally involved in the victims' lives, he's usually doing so because it's morally right rather than it being an extension of his job (and in "Parts", actually does something that would have cost him his job if any of the higher-ups found out). When Elliot asks him why he'd take such a risk:Munch: I have to be able to sleep at night.
- Serial Spouse: Subverted. None of his marriages ever last. He finally gave up after the fourth time.Munch: "You gotta play to win."
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Almost always wears a suit.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Sharply corrects Capt. Harris on his rank, which at that point is Sergeant.
- Transplant: From Homicide: Life on the Street to SVU.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Although he's fairly likable—to a fault, anyway—he has had his moments over the years, such as casually talking about a former partner of his who committed suicide because he took the job too seriously and referring to coma patients (one of whom was a rape victim) as "produce" and "a member of the drool squad".
- Writer on Board: An actor variant. Munch's conspiracy theories and admiration of John Kennedy come directly from his actor, Richard Belzer, who has written books on the subject. Belzer himself has gone on record saying that John Munch is basically "me as a cop".
Cap. Donald Cragen
Played By: Dann FlorekThe Captain of the Special Victims Unit. As SVU Commanding Officer, he is portrayed as a somewhat stern but understanding father figure to the detectives who work under him, often giving them a great deal of leniency because he trusts their ability to get results. Retires at the end of Season 15's Amaro's One-Eighty, giving command of the Squad to the newly promoted Sgt. Benson.
- And Starring: Until Dann Florek leaves the show in season 15.
- Badass Grandpa: He's obviously over 50, and he's still capable of handing perps their asses, albeit he does this rarely. Surprisingly, he also refuses to use more force than is absolutely necessary, as he is the most heroic member of the cast.
- Big Good
- Da Chief: Head of the SVU unit until season 15.
- Hidden Depths:
- One episode in one of the earlier seasons shows that while he's not an avid video gamer, he's actually a quite talented one, easily beating a game that neither Munch or Fin could get past the first level on.note
- A sadder example occurs in Season 14 when Cragen is forced to admit he solicited prostitutes out of loneliness and desperation for companionship.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: He's been a captain since at least 1988. It might have something to do with all of the trouble his detectives cause.
- Meaningful Name: Donald means "great chief, world mighty", as in Da Chief of the tough world called Special Victim's Unit.
- Not So Above It All: When Munch and Finn play a video game to get into the headspace of an autistic witness to a foster sibling's murder, he teasingly calls them the "Mario Bros." Later, he's seen playing the same game and making it to the final level (which actually helps him talk with said witness later on).
- Off the Wagon: Was at one point. Now, he tries VERY hard to make sure he stays sober, though his job doesn't make it easy.
- Put on a Bus: He retires at the end of Amaro's One-Eighty.
- Recovered Addict: Captain Cragen drank like a fish in his back story. His recovered status is repeatedly brought up. Mostly by Cragen himself.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Casual attire for him his a dress shirt and suspenders, at minimum.
- Team Dad: As opposed to active leadership of the detectives. Many of the characters actually do see him like a father figure. In "Russian Brides," as part of an undercover operation in which Cragen poses as a lonely, vulnerable older man, he admits to feeling this way about his people in turn.
- Transplant: From the original series to SVU.
Det. Elliot Stabler
Played By: Christopher MeloniA senior detective in Manhattan's 16th Precinct, also known as the Special Victims Unit, which investigates sex crimes. He is one of the original members of the squad. A former Marine and a dedicated detective, he has a 97 percent closure rate, but his dedication can turn to obsession and cause him to take cases personally. His dedication to the job also makes him the target for several IAB investigations during the course of his 12-year career at SVU.
- Abusive Parents: Hinted at if not outright stated that his father, the sane parent, was abusive.
- Action Dad: To five kids.
- Anti-Hero: Though fundamentally good and wishing to protect the public and catch criminals, he bends the law to get it done, frequently brutalizes suspects, and is very bigoted and close-minded on sexuality issues.
- Badass in Distress: A couple of times; the most prominent being when Dale captures him and begins to torture him in 'Zebras'.
- Badass Longcoat: In winter episodes.
- Black and White Morality:
- Deconstructed in "Nocturne". He finds out that the victim (who was molested by his piano teacher) had molested a young boy himself at his piano teacher's insistence. He knows he's a victim, but he pretty much wants to kill him at this point (for obvious reasons). This wasn't always the case though, see below.
- A minor example is the fact that bipolar disorder runs in his side of the family. In the episode "Turmoil", he nearly strangles his son Dickie when he answers his question, "Have you lost your mind?", with, "I'm not the first Stabler to do so, am I?".
- Black and Grey Morality: In the first episode of the second season, after the season one finale reveals that he fantasizes about killing suspects, he talks to a shrink about it and the current case, where he admits to doing it again, but the suspect is a 16 year old kid who had sent half his life being raped by his foster dad, and was an honor student who also helped mentally handicapped children play soccer. This troubled Elliot deeply. Later, he also had a case where he spent most of the day trying to get a guy to admit he raped and killed a woman. He was in the middle of berating him for also stabbing women with pins, when Oliva comes in and tells Elliot that the suspect was molested by his mother for years. He then switches to comforting him.
- Broken Pedestal: Dick Finley, who he named his son after.
- Characterization Marches On: It's strange to see him in earlier seasons actually spending time with his kids (reading bedtime stories, playing soccer with his daughter) considering his interaction (or lack thereof) with them in later seasons. Or how he was the calming influence to Olivia's hotheadedness.
- Character Tic: He has a tendency to squint slightly when troubled, or when he's lying, something his mother catches on to very quickly.
- Cowboy Cop or Rabid Cop: Depending on the episode.
- Defective Detective: A combination of marital problems and an increasingly over-stressed psyche really start to crack him up. Being forced to put down a deranged victim forces him into retirement.
- Exalted Torturer: SVU doesn't endorse his third-degree tactics, but damned if they don't heavily rely on them. And Stabler gets way more latitude for it from the brass than he really should.
- Fatal Flaw: Elliot and his marital problems at home.
- Freudian Excuse: His personality is implied to be as a result of his father's upbringing as well as his mother abandoning both of them.
- Handicapped Badass: Goes blind for an episode in "Blinded".
- Heroic B.S.O.D.:
- Seemed to be coming closer and closer towards one after Kathy got fed up, left him and took the kids with her.
- Suffers one at the end of the twelfth season, and retires by the time the next one starts.
- Ironic Name: He has a tendency to be both uncontrollable and unpredictable.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Is prone to tweaking suspects. Taken Up to Eleven in the episode "Pandora", where he's working on apprehending a child pornographer in Prague. The US frowns upon roughing up suspects. Prague is not in the US.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: You can't deny that a lot of the perps Stabler brutalizes have it coming. Considering their crimes it sometimes seems as if they get off easy.
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: Courtesy of Christopher Meloni, who's got a chin to rival Jay Leno.
- Let Me at Him!: Stabler should probably be the Trope Namer.
- Mr. Fanservice: Take a look at his Clothing Damage while you're at it.
- My God, What Have I Done?: At the end of an episode dealing with an abusive parent, Stabler said he had this moment after hitting one of his daughters as a toddler over some spilled juice. At the end of the episode "Smoked", this was exactly the look on his face after shooting a girl who shot the men responsible for her mother's death, plus an innocent bystander, causing him to retire.
- Never Live It Down: In-universe. Him admitting that he occasionally fantasizes about killing perps is almost always brought up when his ability to competently do his job is brought up.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: He's somewhat closed-minded about sexual orientation and transgender issues, although not hateful about it. Possible result of a Catholic upbringing.
- Papa Wolf: Bringing up his children in an argument is a surefire way to piss him off. Going after his family is a surefire way to get the snot beat out of you.
- Parents as People: Don't get us wrong - Stabler loves his kids. He is, however, far from a perfect parent, and he knows it.
- Put on a Bus: Starting Season 13. Forced to shoot and kill a teenage girl to stop her from killing someone is pretty much enough for him to retire.
- Raised Catholic: "I try to be a good Catholic, try to raise my kids to be good Catholics..." Lampshaded that he's not as good a Catholic as he'd like to be. When Olivia questions his Black and White Morality going against Christian teachings of infinite patience and forgiveness, he casually replies, "Jesus was perfect, I'm not."
- Rated M for Manly: Though in this case, it's more for the benefit of the viewing ladies.
- "Reason You Suck" Speech: Gets a pretty scathing one from Fin after he dumps Fin's phone in "Cold":Elliot: Look, the situation got a little heated and I want to say I'm sorry about that.Fin: You're a bulldog, Stabler. Quick to assume, slow to admit when you're wrong. Makes for a good cop, but a lousy human being...Olivia: Fin, hear him out.Fin: Stay out of it, Liv. That being said, I know what it cost you.Elliot: Appreciate that.Fin: I'm not done. The problem is you will still be the same rat bastard tomorrow, and nothing you say will ever change that.
- Semper Fi: Served as a Marine during Desert Storm and has a Marine Corps tattoo on his arm. One suspect even refers to him as a "Jarhead cop."
- Strictly Professional Relationship: He always works with a woman, usually Benson. Once he was partnered with a man. It didn't go so well. He was briefly romantically involved with Dani Beck while separated from his wife. He took it fairly hard when she quit.
- Quip to Black: Tied with Munch for these.
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Not quite as tall as Munch, but just as snarky.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: As his mother stated.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Has been on the receiving end on quite a few of these.
Det. Monique Jeffries
Played By: Michelle HurdA police detective with Manhattan's Special Victims Unit and was one of the initial detectives in the SVU squad.
- The Bus Came Back: We later find she's been transferred to Vice and collaborates with SVU again in one episode.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: For about half of season 1 upon Cassidy's departure.
