Characters: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
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Sergeant Olivia Benson
A 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.
A 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: See Conspiracy Theorist below.
- 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.
- Conspiracy Theorist: And he's the most rational of all the main characters.
- Deadpan Snarker: Has a sarcastic comment for almost everything.
- Dirty Old Man
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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Put on a Bus: 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.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: According to ThatOtherWiki, this is because every time Munch appears in an episode, the producers have to pay royalty fees to David Simon, author of Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the book which Homicide: Life on the Street is based on. In fact, besides Simon, the producers also had to get permission from Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, the executive producers of Homicide: Life on the Street. Thankfully, both men agreed to waive their royalty rights.
- NBC has always had to pay David Simon when Munch made an appearance and yet in early years he made frequent appearances, the problem is not money (which they make tons of) but the fact that the writers just can't seem to write Munch, possibly because they feel they can't live up to Homicide's standards.
- Quip to Black: He and Elliot are tied for these.
- 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 / Actor On Board: We're not clear which one.
- Almost certainly Actor On Board given the content of his books and stand-up comedy act. Read "UF Os, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Believe" for a good example.
- When Belzer was on Homicide he was most definitely a case of Actor on Board, given he described Munch as being 'Me as a cop', and the writers wrote to Belzer's strengths. It's no surprise that the character hasn't lost these traits in his transfer to SVU.
Cap. Donald Cragen
Played By: Dann Florek
The 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.
- 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.
- Bald of Awesome
- Berserk Button: As much as he chews them out, he is very protective of his detectives, and the ADAs as well.
- After a man brutally assaulted Casey, he mentioned he'd like to throw the man did it out of a window.
- Alex, too: when a drug cartel puts out a hit on her, he gives her one of his guns and mentions he already had a friend put the permit in her name.
- In "Internal Affairs," when it's revealed that Lt. Tucker from IAB deliberately let the SVU detectives and Cassidy walk into a trap, Cragen is visibly furious and throws him out of his precinct.
- 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.
- Justified, with the amount of trouble his detectives cause.
- 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.
- 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. Odafin "Fin" Tutuola
A 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.
- A Day in the Limelight: Took on the case of the day on his own in "Anchor".
- The Atoner: A couple times, usually having to do with narcotics cases.
- Berserk Button: Go ahead. Hurt Amanda.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Good Is Not Soft: Possibly the finest example out of all the characters.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hidden Depths: According to the official Twitter Account, Fin enjoys Shakespearan tragedies, his favorite being Cymbeline.
- 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.
- 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.
- Out-of-Character Moment / Jerkass Ball: 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
- Rated M for Manly
- 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. Elliot Stabler
A 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.
- Bald of Awesome: Balding, but fully awesome.
- Berserk Button: Do not, under any circumstances, mess with his kids (or Olivia) in any way. He has also shown himself to be very protective of Casey as well.
- One example had him bash a pedo's face in Just for having an old school picture of his youngest daughter. Justified as the Pedo in question had it on a database designed to basically give other pedo's something to masturbate to so they don't go raping kids for real.
- 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 Oliva's hothead.
- 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
- Exalted Torturer
- 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.
- Heroic BSOD: 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.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
- 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
- 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.
- Overprotective Dad and Papa Wolf - one of the rare cases where it overlaps with Abusive Parents
- He was rather protective of Olivia as well.
- 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."
- "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.
- Quip to Black: Tied with Munch for these.
- Tall, Dark and 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 Hurd
A police detective with Manhattan's Special Victims Unit and was one of the initial detectives in the SVU squad.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: For about half of season 1 upon Cassidy's departure.
- Put on a Bus
- The Bus Came Back: We later find she's been transferred to Vice and collaborates with SVU again in one episode.
- 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 Pino
A 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.
- 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.
- Berserk Button:
- More than one villain has contacted his family, leading to a predictably enraged reaction.
- Violence against women is another one, if the way he goes off on the perp attacking Rollins in "Double Strands" is any indication. It's also implied in "Amaro's One-Eighty" when the grand jury prosecutor zeroes in on the fact that Amaro was defending a female officer as a possible reason why he used excessive force. There is a good reason for this, Amaro's father used to regularly beat his mother and Amaro himself.
