Stabler. Whether he's a hero who defends children from perverts or a borderline psychopath who uses that as an excuse to indulge his violent tendencies on Acceptable Targets is debatable.
Then there's Olivia. Does her backstory of being a Child Of Rape grant her a deeper insight into the psyche of the victims, allowing her to empathize with them to the point that she's willing to risk her job to get them justice? Or has it made her an emotional basket case who can't maintain the emotional detachment and impartiality needed to do her job properly?
Anvilicious: The show has about as much subtlety as getting banged over the head with a 2x4 that has "X is bad!" on it.
In addition, on many issues the show will at least attempt to present both sides, and many episodes end with neither side fully vindicated. In many cases, this takes the form of a deconstruction of the detectives' behavior. In other cases, Huang and Munch give serious objections to the other characters suggestions.
Stabler's separation from his wife and ensuing family drama lasted from the second episode of the sixth season to the very last episode of the eighth, and in the opinions of many fans, outstayed its welcome. Recurring attempts in the tenth season to bring back Stabler family drama with the Stabler kids were not well-received at all by the fans.
Armed with Canon: Warren Leight pulled this on previous showrunners in the Season 16 finale, with Olivia telling Amaro "I grew more in the 4 years with you as my partner than with the 12 I was with him" (meaning Stabler). Ohhhh yes, fans were pissed.
Base-Breaking Character: Dale Stuckey was another one. Some fans loved the fact that an off-the-wall and quirky character was brought into an otherwise serious show and looked at him as comic relief. Other fans were simply annoyed by his non-chalant, insensitive attitude and his continuous screw-ups and either flipped the channel or muted the volume whenever he was on.
Broken Base: Obviously being a Long Runner, this was bound to happen, especially regarding the more recent, Stabler-less seasons. Some fans like the refreshing change of pace that Warren Leight has brought to the show in which it is now as it was in the earliest seasons, an ensemble show and the angle of focusing more on the detectives' personal lives a la Homicide: Life on the Street. Other fans feel this is a huge mistake as it takes focus away from the true nature of the show and adds even more gratuitous drama and boring and schmaltzy storylines (and these fans also remember the "improvements" that Leight added to Law & Order: Criminal Intent... which they believe eventually ran the show into the ground.)
Jo Marlowe. The fans almost universally hate her guts, and yet the four episodes she's in, it seemed like the writers are forcing her down our throats. Doesn't help Sharon Stone's performance was not well-received. The execs took the hint and by season 12 she was gone.
Critical Research Failure: in "Imposter", Barba tries a guy who seduces women by pretending to be a college admissions director who can help the women's kids get into college. Barba acknowledges that rape by fraud is not a crime in New York, but then talks about getting the case to a jury. The problem: if what someone has not broken a specific law, the case will never see a jury — because the judge will kick it out, and may put sanctions on the prosecutor. (Not to mention that the defendant may turn around and sue for malicious prosecution and wrongful arrest.) Later, the judge in the case hand waves his failure to dismiss the case by saying that no judge would kick out a rape case without hearing all the evidence. Except that's the judge's job when the prosecution has failed to articulate a crime in his indictment. The judge's failure to do this could subject him to "getting his pants pulled down and his reputation sullied in public" as he so put it. After all, his decision is subject to review by the appeals court and even the federal courts, given that the defendant's Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated. Contrary to what the judge says, using the word "rape" doesn't get around that.
Designated Hero: Stabler—he's bigoted, abusive, neglects his kids and can be borderline psychotic at times. But he's good enough at collaring criminals to keep his badge. No matter how many laws he seems to break in the process.
Designated Villain: As part of the show's Protagonist-Centered Morality, I.A. officer Ed Tucker is frequently vilified in plot for his constant efforts to bring the SVU detectives up on charges, never mind that the entire point of Internal Affairs is to maintain the integrity of the police and protect the public from abuse. And considering how more than one episode has involved innocent people having their lives ruined by the frequently overzealous efforts of the SVU detectives once they're convinced of a suspect's guilt (Stabler certainly but even Olivia and Capt Cragen at times), and Stabler has flat out tortured a suspect when he didn't have any sort of anti-torture laws to hold him back, and it's a wonder why any of them still have their badges.
Pretty much anyone who stands in opposition to the SVU detectives for whatever reason is this such as IA, the Brass, defense attorneys, or social workers.