- Put on a Bus: She leaves the unit after sleeping with a former suspect.
- Straw Feminist: Up until her promotion to opening titles, her only scenes were just to get her dandruff up anytime Munch said something. Even then she still would get pissy with Munch.
- Token Minority: Until Fin joined the show.
Det. Nick Amaro
Played By: Danny PinoA NYPD detective who has transferred to the Special Victims Unit from Warrants and Narcotics. Initially, Amaro did not see eye to eye with his new partner, Detective Benson, mainly because she was adjusting to having him as a partner instead of Elliot Stabler. After their rocky start, Amaro and Benson begin to have a mutual respect for each other and work well together.
- Abusive Parents: Growing up, he was physically abused by his father. Nick himself thankfully averts this.
- Action Dad: To six-year-old Zara and later nine-year-old Gilberto 'Gil'.
- Amazon Chaser: When first introduced, his wife is in the Army and serving in Iraq. His affair with fellow cop Rollins could fall under this as well.
- Beard of Sorrow: Any time Amaro's life is going badly, count on the five o'clock shadow showing up.
- Big Brother Instinct: Has a tendency to "helpfully" get involved in other people's problems, Rollins' in particular.
- Break the Haughty: His heart's generally in the right place, but Amaro has a touch of the Ineffectual Loner when he joins SVU, and is distinctly unafraid to challenge his squadmates on what he regards as poor police work. The episodes "Undercover Blue" and "Amaro's One-Eighty" sharply humble him on both counts. Combined with the failure of his marriage, by the end of season 15 he's pretty much in Heroic B.S.O.D. territory.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Non-stop, and with complete justification, when his dad shows up in season 16.
- The Charmer: Can be this when dealing with difficult suspects or witnesses, to Guile Hero levels. Perhaps most spectacularly when he out-manipulates Rollins' Manipulative Bastard sister, and manages to talk a very hostile grand jury into not indicting him.
- Chekhov's Skill: Amaro's background in Narcotics, in which he did a lot of undercover work, frequently shows up in his approach at SVU. Namely, he's excellent at pretending to play along and manipulating suspects and witnesses, and also has a fondness for the use of Hidden Wire.
- Consummate Liar: Amaro is really, really good at Lying to the Perp. Such as the episode where he opens an interrogation with an absolute whopper of a lie, and then uses the lie to shamelessly manipulate the suspect's religious guilt, and then does that so successfully that the perp regards Amaro as a "brother in Christ" and spills everything.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Has an attack of this when he suspects his wife of infidelity.
- Cruel to Be Kind: In "October Surprise," Amaro gets in Barba's face with taunts of being a sellout who went away to Harvard and forgot where he came from. However, Amaro's purpose is to drive home to Barba exactly how his old friend Muñoz is manipulating him (especially given that Barba had just pulled an uncharacteristically risky stunt to help Muñoz).
- Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Amaro discovered the existence of his son when he was sued for child support ten years after he'd broken it off with the mother.
- Disappeared Dad: His father walked out when he was a kid. Unlike most examples, Amaro indicates he doesn't miss him at all due to the Domestic Abuse he inflicted on Amaro's mother, and even states they "threw a party" when he left.
- Divorce Assets Conflict: Maria takes a level in jerkass and pulls this on him by taking their daughter to California.
- Domestic Abuse: Grew up in a household characterized by this. As he tells Benson, his father "liked to bounce [his] mom off the walls."
- Doting Parent: Very clearly adores his daughter. He wastes no time becoming this to his son once he finds out the kid exists.
- Expy: Shares a lot of characteristics with the Mothership's Rey Curtis.
- Fair Cop: Lampshaded, as more than one character has remarked on his good looks.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: He's initially introduced as an "uncle" to the boy who is really his son, and hates it.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Responsible to his sister Sonya's Foolish.
- Friend to All Children: As the father to a little girl he's generally good with kids, but Amaro really exemplifies this trope in "Born Psychopath" when he manages to talk down a psychopathic child on a killing spree. He successfully defuses the situation, but gets shot in the chest as a result of his reluctance to use too much force. And then even after being shot, he shields the kid with his own body to prevent the police from shooting him because he can't countenance the killing of a child, even a sociopathic one. Amaro firmly stands by that decision even after Benson points out it's pure luck he wasn't shot in the head or some other part of the body not covered by his bulletproof vest.
- Gaslighting: His father attempts this in Padre Sandunguero; his mother and sister also express the view that Amaro is overdramatizing or remembering things wrong, albeit they are expressing their own massive denial about Amaro Sr.'s abuse.
- Go Through Me: When vigilantes shoot at his house, Amaro immediately rushes to shield his daughter with his own body.
- Guile Hero: Especially compared to his predecessor Stabler, Amaro usually prefers to quietly manipulate suspects into confessing and is excellent at pretending to take their side.
- He Cleans Up Nicely: Invoked in his first episode when he arrives from Narcotics scruffy and bearded. Cragen orders him to wear a jacket and tie.
- Headbutting Heroes: He and Brian Cassidy despise each other. He and Barba have their moments as well, at least until they find some common ground later on. In a more general sense in most episodes, Nick is often the first to bring up other possibilities that the detectives may have been blind to initially, but won't argue when he knows the other detectives are too emotionally involved to listen.
- Honey Trap: He's been the target of at least two, but wasn't stupid enough to fall for either. He's also acted as a honeytrap himself, having flirted Rollins' sister Kim into incriminating herself on tape.
- Honorary Uncle: To Olivia's son, Noah.
- I Am Not My Father: Hoo boy. Amaro's father is a gaslighting abuser. Amaro succeeds (mostly) in breaking this cycle where his own intimate relationships are concerned, although he struggles badly with anger issues.
- The Lancer: To Olivia.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Gets in in two ways after he's arrested in the season 15 finale. On the bad karma side, that time Amaro punched the crap out of an undercover Murphy? Comes back to bite him hard, as now-CO Murphy refuses to waste any favors getting Amaro his old job back at SVU. On the good karma side, Rollins gets the charges against Amaro dropped, which is a nice callback to the episode in which Amaro saved Rollins from murder charges.
- Latin Lover: Played with. Other characters sometimes react to him as if he's one, but in reality he's a pretty straightlaced family man.
- Latino Is Brown: Averted. His daughter on the other hand plays this straight.
- Manipulative Bastard: On the other side of being The Charmer, both Benson and his own wife have called Amaro out on trying to slip an interrogation into an otherwise innocuous conversation.
- Mr. Fanservice: The show regularly provides scenes of Amaro working out, waking up shirtless in the middle of the night, having a shirtless After Action Patch Up, etc.
- My Greatest Failure: Failing to understand his wife's PTSD after she returned from Iraq, leading to the failure of their marriage, or so he admits to Rollins.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: He attempts to help Rollins by infiltrating her Gamblers Anonymous group and exposing her sponsor-slash-lover as a womanizing sleazebag. However, since it relates to the case of the week, it also more or less forces Barba to expose Rollins' private life in open court. She's badly humiliated, and arguably this is part of what helps push her Off the Wagon.
- Never Live It Down: Much like his predecessor, Amaro is dogged by his "getting furious" incidents in-universe.
- New Meat: In season 13, along with Rollins.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: His attempt to save a fellow officer's life in "Amaro's One Eighty" causes Amaro to come under investigation by Internal Affairs, nearly lose his badge, get falsely tarred by the public as a racist, and have his house shot at by vigilantes who only by pure luck miss Amaro's mother and young daughter. Later, this contributes to the complete loss of any semblance of a future with NYPD, forcing him to retire after being injured.
- Noodle Incident: While investigating a college football hazing incident, Amaro references his own time on a school football team and tells Fin "I did things I'm not proud of" in the name of team unity. What those things were is never elaborated upon.
- Papa Wolf:
- Don't even breathe around Zara.
- Also goes into this mode in Undercover Blue when he discovers he'd fathered a child while undercover. When he discovers the child's stepfather is involving the kid in drug deals, Amaro is pissed.
- Person as Verb: In one episode Rollins starts to cast doubt on a seemingly ironclad confession by a suspect, and Cragen tells her not to "go Amaro" on him.
- Properly Paranoid: His obsessive checking of bathroom stalls in the season 13 finale/season 14 premiere is a little OTT, but justified by the fact that he was individually targeted for a Frame-Up.
- Put on a Bus: To California, to join his two children over there.
- Raised Catholic: Amaro falls closer to the devout end of the spectrum; however, he professes a very firm belief in divorce due to his parents' abusive relationship, and has no hesitation when a case requires them to go after a Pedophile Priest.
- Ship Tease: With Rollins, of whom he's quite protective.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: With Cynthia, the sister of a drug kingpin in whose organization Amaro went undercover.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Amaro joined the show shortly after Elliot left. Like Elliot, Amaro is a Catholic family man with a tumultuous relationship with his wife. He's also shown himself to be slightly unhinged (pulling a gun on an uncooperative witness), though time will tell whether he goes as crazy as Elliot.
- Deconstruction: As of "Surrendering Noah," all of Amaro's Elliot-like actions have resulted in actual punishments and consequences, the likes of which Elliot himself always seemed to escape. It's explicitly said that Amaro is "damaged goods" and has no hope of career advancement at the NYPD. Verges a little bit on Can't Get Away with Nuthin' territory considering some of the incidents were Amaro responding to direct violence (the shooting in "Amaro's One-Eighty", the subsequent attack on his house and family) rather than initiating it for the sake of interrogation.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: He is repeatedly told that he's a Fair Cop, and stands 6 feet to boot.
- Two First Names: Amaro is actually used as a given name in countries with Latino heritage.
- The Unfavorite: It is said in "Padre Sandunguero" that his father never abused his sister like he did to him.