- 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 BSOD 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.
- Manipulative Bastard: On the other side of the coin, both Benson and his own wife have called Amaro out on trying to slip an interrogation into an otherwise innocuous conversation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Latino Is Brown: Averted. His daughter on the other hand plays this straight.
- 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 Berserk Button 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Berserk Button 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. Amanda Rollins
Played By: Kelli Giddish
A 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You Look Familiar: Kelli Giddish played a victim earlier in the series.
- Your Cheating Heart: Finds out very publicly and very humiliatingly that her boyfriend is cheating on her. With the suspect of the week, no less!
Det. Chester Lake
Detective 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 one with Casey Novak 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
- Tall, Dark and Handsome
- Tall, Dark and Snarky
- Token Minority: Only Native American recurring character on the series.
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.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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"
- Commuting on a Bus: Has been in the main cast in two separate timespans, as well as several guest appearances.
- 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 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: BD Wong
An 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.
- 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.
- When a pedophile rights group in "Hardwired" claims that persecuting them is no different than homophobia, he angrily says that "Pseudoscience like this insults my intelligence as a psychiatrist and my humanity as a gay man."
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Out-of-Character Moment/OOC 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.
- The Profiler: Often called upon to play this role if needed. More commonly, he evaluates suspects after they've already been arrested.
- Reassigned 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...
- Not So Stoic: As mentioned under Berserk Button, 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.
- Straight Gay: Heavily hinted at for several years and then finally confirmed.
- Token Minority: The only prominent Asian character. Counts as Twofer Token Minority once his sexuality is revealed.
Dr. Melinda Warner
Played By: Tamara Tunie
The 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.
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.
- 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: We learn that 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.
- As opposed to the "smart" blonde hair she had that made the fandom possibly intentionally confuse her with Cabot?
- Honor Before Reason / Idiot Ball: The stunt that got her suspended had no chance of working. She knew it. She did it anyway.
- 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 eyeshadow.
- 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 character who delivered the news could very easily have gotten wrong information/made an assertion based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.
- Greylek's assertion about Casey is totally in line with her character.
- Indeed Elizabeth Donnelly's exact words were "censure, possible suspension."
- 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 one with Chester Lake 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.
- You Look Familiar: Diane Neal played a rapist in season 3's "Ridicule". This gets Lampshaded.
A.D.A Kim Greylek
Played By: Michaela McManus
- Informed Ability: Apparently she used to be called "The Crusader". We get no evidence of this.
- 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.
A.D.A Rafael Barba
Played By: Raúl Esparza
The 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. "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.
- 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.
- Berserk Button: He's quiet about it, but Barba responds with absolute fury toward an opposing lawyer when their client threatens Benson in "Betrayal's Climax."
- Do not under any circumstances abuse your powers as a judge to overturn a guilty verdict Rafael Barba has fought tooth and nail for.
- 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.
- Author Appeal: Raúl Esparza tweets and instagrams about food a lot.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: She doesn't say she's being abused, but we can't take her word for it.
Barba: I take your word for it all the time.
- 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?
- 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 probably still loves).
- Negated Moment of Awesome: In "Reasonable Doubt," anticipation builds for Barba's cross-examination of the Woody Allen-Roman Polanski 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.
- OOC 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 men who raped a prostitute.
- 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 and UST: 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 is his Berserk Button in episodes such as Betrayal's Climax.
- 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.
- You Look Familiar: Raul Esparza had one-off roles on both the Mothership and Criminal Intent.
Det. Brian Cassidy
Played By: Dean Winters
A 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.
- 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 Morally Ambiguous 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
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero / Must Make Amends: 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Replacement Scrappy: In-universe example. The squad are not particularly pleased that he is replacing Captain Cragen, even temporarily.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Knows that SVU not liking him isn't a personal thing and doesn't really hold it against them when they're irritated with his changes.
Lt. Ed Tucker
Part of the Internal Affairs Bureau who has it out for the SVU.
- 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.
- Jerkass: Generally, though select cases will have even him backing up SVU.
- 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."
- 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.
Lt. Declan Murphy
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.