Dani Beck, Olivia's Suspiciously Similar Substitute who actually got to kiss Elliot before departing. In their defense, Dani was a widow who had gone through quite a hard time, and Elliot was still separated from Kathy.. Both Kathy and Dani are reviled and bashed by Elliot x Olivia shippers, despite Word of God on how Stabler and Olivia will NOT hook up
(Likewise, Casey was often subjected to death for the Alex/Olivia ship, primarily for not being Alex.)
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Although the show usually takes pains to point out that these crimes are horrific and carry devastating consequences, many critics have nevertheless pointed out that there is also a tendency for the show to get a lot of lurid and sensationalist entertainment mileage out of them as well.
Draco in Leather Pants: The fact that the actor portraying William Lewis happens to be a tall, attractive man has caused female fans of the show to start a fan base surrounding the fictional character.
Munch is considered one of the most beloved characters in the entire franchise.
Fin is one, with some preferring his partnership with Munch over the partnership of Stabler and Benson.
George Huang, due to being perceived as the Only Sane Man and a consistently active aversion to the main Hetero Normative Crusader tone of the show, as well as never bringing personal drama to the job.
Rafael Barba has become this to people who miss Huang. He is also perceived as the Only Sane Man and comes off as annoyed by the lack of professionalism at SVU. Needless to say, even people who hate the show love him and Raúl Esparza's performance. He may not be outdoing Cabot and Novak on the "Most Beloved ADA" charts yet, but he is damn close.
Declan Murphy is beloved by the fanbase due to his attitude and good nature, helped by Donal Logue's phenomenal acting (the man can flawlessly pull off multiple identities in a season due to Murphy's role as an undercover cop).
"Birthright" centered around a mother kidnapping the daughter of another couple convinced she was her own missing daughter, and the detectives found out the two mothers went to the same fertility doctor and he implanted the first woman's eggs in the second, so the girl actually was her biological daughter. A custody battle ensued, and on advice from Elliot, Casey grilled the girl about the confusion over her parents until the biological mother called the trial off, unwilling to put the girl through such an ordeal. We're supposed to be relieved, but this would seem to imply that the biological mother loved the girl more than her parents, not to mention Casey deliberately confusing the poor child to the point of tears to see who would crack and give her up.
The ending to Wrong is Right tells us that fantasizing about killing suspects is bad. Unless they're a Complete Monster, then it's okay.
Fanon Discontinuity: As far as the Stabler fangirls are concerned, season 13 onwards does not exist. In this they are eagerly joined by fans of Marcia Gay Harden's recurring character Dana Lewis, who definitely didn't get sent to jail for murdering someone out of jealousy and then framing someone else for it. Her last appearance was in season 12, which was the show's last.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The second season premiere had at one point a place holder that gave the date as September 11th. A couple of scenes later, the Twin Towers can clearly be seen in the background while Munch talks to his government contact.
Growing the Beard: More like abruptly changing for the better. As of Season 13, there is no Unstabler, no illegal interrogations, no laws being broken, less Idiot Balls being tossed around, and of the two It's Personal episodes, one was low key and the other was actually handled completely according to protocol.
Ham and Cheese: As the series goes on, B.D. Wong seems to have adopted this attitude toward some of Huang's scenes and dialogue.
The episode "Personal Fouls" aired on September 28, 2011. The episode was about a well respected basketball coach who was accused of sexual molestation. The coach used the charity that he had set up for at-risk youth to prey upon the young boys of his liking. About six weeks after this episode aired, the Penn State sex scandal broke. And the stories were even more horrifying than what was in this episode. The next week had a couple use a fake kidnapping to cover up the accidental death of their baby, which seemed to have inspired an actual case of fake kidnapping cover-up.
Another sports related one from the same season as "Personal Fouls". In "Spiraling Down", we see an ex-football star named Jake Stanton who gets in trouble for patronizing a prostitute and then indecent exposure. It's revealed that he has CTE, which is a disease that degenerates the brain as a result of many concussions. After it's found apparent that he was not of the right mind, the episode ends with Stanton taking a gun from a cop and then committing suicide by shooting himself in the chest. While this is based loosely on what Dave Duerson did in early 2011, the episode rings even more harsh when you consider that Chargers star Junior Seau recently passed as result to a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the chest.
Way back in the beginning of the series, the detectives were searching for someone who was killing men who were getting "serviced" in their cars while the women were left unharmed. While discussing possible motives, Stabler suggested the killer was a loser who wasn't getting any himself. In 2014, Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, after recording a manifesto that, among other things, included a rant about his outrage that no woman would have sex with him. The shooting eventually became the topic of the "Holden's Manifesto" episode.