- The Villain Knows Where You Live: The Big Bad of season 14's opener shows up at Amaro's house while he's playing with his daughter. Amaro is, naturally, furious.
- What the Hell, Hero?: He gets a spectacular one from Rollins after he infiltrates her Gamblers Anonymous group.
- Wife-Basher Basher: Played with. While it's established early on that Amaro has issues relating to his father's abuse of his mother, and violence against women and children is certainly a sore spot for him at times, he's also unafraid to express skepticism of victims when necessary (and has correctly identified a Wounded Gazelle Gambit or two). This makes sense due to his conflicted feelings toward his mother and sister, who are among his father's biggest defenders.
Det. Chester Lake
Played By: Adam BeachDetective Chester Lake transferred to the Manhattan SVU from Brooklyn SVU at the end of the eighth season and was partnered with Detective Fin Tutuola. He is of Native American ancestry, specifically Mohawk, and speaks proudly of his ancestors, noting that many of them helped to build the city's skyscrapers and subway tunnels. He also used to compete as an amateur mixed martial artist under the name "Naptime", but had to quit after tearing his ACL. Lake suffers from insomnia and often takes walks at night when he cannot sleep.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Besides being an insomniac, Lake states on occasion that the city speaks to him. Whether or not he's speaking figuratively or literally is unclear, but thankfully, it hasn't had any effect on his job.
- Anti-Villain: In his initial appearance, due to Jurisdiction Friction with Fin. Also in his last appearance, where he ends up on trial for murdering a crooked cop.
- Badass Native: Inverted. He is somewhat of a badass, and definitely Native American. But he is the farthest thing from Badass Native.
- Brooklyn Rage: Was transferred in from the SVU in Brooklyn. Fits the "Rage" part of the trope's equation in "Cold".
- By-the-Book Cop: Especially in contrast to Fin.
- Chekhov's Hobby: His habit of walking the city, familiarizing himself with it, later helps him identify a suspect's location based on background noises in a phone call.
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Fin. The two men do not get along when they're first paired together, but warm up to each other in the process of solving a series of rape-homicides that affect both their boroughs.
- Gay Bravado: Plays along with the assumption that a mother makes that he and Fin are a gay couple with a giant smile on his face.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Typical for Law & Order, but doubly unfortunate in that he spends most of his central season encountering cases like this and ultimately takes a turn for the worse himself.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Yes, he is a cop. Yes, he is mentally unstable. Yes, he is sent to prison, with a lot of people he sent to prison.
- Mr. Fanservice
- Put on a Bus: To prison.
- Rabid Cop: In Cold.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: An unfortunate case in that fans didn't warm up to the character because they thought Lake was written in to possibly replace Fin or Munch. Without approval of the fanbase, the writers wrote him out.
- Ship Tease: Had a bit with Casey Novak in his first appearance and in the Season 9 finale, though this immediately got sunk since he's off to prison at the end of the episode.
- Sixth Ranger Traitor: Not really a traitor, but Lake did commit a murder. Then again, the victim wasn't exactly someone to cry over.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome
- Tall, Dark and Snarky
- Token Minority: Only Native American recurring character on the series.
- Workaholic: Oh, yes. He spends his downtime listening to the police scanner and attending meetings of the Vidocq Society.
- Working-Class Hero: Comes from a long line of ironworkers, and takes great pride in the fact that his family practically built the city of New York. Truth in Television, as there was a sizable and famous population of Native American ironworkers in the city.
A.D.A Alexandra "Alex" Cabot
Played By: Stephanie March
- Amoral Attorney: To the point where she turns it Up to Eleven in "Guilt" and gets suspended for a month. There have been exceptions, especially in recent appearances.
- Anti-Hero: Does some morally ambiguous things. Sometimes it goes to Nominal Hero levels where she's only interested in winning for the sake of her career regardless of the law or possible innocence.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. In Guilt, Alex takes a hard fall, cutting her forehead. It doesn't heal by the time the episode is over. As well, by the time she strong arms her way into a woman's apartment to find evidence, she looks so harried and tired that she looks like a strung-out drug addict.
- Broken Bird: Although in this case, it happens during the series, not before it.
- Commuting on a Bus: Has been in the main cast in two separate timespans, as well as several guest appearances.
- Crusading Lawyer: When it suits the plot. Most notably, she goes to Africa in season 11 to work with the ICC. And then again in "Scorched Earth."
- Defrosting Ice Queen: In her first run, she can be quite bitchy at times. Contrast post-WPP Alex, who is way friendlier and helpful, as long as she's not in court.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Many viewers considered her to be "hair porn", especially in her more recent appearances.
- Friend to All Children: Rarely seen, but her interactions with young children (and one victim with Down's Syndrome) are a complete 180 from her normal personality. She even smiles.
- Hello, Attorney!: And according to this, she's the trope namer
- Idiot Ball: The plot of "Guilt".
- Jerkass Has a Point: When Cabot is prosecuting a former football star for statutory rape on a teen prostitute, Olivia, who originally wanted all of the girl's Johns to be brought to justice, changes her mind when she feels that the defendant wasn't responsible due to suffering from early onset dementia and recruits Bayard Ellis to help him get acquitted. Cabot was understandably furious with her actions and pointed out that it was impossible to have both justice for the girl and compassion for the defendant. Looking back, this incident is a massive What the Hell, Hero? for Olivia, as this stunt was odd for her character at the time, and, if done at present time, would have received massive fanbase backlash.
- Karma Houdini: Munch even calls her "Teflon".
- Lantern Jawof Justice: Especially when viewed from the side.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: She probably could have at least been a DA at this point, especially since she's already been a bureau chief. What's really bad about it is that she mentions several times in season two as having political aspirations.
- Lethal Chef: She acknowledges almost setting fire to her own stove.
- Meaningful Name: Alexandra means defender of men, which fits a lawyer like her.
- Meganekko: Considered to be her trademark attractive trait among the fandom.
- Ms. Fanservice: Stephanie March is this on her own, but the glasses and the late season hairdo's certainly help. See for yourself.◊
- Oh Crap!: She is at a loss for words when the EADA makes her the prosecuting attorney for the case of charging a 7 year old with murder on live TV.
- Older Than They Look: 45, the same age as Olivia according to a screenshot in "Ghost" showing her date of birth. Stephanie March is much younger than this, and definitely far younger than Mariska Hargitay playing Olivia, the inversion of this trope.
- Plucky Girl: Especially in the beginning.
- Put on a Bus: To witness protection in "Loss"
- Refuge in Audacity: In "Guilt": "So, I violated somebody's constitutional rights. I didn't violate the defendant's constitutional rights, so suck it up and admit my evidence." The judge reluctantly allows it through, though Alex does get a 30-day suspension for this and later has problems with other cases she presents before the judge in question.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: "Hello, Uncle Bill..." In a later episode, Fin begs her to use a connection to stall, but she snarks that after working with SVU, she doesn't have many favors left.
- She's Got Legs: She was a master at showing off those beauties.
- She's Back: In "Lead".
- Statuesque Stunner: Her profile in Ghost lists her at an even 6 feet.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Much more sugar as of late, as she's learned to save the frigidness for situations when it's actually useful. Otherwise, do not fuck with her in court, or just seasons 2-4 in general. Because when it comes to ice, she's the queen.
- Transplant: From SVU to Conviction and then back again.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Occasionally gets speeches like this from judges on account of her, um, liberties with the law.
- Witness Protection: Why the character left the series the first time.
Dr. George Huang
Played By: B.D. WongAn FBI forensic psychiatrist and criminal profiler, specializing in studying sexual predators and their victims.
- Asian and Nerdy: Is Chinese and a doctor.
- Badass Pacifist: This man has been in the room with many psychopaths, and more than one has tried to kill him. This has not stopped him from doing his job once.
- Bad Liar: A variant. He is able to lie to the perp very well during interrogations. When he tries to lie to his friends and coworkers, however, he fails miserably. For example, his attempts to lie to Olivia in Users, right after he goes through her desk for information on their perp, could not have made it any more obvious that he was up to something.
- Berserk Button: Endangerment of the mentally ill; he has a rare loss of temper, leading to a public shouting match, when Stabler deliberately sends a paranoid-schizophrenic suspect into a violent psychotic breakdown in order to get information. Not only could this have hurt the suspect, it could have cost the both of them their jobs had Casey Novak not risked her own job to cover it up.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Huang is one of the few authority figures outside of the squad that fully trusts and enjoys working with them, but even he can get impatient with the SVU detectives' tactics when it comes to handling suspects with mental disorders. He's pissed in "Coerced" in which he ends up starting a screaming match with Stabler in Cragen's office for pushing a suspect into a psychotic break, and then there's this exchange in another episode when SVU prevents Huang from taking a patient into the FBI's custody for treatment:Stabler: How did Huang take the bad news [being unable to take the patient]?Fin: If I were you, I'd keep my distance. I didn't know he used that kind of language.
- As an FBI agent, Huang is also not afraid to drop federal charges on your ass when warranted.
- The Bus Came Back: He returned 20 episodes into Season 13 in "Father Dearest", with a mention of working in Oklahoma. And again in Season 14. And yet again in 15.
- As of Season 17, he's retired from the FBI, but still works as a consultant for cases in New York. Unfortunately, this also means that his clinical opinions are now accessible to everyone and he no longer holds any defined loyalty to any department, including SVU.
- But Not Too Gay: He comes out in season 11 but never as much as mentions a past relationship.
- Captain Obvious: An interesting case in that sometimes the detectives need to ask him to make things a little simpler for them to follow which leads to this trope... and sometimes he invokes this deliberately because of the reason listed above. At times when they think his explanation is a little too simple, he shows that he's capable of a more complex explanation...Huang: She's dangerous.Chief Muldrew: Is that your clinical opinion, Dr. Huang?Huang: Do you want me to use bigger words?