Assistant District Attorneys
Elizabeth Donnelly (ADA Bureau Chief, later a Judge)
Played By: Judith Light
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.
- 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
- Obnoxious Snarker: When Benson asks her not to smoke in the non-smoking police headquarters, Paxton mockingly asks, "What are you gonna do? Arrest me?" In a later episode, when she calls out Stabler's bluff to report her to the DA for slapping him, she smirks and comments that "You may have lost your balls...But I still got mine."
- 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.
- Pride Before a Fall
- Temporary Substitute
- Temporary Scrappy
Played By: Leslie Hendrix
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.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: 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
CSU Captain Judith Siper
Played By: Caren Browning
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.
- You Look Familiar: Played a bomb squad officer once in "Remorse". His successor actually made an early debut in an episode with 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
- Stuffed into the Fridge: Stuckey murdered him mostly because he uncovered the truth, but took some satisfaction in taunting Elliot with his death.
- The Lab Rat: Was the main Forensic Technician season 5 to season 10
- 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
- You Look Familiar: He looks a lot like M.E. Karlan, doesn't he?
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.
- Who's Laughing Now?
CSU Technician Millie Vizcarrondo
Played By: Paula Garcés
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.
Tropes that apply to Defense Attorneys
- Deal with the Devil: Sometimes the DA is forced to make these. The trials they're not, they're likely...
- Friendly Enemy: When there are extenuating circumstances (ex. a defendant who's a victim of a larger crime), SVU's willing to work with the Defense.
Played By: Barry Bostwick
- Amoral Attorney: Even other defense attorneys consider him to be a bottom feeder.
- 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
- Jerk Ass: Nothing nice ever seems to come out of her mouth whenever she's in the same room with the detectives
- Insanity Defense: Her main tactic. However, with some of her clients, it isn't entirely unwarranted.
- Obnoxious Snarker: A prime example is when she invites herself into the crime lab and comments throughout. When Munch tries to keep her from seeing the crime report she calls him "Munchkins".
- Sarcasm Mode: Balthus seems permanently stuck on this setting.
Played By: Peter Hermann
Played By: Viola Davis
Played By: Annie Potts
Played By: Glenne Headley
- 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.
- Crusading Lawyer: A child advocacy lawyer, she's called the "Mother Theresa of Children's Rights".
- 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: Jill Marie Lawrence
Morton "Morty" Berger
Played By: Michael Lerner
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 Brooklyn99 is probably the reason why Ellis hasn't appeared in a while.
- 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.
- You Look Familiar: Also played DA James Granick in Law & Order, and appeared two different roles in Criminal Intent.
Played By: Viola Davis
Played By: Peter Riegert
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: Joe Grifasi
Played By: Elizabeth Marvel
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
Barry Moredock (Defense Attorney, later a Judge)
Played By: John Cullum
- 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. 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.
- Heel-Face Turn: Not immediately. He starts out serving as the defense for the side opposite the SVU team, but by the time he's a judge, he's not nearly as much of douchebag.
- 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?
- 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...
- 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
Played by Pablo Schreiber
- Arch-Nemesis: To Benson.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Various people have pointed out that Lewis seemed to have a thing for redheads (or vice versa).
- 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.
- Gentle Giant: 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.
- 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 amazing performance as the vile William Lewis caused many fans of the show to fuse his character with his real life persona; to the point where he was receiving hateful and threatening messages. Schreiber himself has admitted that in the future he plans on playing the 'good guy' more often so people can see what a truly sweet person he is. To contrast, there are a handful of photos on the internet of he and his on-screen arch enemy (Mariska Hargitay) being quite chummy with one another when they weren't filming.
- 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.
- 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.
- Squick: Lewis is not shy about spouting out sentences dripping with sexual violence (sometimes while smiling) and it's enough to make just about anyone squirm.
- The last few minutes of "Beast's Obsession" include a scene of Lewis attempting to rape a bound and helpless Olivia Benson. Lewis gropes Olivia's breasts and forcefully kisses her while she's handcuffed and bent over a table. Add the incredibly disturbing sound of him loudly panting in her ear as he's assaulting her and it's no wonder many fans admitted to being triggered by this image.
- "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 / Would Hurt a Child: 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.
- 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.