In a season 14 episode, Barba is talking about a domestic violence case with Benson, and he happily says that a girl he loved in high school "could have massacred my entire family and I would have looked the other way." Two years later, we have learned that his relationship with both parents was strained, Barba never having gained his mother's approval and his deceased father being implied to have been abusive. No wonder he wouldn't have minded.
The episode where Robin Williams played the Villain of the Week, which ended with the strong implication that his character committed suicide to avoid capture. Williams died in 2014, and his death was indeed a suicide.
The episode Amaro's One-Eighty, has an unarmed black teenager being shot, leading to a media frenzy surrounding the shooting and drawing attention to the police brutality. The detectives intentionally try to block the investigation or make sure it's only handled by friends who are willing to look the other way, explaining that the cop will be a victim of the media and made a pariah for police brutality, therefore the case should just be dropped. Despite this the case leads to protests against police and a recording of the shooting leaks to the internet. Ultimately the case only gets as far as a grand jury who decide not to indict, and the cop is largely let off scot-free. The episode aired in January 2014, and in August of that same year, Michael Brown's shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, saw all of these events happen for real. The episode feels incredibly bizarre, especially with the Internal Affairs agents inspecting the case being treated as bullies and SVU being framed as heroes for trying to bury details given the uncooperative response of the Ferguson and St. Louis police departments in the shooting's aftermath. And for the topic of a shooting that gets recorded and put onto the internet...just see the entry below.
The episode "Comic Perversion" is about a comedian making rape jokes. Given the Bill Cosby scandal that unfolded nearly a year later, it's very uncomfortable to watch. Though it may cross over into Hilarious in Hindsight if people relate it to Hannibal Buress' routine rather than the scandal that unfolded afterwards.
"Criminal Stories" is about the rape of a Muslim woman being declared a hoax, eerily similar to the University of Virginia Rolling Stone rape hoax.
Elliot's frequent application of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique was always pretty hard to watch, but in The New '10s, after the character was written off the show, many American police departments became marred by corruption and brutality scandals in quick succession, so nowadays it's hard to see him as any better than the crooks.
One episode involved a woman being raped during a hotel's opening and accusing an employee, which turned out to be a scam to sue the hotel. Brian Banks was sent to jail after a teenage girl said he raped her...and then sued the school for a fortune. Both stories have Bittersweet Endings; the woman in the show went to jail when the guy she accused was killed in prison, making her responsible under felony murder laws, while Banks got his accuser on tape admitting that she lied after he was released, and has been cleared of all charges and given a shot at getting his interrupted football career back. note Oh, and his accuser was successfully sued by the school for the money back. Which she already spent and has no feasible way of earning, so millions in taxpayer money have been flushed down the drain.
A popular Beta Couple in fanfiction to Elliot/Olivia had been George/Alex... and then "Hardwired" gave canon confirmation that George was gay, jossing every single one of those fics.
Which is, of course, particularly amusing if you ship Alex with Olivia.
Or George and Elliot.
A recurring defense attorney is a British woman named Miranda Pond; others might recognize her as River Song, AKA Melody Pond, daughter of Amy Pond. It's probably a coincidence, considering Miranda first appeared in 2009 and River's real name wasn't revealed until 2011.
BD Wong voiced the love interest of Mulan in the feature film. Some people fall under the interpretation that Shang (the character he voiced) was having problems with his sexuality during the movie since he possible falls in love with Mulan when she is disguised as a male. Huang is eventually revealed to be gay later in the show. Also an Actor Allusion, since BD Wong is himself gay.
In "Lessons Learned," the defense attorney argues: "What next? Is Mr. Barba going to bring in a cannibal to tell us how eating people is wholesome and healthy?" Which is really funny when you consider Raúl Esparza's other TV gig.
"If Kathie gets pregnant again, I'll shoot myself", said Stabler in the episode "Choice". Three seasons later...
Inferred Holocaust: Due to the ineptitude of the parties involved it is highly unlikely that a lot of the cases, for example "Contagious", will end in a conviction due to the substantial amount of reasonable doubt the cops give the defense.
As completely unlikeable as Elliot can be, you can really feel for him, especially when he realizes he's been a neglectful dad and tries to make amends with his kids but is pushed away.
Haley from "Informed". She was a rape victim... and also a radical eco-terrorist who nearly blew up a building with a homemade bomb.