- Character Development: Goes from laidback psychiatrist from the FBI to a doctor willing to break laws for the sake of his morals. He's one of SVU's most trusted men outside the squad for his tenure as a main character, and even though he might not always agree with the detectives' methods, he does acknowledge that most of the time, they're trying to do the right thing. Didn't stop him from getting pissed when anyone went too far though.
- Characterization Marches On: In his first appearance, Huang sports glasses, a perv-stache and his interest in the criminal mind seems vaguely prurient. An episode later, he's glasses-less, clean-shaven, his hair is immaculate, and he's a sensitive and trusted confidant to Olivia.
- Deadpan Snarker: He is often subtly sarcastic to the detectives.
- Flanderization: In the early seasons, he wears standard suits, or, very occasionally, sweater vests. By season 11, the sweaters are almost all he wears.
- Hard Head: Played with: he took an absolutely brutal concussion from the perp in "Execution," but made a perfect recovery. However, it was mentioned that he was in the hospital at least overnight, and he was absent from the next episode, indicating that he might have taken a while to recover. Seemed to be entirely invoked in "Lead" when he was knocked backwards onto the edge of the table and had blood pooling under his head. He had to insist multiple times he was fine since he wasn't nauseous, dizzy, or had passed out (all signs of a concussion).
- Have I Mentioned I am Gay?: In the episodes "Hardwired" and "Father Dearest". He mentions being gay, but always conveniently stays single.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Huang's position as a psychiatrist and a member of the FBI occasionally puts him at odds with the rest of the team; on the other hand, he also readily uses FBI resources to help them. Seems to be just as much a personality conflict with Stabler as anything else.
- Mr. Exposition: Sometimes reaching Captain Obvious status.
- Non-Action Guy: Partially justified as he's not a cop. However, it's not entirely justified because he is an FBI agent.
- Not So Stoic: He does not appreciate homophobia or mistreatment of the mentally ill, most especially if one of the detectives (read:Stabler) ends up being responsible for the latter. The only times he's been seen getting more than mildly annoyed are when presented with one of the above.
- Only Sane Man: Willing to point out that dating someone who looks prepubescent but is over the age of consent isn't illegal, among other things. He often seems frustrated with the detectives, especially Stabler, when they go over the line.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Two in season eleven. One where he is openly angry at a pedophile group comparing themselves to gay men, and another where he kidnaps a teenager and gives him an illegal drug to cure his heroin addiction.
- Put on a Bus: Beginning season 13 with no mention at all, unlike Stabler, whose departure was dealt with in several episodes. It is hinted that he might be working with the FBI full time again, and is confirmed during a reappearance in which he states the FBI reassigned him to Oklahoma.
- The Profiler: Often called upon to play this role if needed. More commonly, he evaluates suspects after they've already been arrested.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: To Oklahoma. Reassigned sometime between the end of season 12 and the end of season 13. He is clearly miserable about having to return to Oklahoma at the end of Born Psychopath.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: In one episode, the detectives were faced with a man who ran a rehab clinic for teenagers, yet kept his patients hooked on heroin to get money from the parents. There was a drug that could instantly cure one patient, in particular, of his addiction, but it was illegal. Huang had the drug administered to him anyway, then turned himself in. He got thirty days suspension, but it was Worth It.
- The Shrink: Incidentally, he can hop between all three subtypes depending on the episode.
- The Smart Guy: Comes with his role as a forensic psychiatrist. He often explains obscure mental disorders to the detectives, is extremely knowledgeable about about theology, and corrects a mistranslated Latin phrase.
- The Stoic: But when you do make him angry...
- Straight Gay: Heavily hinted at for several years and then finally confirmed.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: With Stabler, who will do whatever it takes to get his answers (including push a suspect into a psychotic break and offer phone calls for a convicted prisoner to the aforementioned prisoner's rape victim) whereas Huang isn't, and it causes them to butt heads whenever they end up working together.
- Token Minority: The only prominent Asian character. Counts as Twofer Token Minority once his sexuality is revealed.
- What the Hell, Hero?: As the Only Sane Man that isn't tied directly to SVU, he gave these more than once to the detectives at SVU if they went over the line. Liv gives him one in Season 17's "Depravity Standard," when he ends up testifying that the defendant's confession could have been coerced by Liv of all people.
Dr. Melinda Warner
Played By: Tamara TunieThe main medical examiner for the SVU, she has a snarky personality and varying levels of importance - she's the only cast member to have been promoted to opening titles and still regularly appear after leaving them.
- Black and Nerdy: African-American and the SVU squad's go-to medical examiner.
- The Coroner
- A Day in the Limelight: "Blast".
- Deadpan Snarker:Stabler: (standing over a burnt corpse) What's on the menu for tonight?Warner: Barbecue. A little too well-done.
- Demoted to Extra: In Season 13.
- Happily Married
- Hello, Nurse!: Or doctor, rather.
- The Medic
- Minored in Asskicking: She was a soldier before joining the SVU, and she's able to use a gun to good effect when she needs to.
- Nerves of Steel: In "Shattered", she was shot in the chest by a crazed suspect, and still kept her cool long enough to talk Olivia through performing an emergency medical procedure long enough to keep her alive. The woman has guts.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: In season 7.
- Quip to Black: Often sets these up.
A.D.A Casey Novak
Played By: Diane Neal
- Ambiguously Bi: Hinted at in her first few episodes. Casey is shown to be a very Tomboyish individual, riding her bike to work, wearing hoodies in the office, and being awfully knowledgeable about fishing (fairly innocuous). Then it's revealed she plays softball (slightly less innocuous). And then, this exchange with a witness happened:Ian: James used to always talk about how happy he was that he was gay. He said guys are so much more fun.Casey: *laughs* Yeah, I agree with James.
- Anti-Hero: Frequently bends the rules in order to do the right thing- or at least what she thinks is the right thing.
- Beauty Mark: One of the many benefits of being played by Diane Neal.
- Broken Bird: Specially because her schizophrenic fiancé was drug-addicted and abusive, and and after she finally kicked him out, he died in the streets.) There's also the episode in which she gets the crap beaten out of her by a man angry that she's prosecuting his sister's rapist.
- Commuting on a Bus: Makes a guest appearance in season 12 and then a few more in 13.
- Crusading Lawyer: Not even Donald Rumsfeld is safe from being subpeona'd by her. Gets particularly like this in cases involving mental illness. It doesn't end well for her.
- Deadpan Snarker: A little more comical and joking, with some of the best quips in the series (Diane Neal is a comedienne), but definitely hinting at Snark Knight later on in her run.
- Domestic Abuse: Casey's schizophrenic ex-fiancee was abusive, and in rather graphic detail.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: In season 7 and some of 8.
- Fiery Redhead: Bonus points for '90s Hair in season 5. Then it gets brought back in season 9, but Hotter and Sexier.
- Hello, Attorney!: DIANE NEAL. Even with the stupid hair in the beginning.
- Honor Before Reason: The stunt that got her suspended had no chance of working. She knew it. She did it anyway.
Stabler: Casey, it's not worth it. Look, what good does it do anybody for you to kill your career?Novak: If that is justice, I don't want it.
- In "Poison", she goes after a misogynist judge that made clearly biased judgments and had many friends within the judicial community against the advice of another lawyer as well as Elliot of all people.
- Meaningful Name: "Casey" means "brave", and she is fond of making risky decisions in her tenure on the show.
- Ms. Fanservice: What results when a former model with a raspy voice plays a character that wears a lot of tight skirts. Especially in later seasons when the makeup department started layering on the eye shadow.
- Must Have Caffeine:Casey: Every second of every day.
- Passionate Sports Girl: Plays softball, and appears to be rather athletic in general.
- Plucky Girl: It really pisses the characters off at first, but they get used to it.
- Put on a Bus: Gets suspended in "Cold".
- Refuge in Audacity: She subpoenaed the Secretary of Defense. Arthur Branch was not amused.
- Retcon: Her disbarment, despite being stated on screen as such, was eventually declared a censure later on down the line, likely so she can have further appearances. In fairness, the information came from ADA Greylek could very easily have gotten wrong information/made an assertion based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, which would have been perfectly in character. Indeed Elizabeth Donnelly's exact words were "censure, possible suspension," never even mentioning disbarment.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: "If this is justice, then I don't want this career."
- She's Back In Reparations.
- Ship Tease: Had a bit with Chester Lake in his first appearance and in the Season 9 finale, though this immediately got sunk since he's off to prison at the end of the episode.
- Statuesque Stunner: Diane Neal is 5' 10".
- What the Hell, Hero?: To the point where she eventually gets suspended for a few years.
A.D.A Kim Greylek
Played By: Michaela McManus
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl
- Brainy Brunette
- Hello, Attorney!: Unpopular as she was, no one denies that she was attractive.
- Informed Ability: Apparently she used to be called "The Crusader". We get no evidence of this.
- Plucky Girl: It somewhat annoys the detectives, but that hardly slows her down.
- Put on a Bus: In "Lead".
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Gets put on the bus rather quickly in "Lead" note and replaced by Cabot. And the season hadn't reached the halfway point.
- Temporary Scrappy: Was brought on after Casey's censure and suspension at the end of the previous season, didn't endear herself to fans very much, was replaced with Alex in "Lead", mid-episode.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Only around for about half a season
- What the Hell, Hero?: Goaded a suspect into attacking her, just so she made sure she didn't get away with her alleged crime.
Sgt. Michael 'Mike' Dodds
Played By: Andy KarlThe son of SVU's Deputy Chief, William Dodds, Mike is drafted in at the beginning of the seventeenth season to serve as Benson's second-in-command following her promotion to Lieutenant. At first appearing to be his father's proxy, he clashes with the team due to his clinical approach, but his eyes are soon opened to the realities of working at SVU. As of the season finale, his desire to do what's right has brought him lethal consequences.
- By-the-Book Cop
- Heroic Sacrifice: Saves a woman from being shot by her abusive husband in a hostage situation... only to wind up shot himself, and later dying from complications. On his last day at SVU, to boot. He's the only policing member of SVU to have died in the line of duty.
- I Am Not My Father: A rare example in that his relationship with his father is pretty good, but he makes it clear that his professional loyalties lie with SVU.Dodds: (to Benson) I just want you to know, what happens at SVU stays at SVU. You have my word.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Before the team warms up to him, his suggestions on how to improve productivity at SVU come across as this.
- Nepotism: Appears to be played straight at first. His father is the Deputy Chief, after all, and he's not above name-dropping his father if it'll help with a case, but he proves to be a competent officer in his own right.Tutuola: Dodds' oldest son, huh? Wonder how he got this job.
- Parental Favoritism: Has a drug addict brother called Matt. His father is open about his preference for Mike.
- Reasonable Authority Figure
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: To an extent. He uses his relationship with his father to get around bureaucracy quicker, but doesn't use it to outright manipulate people.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Killed off just as the audience was beginning to get to know him.
Det. Brian Cassidy
Played By: Dean WintersA detective formerly employed by the Special Victims Unit. He started out as a naive newcomer to the squad, but he couldn't take the graphic nature of the crimes and transferred to narcotics. Flashforward to the Season 13 finale, and we find him undercover and far less naive. He is now a recurring character, and stuck working at IAB. Oh, and he's dating and living with Benson.
- Break the Cutie: Done purposely in-universe, in Cassidy's first season, when Cragen sends him to investigate a particularly brutal gang rape to see if he can handle SVU. He can't.
- The Bus Came Back:
- Returned in the Season 13 finale, "Rhodium Nights", as an undercover cop, and has now become a recurring character and Benson's boyfriend.
- Back on the bus after amicably breaking up with Benson.
- Characterization Marches On: He returns for the Season 13 finale totally different—they might as well be different characters. He went from being the overly passionate rookie to a pervy perp who enables and has sex with underage sex traffickers. He's actually playing a part while undercover, although he's still far more gruff than his first appearances. There was also the implication that he might have been a dirty cop, although this turned out to be false.
- A Day in the Limelight: "Internal Affairs."
- Distinguishing Mark: A scar on the inside of his thigh, used to show who has had sex with him.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: He seems very attached to his mother, and even takes Olivia on a date to have dinner with her.
- Good Is Not Nice: When he's re-introduced in season 13.
- I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Averted when he's presented with a test while undercover, ordered to "break in" a prostitute. He takes her into a room but makes an excuse and does not actually have sex with her. Later, after the prostitute accuses him of rape, the prosecutor tries to use this trope against him in court anyway.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: When he returns in season 13, he's not the friendliest guy, but he is ultimately on the side of good.
- New Meat: Like Liv in the first season, but he ultimately can't handle SVU and leaves.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero : When Cassidy is on trial for rape, his lawyer's attempt to discredit Amaro's testimony unwittingly causes it to come to light that Amaro has a son he never knew about... which comes as a complete shock to Amaro himself, who only learns the news when he gets suddenly sued for child support. On top of that, Amaro then discovers his son is being groomed as a drug runner by his stepfather, and goes full Papa Wolf about getting the kid out of there. Cassidy, who had meant to make Amaro look bad on the witness stand but not to throw his life into total chaos, ends up helping Amaro take down the drug dealer stepfather.
- Put on a Bus: Sex Crimes became too much for him so Cragen recommends his transfer to Narcotics.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Cassidy's breakup with Benson coincides with Dean Winters' other television show getting picked up.
- Token Evil Teammate: While not necessarily evil, he is stuck at IAB for the foreseeable future.
Det. Danielle Beck
Played By: Connie Nielson
- Action Girl: Refuses to let Elliot protect her or keep her from operations.
- Broken Bird: She ultimately can't handle the nature of the crimes that SVU handles and after a particularly brutal case involving abusive parents and their treatment of children under their care, she leaves.
- Hot-Blooded: Gives Elliot a run for his money until Elliot tells her she can't keep railroading victims into giving her information.
- Plucky Girl: Until she realizes that she can't handle the cases with children.
- Temporary Substitute: For Liv while she was off playing undercover with an environmental group.
Capt. Steven Harris
Played By: Adam Baldwin
Capt. Ed Tucker
Played By: Robert John BurkePart of the Internal Affairs Bureau who has it out for the SVU.
- Character Development: Finally eases up on SVU fifteen seasons into the show, and is even casual and friendly enough with Benson to share drinks with her on occasion.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: As a member of the Internal Affairs Bureau, he serves an important function: investigating members of the police who have gone bad or otherwise stepped out of bounds. No one really likes it when he comes knocking, though, especially since he has it out for SVU and Stabler in particular.
- Internal Affairs: Played up to the full extent of the office's antagonism. Cragen and Benson explain to Amaro that he is fairly out to get them.
- Heel–Face Turn: It's been building up for years, but as of the Season 17 Finale, it's finally become official: he leaves Internal Affairs to join the ESU's Hostage Negotiation Unit and gets a Relationship Upgrade with Benson.
- Jerkass: Generally, though select cases will have even him backing up SVU.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Considering how more than one episode has involved innocent people having their lives ruined by the frequently overzealous efforts of the SVU detectives once they're convinced of a suspect's guilt (Stabler certainly but even Olivia and Capt. Cragen at times), and it's a wonder why any of them still have their badges.
- Lawful Stupid: Refuses to back down from targeting SVU officers until there is no chance of success left available.
- Pet the Dog:
- Admits to Amaro in "Amaro's One-Eighty" that he would have reacted even more poorly to people shooting at his family.
- Tucker and IAB even take Olivia's side against William Lewis, when evidence is "inconclusive", and suggests she share a story that isn't necessarily the truth, that would allow them to close the case without further incident. Of course, none of the detectives at this point trust him to keep his word, but he does anyway.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Says of Cassidy (to Cassidy's girlfriend no less!), "Even for a mick he's thick."
- Relationship Upgrade: With Olivia in Season 17.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Fifteen seasons into the show (!), Tucker is shown to express some actual sympathy when he's called to investigate Amaro and Benson for things he knows full well aren't their fault.
- Windmill Crusader: Simply believes it is a matter of time before SVU cops go bad, and as such focuses on their department in particular. This extends to people who work with SVU, such as FBI Agent Dr. Huang, who the Internal Affairs Board doesn't even have jurisdiction over. He even admits to Benson that the reason he joined IAB in the first place was because he has trust issues.
Lt. Declan Murphy
Played By: Donal Logue
- Badass: His introduction episode establishes him as this.
- Da Chief: Takes over this role late in season 15.
- Indy Ploy: When Rollins shows up as a potential Spanner in the Works to his undercover scheme in "Gambler's Fallacy," Murphy improvises a role for her.
- Reasonable Authority Figure
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Donal Logue's other television show, Gotham, got picked up. Murphy gets Put on a Bus with a sudden undercover assignment in the season 15 finale.
- Replacement Scrappy: Amazingly averted both in-universe and in fandom, given how beloved Capt. Cragen was.
- Urine Trouble: Pisses his pants as part of a ploy to gain a perp's sympathy (It Makes Sense in Context).
- What Is One Man's Life in Comparison?: Carries this philosophy in the way he works.
- He perjures himself regarding Liv's admission before the grand jury to make sure that the grand jury thinks about the fact that William Lewis - a complete psychopath - is now off the streets because of what Liv did, even if she went entirely against protocol.
- He ruins an undercover sting that SVU is holding for the sake of finding one girl that is caught up in a prostitution ring and he chews them for focusing on saving one girl instead of finding a way to take the entire group down.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: He tries to think of the big picture whenever he's undercover and whenever he's the CO at SVU - small victories don't matter when a larger one can be won.
Det. Nate Kendall
Played By: Wentworth Miller
- Cowboy Cop: Much more than Stabler, which the latter even finds surprising.
- Karma Houdini: If he did killed the season 11 premiere suspect of the week.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Due to being much more of a Cowboy Cop than Stabler causes him to actually put SVU's cases in jeopardy.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: See all of the entries above.
- The Unreveal: Whether he actually killed the season 11 premiere suspect of the week or not is not yet revealed to this day.
Det. Ashok Ramsey
Played By: Naveen Andrews
- Badass Bookworm: As a detective in the financial crimes unit, he can analyze your bank records AND kick your ass.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Notable as a rare complete aversion of this trope, as he, Benson and Stabler don't hesitate to team up when their cases overlap.
- Scary Minority Suspect: Subverted — he's initially treated this way by the perp of the week, and later plays the part to help the detectives trick her.
- The Wise Prince: He came from a very rich family.
Assistant District Attorneys
Played By: Judith Light
- First-Name Basis: Frequently goes from "Your Honor" or "Judge Donnelly" to "Elizabeth" when speaking with Alex and Casey on more personal matters.
- It's Personal: Steps down from the bench for a case in Season 10's "Persona" due to her connection with the defendant (see Person as Verb below).
- Jerk Ass
- Person as Verb: As revealed in "Persona", when she inadvertently facilitated a defendant's escape from authorities, a DA goofing up big time became known as "Doing a Donnelly".
- Reasonable Authority Figure
A.D.A Sonya Paxton
Played By: Christine Lahti
- Control Freak: Stabler accuses her of being this during his "Reason You Suck" Speech in Solitary. Paxton did not take it well.
- Defiant to the End: See Man Bites Man below.
- Fiery Redhead: She can be very feisty and overbearing.
- Genre Savvy: During the interrogation of a suspect in Sugar, Paxton was the only one who realized that the suspect was being a little too cooperative, as if he wanted them to think he was the murderer. Turns out he was covering for his daughter.
- Heroic Sacrifice: She did this while managing to get the DNA of a perp for an important case.
- Jerk Ass: Occasionally crosses over into The Bully.
- Jerk Ass Has A Point: While not the most pleasant individual, her attitude is a necessity when dealing with someone like Stabler.
- Lady Drunk: An alcoholic.
- Man Bites Man: Her Last Stand against her killer.
- Off the Wagon: As of "Hammered". And in court, no less.
- Paper Tiger: Despite her tough as nails attitude in public, when confronted with actual violence (such as during the climax of Sugar), her composure shatters pretty quickly.
- Pet the Dog: After a cleared suspect pushes Stabler off a roof out of fear of being sent back to jail where he spent his entire sentence in solitary, Paxton refuses to let him off despite Stabler not wanting to press any charges. However, she does agree to keep him in general population where he can hopefully get some therapy.
- Later, in "Gray": when Stabler's daughter Kathleen took a suspect's disciplinary file, Sonya is almost forced to put her on the stand, which could see her expelled from college. It took some convincing from Stabler, but she eventually relented and decided to state that a confidential informant obtained the file, so Kathleen wouldn't need to be subpoenaed.
- Pride Before a Fall
- Temporary Substitute
- Temporary Scrappy
- This Is Gonna Suck: In "Gray", when the trial judge recuses herself due to dirty laundry the defense dug up and was replaced with the judge that ordered her to go to rehab after her drunken faux pas in "Hammered".Sonya: "We're screwed. Officially."
- The Unfettered: She holds back at almost nothing just to win a case.
Played By: Sharon Stone
- Everyone Loves Blondes: It's Sharon Stone.
- Hello, Attorney!: Again, it's Sharon Stone.
- Ill Girl: In her final appearance, she reveals that she has breast cancer.
Dr. Rebecca Hendrix
Played By: Mary Stuart Masterson
- Idiot Ball: Mistakenly assumed the picture a girl drew of her abuser was her coach. The girl, a terrified nine-year-old child who was browbeaten and pressured by her and Elliot into making the accusation, went along with it to put a stop to it. It actually was the local Jerk Jock, and after Elliot realizes the huge fuck-up, he gets the dude caught.
- Never My Fault: Somehow shrugs off responsibility for above mentioned Idiot Ball, yet criticizes mothers for doing the same thing and then says the wrong man was accused because the abuser had the girl so frightened. Later ignores that a man's murder was in consequence of her actions.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: It's her primary character trait, but unlike the other characters, she lets it detrimentally get in the way of her job, so much so that she quit being a police officer and then is fired as a doctor after that. In "Identity", she was warned that her career would be in jeopardy if she told the unknowingly and forcibly transgender girl that he was born a boy. She did it anyway.
- The Shrink
Forensic Science Unit
Forensic Technician Burt Trevor
Played By: Daniel Sunjata
- Put on a Bus: After "Families" O'Halloran permanently took over his duties without mentions of what happened to him.
Forensic Technician Ryan O'Halloran
Played By: Mike Doyle
- Alone with the Psycho: An inversion in that O'Halloran only sees that the computer found a DNA match before he's stabbed by said killer. Elliot only figured it out when he saw the actual results on the screen and by then he's arrived too late to save O'Halloran. Averted in that The Cavalry that arrives ends up captured.
- A Death in the Limelight: He was featured rather prominently during season 10, and especially during "Zebras".
- He Knows Too Much: The reason why Stuckey killed him
- The Lab Rat: Was the main Forensic Technician season 5 to season 10.
- Shorter Means Smarter: The shortest person in just about any scene he appears in, and a highly competent forensic technician who has produced case making evidence for the detectives many times over.
- Stuffed into the Fridge: Stuckey murdered him mostly because he uncovered the truth, but took some satisfaction in taunting Elliot with his death.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: NBC made a big deal of SVU losing one of their own in the trailers for the episodes, but we knew next to nothing about O'Halloran, despite him being around for several seasons.
CSU Technician Dale Stuckey
Played By: Noel Fisher
- Because You Were Nice to Me: The reason that Stuckey didn't want to kill Benson, although he was still willing to when she walked in on him about to kill Stabler.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Does not take criticism well. At all. Although to be fair: while he was annoying, he also didn't need every single other character in the show bullying him. It eventually gets to the point where even his meaningful contributions get shot down.
- Catchphrase: "Bing Bang Bong."
- The Lab Rat
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Is initially (a little too) enthusiastic about working with the detectives and helping get scum off the streets, and Stabler is at first polite even though he finds him irritating. Soon, Stabler keeps dropping more and more hints at just how much Stuckey annoys him, built on by every other member of the squad. When Stabler finally starts physically pushing Stuckey around like a high school bully and Cragen blows him off for complaining, Stuckey goes off the deep end.
- Temporary Scrappy: Everyone in the SVU absolutely hated him for being extremely annoying and doing many screw ups (such as calling the press to a crime scene to nearly cutting a body by using his shovel). By the end hardly anyone did not roll their eyes when he walked in. And then he gets dangerous. Thankfully, he's only around for a few episodes.
- Villain Has a Point: Yes, Stuckey is annoying as shit, but he still didn't need to have every single other character on the show bullying him and shooting down even his meaningful contributions, such as his explanation of phone spoofing in "Crush". He gets a Pet the Dog moment from Olivia in "Zebras", but by then it's too little too late.
- Who's Laughing Now?
TARU Technician Ruben Morales
Played By: Joel de la Fuente
- Ascended Extra: He goes from a nameless background guy to having his own It's Personal episode.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Vanished without explanation later in the series.
- Mauve Shirt: Graduates to this over the course of the series.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Zigged-zagged. After the detectives use kinship DNA, he believes it'll lead to Jumping Off The Slippery Slope. His worries are not completely unfounded, especially when Elliot says he's okay with infringing with civil liberties for what he thinks is the greater good. Later he disobeys Cragen's orders to shutdown a kiddie porn site in order to keep the pedophiles from going to unmonitored ones. However this results in a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moment where owner of said site is able to escape with pedophiles' help.
Played By: Barry Bostwick
- Amoral Attorney: Even other defense attorneys consider him to be a bottom feeder.
- Insanity Defense: "Not guilty by mental disease or defect" is his legal M.O.
- Magnificent Bastard: Inverted. Gates considers himself this but all of his defense strategies are based on variations of "not guilty by reason of mental insanity or defect" rather than countering the prosecution's case. He also has a habit of not digging any further into his client's case than surface level, which cost him his case in "Hate."
- Opportunistic Bastard: When a client murders an Islamic prison mate, Gates uses it to argue that his client is not responsible for his actions due to being "hard-wired" to hate Muslims. He later unsuccessfully defended a teenage murder suspect, only to later convince his client to sue his girlfriend for emotional distress after it was discovered she was actually a 30-year old woman posing as a 17-year old girl.
- Smug Snake: To the point that he takes pride in it.
Played By: Beverly D'Angelo
Played By: Peter Hermann
Played By: Viola Davis
- Jerkass Has a Point: She nails Casey on withholding evidence... and is completely right.
Played By: Glenne Headley
- Crusading Lawyer: A child advocacy lawyer, she's called the "Mother Theresa of Children's Rights".
- A Friend in Need: Her first client was actually a 16 year old Olivia Benson. When Liv later becomes an SVU detective, she sometimes refers abused children to Bryce.
- To Be Lawful or Good: She went so far as to use an outrageous defense argument she knew to be false because she respected the wishes of her client to keep the circumstances behind the crime a secret.
Played By: Alex Kingston
Played By: Andre Braugher
- The Atoner: It's quickly mentioned in his backstory that Ellis formerly defended drug lords, then took the money and switched over to civil rights causes.
- Fire-Forged Friends: In their first episode together, Benson was devastated because Ellis got a guilty rapist off the hook. By midway through Season 14, after finding themselves on the same side several times, they have come to like and respect each other a great deal.
- Good Is Not Dumb: He's compassionate and extends himself to help Benson many times, but he needs only the smallest of verbal clues to figure out her relationship with EADA Hayden and use it to his advantage.
- Hero Antagonist: Despite occasionally being at loggerheads with the SVU squad, it becomes clear that Ellis is genuinely committed to his principles.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Andre Braugher's role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is probably the reason why Ellis hasn't appeared in a while.
Played By: CCH Pounder
- Villainous Rescue: Downplayed. Not so much villain, but she was hired to defend Stabler's daughter in court, with the reason specifically given that they wanted the biggest shark of a defense attorney they could find.
Played By: Ned Eisenberg
- Smug Snake: Often seems to actually take pleasure in getting obviously guilty people off the hook.
Played By: David Thornton
- Amoral Attorney: Granger once let his client, a mentally-challenged teenager whom he knew could not properly testify, on the stand. He was almost disbarred by (now Judge) Barry Moredock. Oh yeah, he also represented his client's molester, before victim killed said molester for which he was now on trial for. Great guy.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: He's fond of filing these in retaliation, no matter how ridiculous they may be.
- Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: His law firm's clientele don't have the best track record.
- Smug Snake: He's a jackass, even by defense attorney standards.
Played By: Elizabeth Marvel
- The Atoner: Is very aware that her actions in "Criminal Pathology" has affected how Liv and Barba view her and decides to work a few cases pro bono, including a case in which she helps build a case against a young man who might have sexually assaulted a young woman.
- Broken Pedestal: Though she maintains plausible deniability of her clients' actions in most cases, the Season 17 opening episodes have her clearly defending a murderer. Alongside Buchanan. Barba clearly loses a bit of respect of her for doing so.
- Deadpan Snarker: She’s one of the few A.D.A.s who can go head-to-head with Barba in court with just as much snark and she has this gem in "Legitimate Rape":Purcell: I was just trying to show her how much I loved her.Calhoun: By spying on her, menacing her, and humiliating her publicly? Ever heard of flowers?
- Friendly Enemy: She's defended people SVU have tried to help and has even represented Amaro in court and acted as counsel to Benson when IAB investigates her involvement in the death of William Lewis.
- Only in It for the Money: Though money doesn't seem to be her primary motivator for what she does, she has the briefest of these moments in "Criminal Pathology", in which a deal she's attempting to negotiate with Barba is falling short of her expectations:Calhoun: A public defender could [[negotiate for that much of a plea bargain]]. This man is paying for more.Barba: ...I hope here's enough money in the world, Rita, I really do.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: For all the times she's lost cases because of SVU and Barba, she's still willing to act in their defense if the situation calls for it. The fact that Barba himself doesn't hesitate to ask her for assistance says a lot for how much he trusts her to do her job. Best exhibited when comparing her appearances in Post-Mortem Blues and Spousal Privilege. In the former, she acts as Benson's representative and is quick to warn the SVU detectives of the ways IAB and the Brooklyn DA can exploit weaknesses, whereas in the latter she doesn't hesitate to knock down Benson's credibility a few notches in court for the sake of her client.
- The Rival: It seems like she is this to Barba. They mutually respect the other's abilities in court and are quick to snipe at the other off the record and in front of the cameras.
- Statuesque Stunner: Especially when standing next to Barba.
Played By: Francie Swift
- Face–Heel Turn: A lesser version. She used to be an ADA but for some reason she's now a DA.
Played By: Nia Vardalos
- Beware the Silly Ones: She appears kind of frumpy and goofy, but is capable of handing Barba his ass in court.
- Foil: To Rafael Barba. Both her fashion sense and verbal style are more coarse and blunt compared to Barba's suit porn and sharp tongue, yet she's a strong adversary.
- Punch Clock Villain
- Refuge in Audacity: Not quite to strangle-me-with-a-belt levels, but like Barba, she's willing to go there."What am I thinking right now? That I wish I’d had a second cup of coffee before court this morning? Or that Mr. Barba’s prosecution is so wrong, that he should be taken out and shot?"
Played By: Reg E. Cathey
- Amoral Attorney: Even by the usual L&O standards of portraying defense attorneys this way. As Cassidy describes him, "He's a fantastic lawyer if you're guilty, but he sucks if you're innocent."
- Badass Baritone: Whatever else you can say for the guy, he has an awesomely deep voice.
- Enemy Mine: Agrees to help the detectives take down his former employer Bart Ganzel.
- Et Tu, Brute?: For just a moment, he appears genuinely shaken to find out his employer is not only a huge racist but setting him up to take the fall for a laundry list of crimes.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Ganzel's racism and plot to frame Querns inspires this.
Played By: Delaney Williams
- Amoral Attorney: A rather noteworthy example in the show - he goes after victims to a truly disgusting degree, and even manages to get away with quipping, "I'm sorry if I was too rough with you," to a young woman on the stand who was brutally raped.
- Fat Bastard: Large and completely awful to everyone that isn't his client.
- Only in It for the Money: All his clients tend to share the same thick pockets.
- Smug Snake: Always acts like he's going to win his cases, to an irritating degree.
Played By: Ludacris
- Big Screwed-Up Family: He is biologically the result of his grandfather raping his mother and his mother may have physically/verbally/emotionally abused him as a result of his origins.
- Calling the Old Lady Out: And in court nonetheless!
- Child by Rape: His mother was repeatedly raped by his grandfather.
- The Bad Guy Wins: He gets away with brutally stabbing to death a mother and burying her infant alive.
- Enfante Terrible
- Freudian Excuse: As a Child by Rape, his mother wanted nothing to do to him and it's implied that she threatened him.
- Jerk Ass
- Karma Houdini: He gets away with his crime on top of ruining Fin, Liv, and Elliot's reputations as officers, with little consequence except for the fact that the one family member that may have loved him no longer wants anything to do with him.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Got away with murdering both a woman and her infant son, humiliated his abusive mother in court, and permanently soiled the records of the SVU detectives. However, doing so cost Darius the love of Fin's son Ken (who was also Darius' half brother and quite possibly the only family member who cared about him) and was suggested that he'll live the rest of his life in fear that Fin will be looking for any chance to bust him.
- The Unfavorite: Because of his origins.
Played By: John Cullum
- Amoral Attorney: An extremely rare positive portrayal. Moredock is known to defend clients he finds morally reprehensible, including Neo-Nazis, child murderers, and pornographers, all because he is a firm believer in the Constitution and the right to a fair trial.
- Anti-Villain: While he's a defense attorney, he's not a bad guy at all; he's shown to get along with former student Alex and, later, Casey quite well. His biggest concern is making sure his clients get a fair defense; specifically, he takes cases where he feels the defendants are having their constitutional rights violated. Even if he personally doesn't agree with their views, he maintains that everyone has rights under the law, and is willing to risk a contempt of court charge to stand up for his client's rights. The only thing really "bad" about him is that he's on the opposite side of the protagonists, and this eventually changes when he becomes a judge.
- Friendly Enemy: Has worked with both Cabot and Novak on separate occasions.
- Graceful Loser: In his first appearance, he loses a case to Alex and graciously congratulates her on her victory, then cheerfully notes that there's still an appeal process.
- Heel–Face Turn: Downplayed. He's not much of a villain, even when serving as the defense for the side opposite the SVU team. However, when he becomes a judge, his antagonism with the detectives disappears entirely, alongside many of his more negative character traits.
- Rules Lawyer: Very strict on his constitutional law interpretations.
- Smug Snake: Comes off this way at first. However, he does temper this with being a Graceful Loser, and being willing to admit when he's only defending his client due to a legal interest and does not approve of their actions personally. For example, when defending a Neo Nazi who killed a Jewish child and a black child on a playground:Casey: Have you had a conversation with him?Barry: Yes, and I find every word he spews morally repugnant. But his speech, despicable as it may be, doesn't entitle anyone to trample all over his constitutional rights, now, does it?
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivers an epic ass-ripping to Lionel Granger when the latter engages in some particularly shady legal tactics.
Played by Marcia Gay Harden
- American Accents: Southern drawl.
- The Atoner: Much of her devotion to law enforcement is out of guilt for killing her romantic rival in a blind rage. When she can no longer hide from it, she goes quietly.
- Biker Babe: Benson and Stabler met her riding a Harley at one time.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Killed her ex's fiancee when she got pregnant. Granted, said ex told Dana to get an abortion when she got pregnant and dumped her shortly thereafter...
- Rape as Drama: The episode "Penetration" revolves around her solving her own rape.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The above was based on a real-life murder.
- Running Gag: Whenever Dana arrives, Elliot gets hurt: first time, Elliot got shot by a neo-Nazi; second time, he was knocked out by a bomb; third time, Dana actually hurts Elliot as a result of a bullet ricocheting and hitting him in the arm. The only reason he wasn't hurt in her later appearances was because he was Put on a Bus.
- Undercover Cop Reveal: Was first introduced as a member of a neo-Nazi group named Star Morrison. Revealed herself to be an undercover fed during a courtroom shootout.
- Played by Lindsay Pulsipher
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: She's dedicated to her abusive boyfriend, Jeff. At least until she has him killed.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: How she manipulates her older sister.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: She sets up her boyfriend to be killed and then frames her sister for it.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Foolish to Amanda’s Responsible.
- Genre Blindness: Her attempt to seduce Guile Hero Amaro and wring some sympathy out of him, after spectacularly stabbing Amanda in the back, works out for her about as well as you would think.
- Manipulative Bitch: Kim tries to frame Amanda for murder, but is out-manipulated by Amaro. When she's finally caught, she's seen manipulating her lawyer, who is so enamored with her that she thinks that he's going to propose once she's out of jail.
- The Resenter: Claims she was the one who wanted to be a cop, but Amanda "took" that from her.
- Thicker Than Water: Averted, as she has no qualms about throwing Amanda under the bus for her own selfish gain.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Unbelievable, considering she was already an ungrateful jerk in her first appearance, but she manages it when she returns in "Deadly Ambition."
- Ungrateful Bastard: Repays Amanda's care by screwing her over.
Played by Pablo Schreiber
- Arch-Nemesis: To Benson.
- Arc Villain: In season 15.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Has a penchant for tying up his victims, heating up keys and branding victims, and burning them with cigarettes in addition to the usual rape and sodomy.
- Diabolus ex Nihilo:
- His character made a point of frequently changing his alias as he traveled across the country to evade police (either by switching his first and last names or altering their spelling)and when the SVU squad first holds him for questioning, he is reluctant to tell them when and where he was born and makes up a bunch of lies instead. Despite the fact that his character is the main focus for at least 4 episodes, Lewis' life before he dedicated his life to being a criminal is never discovered; probably because by the time NYPD realized just who and what they were dealing with, his origins were no longer a priority.
- In the Season 15 premiere, he actually tells a very disturbing story from his childhood which he implies was the root of him becoming a heartless, criminal. he watched his father beat and rape his babysitter right in front of him.
- His character made a point of frequently changing his alias as he traveled across the country to evade police (either by switching his first and last names or altering their spelling)and when the SVU squad first holds him for questioning, he is reluctant to tell them when and where he was born and makes up a bunch of lies instead. Despite the fact that his character is the main focus for at least 4 episodes, Lewis' life before he dedicated his life to being a criminal is never discovered; probably because by the time NYPD realized just who and what they were dealing with, his origins were no longer a priority.
- Evil Gloating: Lewis thoroughly enjoys doing this, particularly to scare/piss off Benson. He is so twisted that he was willing to testify in open court that he raped and sodomized Benson after he kidnapped her, even though he did no such thing and clearly just wanted to see her humiliated in front of her peers.
- Evil Is Bigger: The fact that William Lewis towers over all the other characters is pretty hard to miss.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: The fact that he was a violent psychopath who enjoyed causing others pain and suffering seemed to be his only unattractive trait. Lewis often used his charming good looks to help trick women into seeing him as just an innocent, misunderstood creature rather than the reincarnation of pure evil itself (whenever he does manage to lawyer up, said lawyer is ALWAYS female).
- Faux Affably Evil: One of the most disturbing traits about him is that he is not a stereotypical criminal; Lewis is charming, handsome, intelligent and articulate and he knows it, which is why he uses these traits to his advantage when he goes on his crime sprees and it is also how he manages to escape trial and conviction multiple times.
- A Fool for a Client
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Pretty much how his character progresses from when he is first introduced until his ultimate death.
- Has a Type: Various people have pointed out that Lewis seemed to have a thing for redheads (or vice versa). Zigzagged when it's shown that his sexual sadism has no specific "type."
- He-Man Woman Hater: Slightly zigzagged. He mostly victimizes women, as his main goal is to traumatize them long enough to cause permanent lifelong damage. However he was shown having no problem with killing men in cold blood (either because they were in his way or he simply felt like it). One could argue that killing a person quickly is more humane than torturing someone for hours (or days) at a time until they are begging for death as a means of escaping their agony.
- Invincible Villain: He appears to be this for a while due to him cheating death more than once.
- Karma Houdini: With his charm and intelligence, Lewis is a master manipulator who at his trial for kidnapping and torturing Benson, convinced a jury to acquit him of all charges except kidnapping and assaulting a police officer. He later escapes and manages to capture and torture Benson some more until, with the police closing in, he manages to permanently escape their grasp by committing suicide.
- Kick the Dog: Like it's his job! He (basically) admits in one episode that this is pretty much his whole purpose for living, and makes no apologies for it.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Who wasn't cheering when Olivia beat him within an inch of his life?
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Pablo Schreiber's real-life disposition. At 6'5'', while incredibly menacing and intimidating as the loathsome William Lewis, Schreiber is in reality by all accounts a "friendly goofball" with an easy-going personality. Admitted that he often hugged Mariska Hargitay after filming their intense scenes together.
- The Mentally Disturbed: Zig-zagged a bit. Lewis is fully aware of all of the horrible things he does (to others and himself) but rather than remorse and empathy, he gains mental and physical enjoyment and even arousal from causing himself and others pain and suffering. There's a scene in the episode "Surrender Benson" where the detectives discover that Lewis killed the father of his lawyer/girlfriend, and not only raped and tortured the mother, but forced Olivia to watch the entire ordeal. In the very next scene, Lewis is shown casually driving a stolen car while cheerfully singing along to the show-tune song playing on the radio as if the previous events never even happened.
- Not Quite Dead: Olivia Benson (seemingly) beats him to death with a metal bedpost while he is handcuffed to a bed. It is later discovered that he not only survived, but died and came back to life no less than 4 times on his way to the hospital; the beating however does leave Lewis with permanent physical damage; he ends up being deaf in his left ear and partially blind in his left eye. Later on he suffers a seizure due to an overdose of a prescription drug and appears to be dying but survives that as well. In an even more bizarre twist, the medical doctors who were treating him cannot figure out how or why this occurred, stating that according to their findings, "He should still be dead." In the end he meets his demise by taking his own life: a single gunshot to the skull.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: He's initially picked up for flashing and seems like a garden variety perv, until he's not.
- Obfuscating Insanity: Things like burning his fingertips seem Ax-Crazy at first, but he very coldly uses them to his advantage.
- More often than not, averted for this character. William Lewis is a bona fide violent psychopath, is frequently impulsive with his actions, shows very little remorse for his actions and lacks empathy for others. If anything any time he exhibited "normal" behavior, it was usually a front used to mask his true mentality and intentions.
- Offstage Villainy: Subverted in the Season 15 premiere episode "Surrender Benson". While it is clear that Lewis has tortured and violated Olivia physically, much of his abuse isn't seen on-screen and much about her ordeal is left up to the imagination of the audience. For example the episode begins with Olivia slowly regaining consciousness (she's gagged, bound to a chair and lying on the floor). Moments later the audience can clearly see an ashtray laying near her head, filled with cigarette butts, her face is also swollen and bruised. It can only be implied what Lewis did to her before the start of the episode.
- Also in the scene at the beach house, after Lewis tosses (a still bound and gagged) Olivia onto the bed, she gestures to him that she needs to use the toilet. After watching her struggle for a moment to stand up on her own, he helps her up and they appear to start to make their way to the bathroom down the hall but that's where the scene ends. Again, the audience has to paint a picture for themselves what happens after that (no doubt something humiliating and degrading on Olivia's part).
- One Steve Limit: Averted. He's no relation to Dana Lewis, above (or is he?)
- For the record, SVU has a habit of repeatedly recycling the last names of characters throughout the run of the series, despite the fact that these characters are clearly not related in any way. It's usually portrayed as just being a "coincidence".
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: From teenaged girls (and possibly younger) to elderly women, this character is a prime example of this trope.
- Sadist : When Olivia goes limp after agreeing to let him rape her instead of his young hostage, Lewis gets bored and moves on to something else, because he gets off on the struggle.
- Soft-Spoken Sadist: Lewis tended to speak in a soft, sweet tone when threatening/torturing his victims, which made him all the more frightening.
- Except in the episode "Psycho/Therapist" when he was cross-examining/humiliating Olivia Benson when she had to testify against him in court; watching this seemingly always stoic psychopath suddenly fly into a raging fit is possibly more terrifying than when he used his light and breathy tone.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lewis gives one of these to Olivia Benson and it nearly costs him his life.
- Villains Never Lie: One of the cruel ironies about his screwed up personality; Lewis tended to only lie when trying to plead his "innocence" front of the police, in front of his attorney or in open court. However whenever he was already engaging in illegal activity, he rarely lied or bluffed, even calling himself "a man of his word", especially if you happen to be his next potential victim. Basically if he said he was going to do something to you (or to someone else), it was pretty much a done deal. Sadly, there was virtually NO limit to the things that he did.
- He tended not to lie to Olivia when it was just the two of them alone. For example when Lewis is driving a stolen car with Liv laying bound and gagged in the backseat and the car gets pulled over by a cop. Lewis tells Liv that if the cop notices that anything is amiss, he will kill him ("One move and he's dead.") Unfortunately the young male cop does begin to get suspicious of Lewis' behavior but just as he's barely beginning to question Lewis about what's in the back seat, he briefly stuns the cop by punching him in the face, takes the cops gun, then shoots him in the head point-blank.
- Would Hit a Girl: Strongly subverted. Lewis' main reason for existing seemed to be for the purpose of sexually humiliating women. Even worse, he made no exceptions when it came to the age of his victims; from women in their 60's to a girl in her mid-teens.
- Would Hurt a Child:
- Lewis didn't seem to have anything against assaulting pre-pubescent girls as well. In the episode "Surrender Benson" when Lewis is just a few seconds away from removing Olivia's pants in order to rape her he is interrupted by the unannounced arrival of the cleaning woman knocking on the front door. He answers the door, apparently intent on getting rid of the cleaning woman and doesn't seem very interested in her until he notices that she's brought her 5-year-old daughter along, which seems to suddenly spark his interest and he immediately ushers both mother and daughter inside the house. He later comments that the 5-year-old girl (named 'Luisa') is "a cutie" in a tone that is far from innocent.
- In "Beast's Obsession" Lewis kidnaps a 12-year-old girl, and makes several sickening comments about her being on the cusp of puberty (just on the verge of becoming a woman but still physically resembling a child). He makes possibly the most revolting comment when talking to Olivia Benson about the young girl, stating quite bluntly that he's "going to be her first" (a statement that pretty much speaks for itself). moments after leading a handcuffed Olivia to where the young, frightened girl is tied up by her arms, he gives Olivia an ultimatum: to either let herself be raped by Lewis and force the girl to watch, or she can choose to let him rape the girl first while Olivia watches instead. He makes it clear that he is fine either way.
Dr. Greg Yates
Played by Dallas Roberts
- Intercontinuity Crossover : With Chicago P.D. .
- Interplay of Sex and Violence : As a sexual sadist, he not only enjoys raping and murdering his victims, he is aroused by the description of such acts. This turns out to be his downfall, in addition to creeping out everyone in the courtroom.
- You All Meet in a Cell : Inverted. Yates and Rudnick knew each other in medical school. After he was convicted, Yates assisted the SVU team in putting away Rudnick. Then they connected in jail and master-minded an escape.
Dr. Carl Rudnick
Played by Jefferson Mays
Bronwyn Freed Wilkins
Played by Sarah Storm
- All Girls Want Bad Boys : And how. She could be the poster child for hybristophilia. After serving as a juror during William Lewis' trial, she helps him break out of prison, then she's visible in the jury for Rudnick's case. After Rudnick is convicted she helps Yates and Rudnick escape from prison. You'd think NY would learn to screen their jurors a little better.
- Bound and Gagged : How the team finds her. Still defending her friends.
- Chekhov's Gunman : Appears in the background a few times before her role is revealed.
- Jail Bake : A goodie basket and a lasagna lunch.
- Meaningful Name: Bronwyn Freed.