Though he could be annoying and ultimately became a spree killer, Dale Stuckey did have moments when the abuse heaped on him seemed greatly disproportionate such as when he explained how a teen used spoofing to threaten another girl only for O'Halloran to dismiss it as Stuckey wasting their time or in his final appearance when Stabler physically assaulted him, Stuckey demanded that Cragen write Stabler up for it, and Cragen outright told him that Stuckey's completely valid complaint which would have gotten a real life detective fired or even brought up on charges wasn't worth the trouble.
The killer in "Wrath" was wrongly convicted of rape and abused by other inmates for years, so it's unsurprising that he finally snapped and sought Revenge by Proxy on his arresting officer: Benson. However, she rightfully points out that he's not so innocent anymore due to killing others just to hurt her (though it's still possible to feel somewhat sympathetic toward him when he corrects her: he only made the Asshole Victim suffer, whereas the others were quickly and painlessly Mercy Killed).
Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Alex/Olivia and Elliot/Olivia are the juggernauts, but fans have also happily picked up shipping her with new cast additions Rollins, Amaro and Barba. Her canon relationship with Brian Cassidy also has its fans.
Magnificent Bastard: Darius Parker or Fin's stepson. Not only does he commit one of the most heinous crimes described on SVU by murdering a woman, raping her with his KNIFE, and then burying her 14-month-old son alive, but he walks, even after confessing to the crime. How? first he mentions that he has an upcoming burglary case before he confesses to the crime while waving his right to counsel. However, because he mentions his upcoming case, it is implied that he should have counsel present, making his confession and the bodies discovered by that confession inadmissible in court. He then goes to trial and picks apart the prosecution's case while airing Fin and Stabler's dirty laundry, getting the Judge recused from the case by mention the DUI of Stabler's daughter, and getting his mother to reveal that she hates him because he was the child of her rape(by his grandfather/father).
Stabler has his moments as well. The opening of one episode showed Stabler unscrewing the bottom of the leg of a chair so it wobbled, loosened a light so it flickered, and turned up the thermostat, all to unnerve a suspect he was about to interview and knew would be hard to crack.
Alex Cabot always pulls it off with grace and style, so you tend not to notice and/or care.
Too many instances to count, but special mention goes to "Bullseye": The perp of the day has a strong but noticeably vague English-esque accent, but when his sister shows up for The Reveal, she's introduced as being from Delaware, and her accent is thickly Southern. "Butcha kept awn raypin'!"
"The monkey is in the basketball." Up there with "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" as one of the most memetically ridiculous moments in the entire L&O franchise.
"Intimidation Game". Like so many crime shows before it, it tries to tackle video games and internet culture complete with video game-related one-liners ("They leveled up," the K.O.B.S. taunts in general ranging from "Prepare to be slaughtered" to "LEVEL UP!" and "GAME ON NYPD!" which are simply impossible to take seriously. And then there's the non-ironic use of "There is no reset button in real life"). The random first person camera perspective near the end meant to emulate a first person shooter just came across as jarring. Even better is that the episode's Downer Ending is followed by "Executive Producer: Dick Wolf", which is unintentionally hilarious in a video gamecontext.
Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: Usually played straight, but one episode, in quick succession, had the detectives talking up a promiscuous female vic's sexual partners: Bobby Flay, Mark McGrath, and a baseball player, all playing Expies of themselves. It's not any of them; just sweeps.
The baseball player was Jesse Palmer, who is known for being an extremely forgettable NFL Quarterback
Subverted in the 2009 season finale: The killer is very quickly found to be a very paranoid That Yellow Bastard and one of his allies is Munch's paranoid ex-wife Simka Gravas, however most of the actual killings were done by a recurring character who was introduced at the beginning of the season.
Completely averted when Bill Pullman appears as a reporter who is secretly dating Benson; he only appears in one scene. The two break up at the end of the episode, and he is never seen again.
A semi-subversion in Bedtime had 4 famous (from 25+ years ago) guest stars: Ann-Margaret, Jaclyn Smith, Morgan Fairchild and Susan Anton. Only one of them did it. And in the show, she's no angel.
Averted in an episode with John Stamos as a smarmy, proud ladies man who everyone wanted to punch in the face and had over 40 illegitimate children. Everything looks like SVU is roading up to railroad him into prison when he's suddenly murdered.
It looks like subverting and averting this trope is a major goal of Warren Leight in Season 13. Most notably, in back to back episodes: Eric Close (married to Sonya Walger) was the focus of the ads for "Father Dearest," which made it appear he was the perp. In the episode, it seems like it's him until 2/3rds of the way through, when we find out it's not. We first see the real rapist's face when he's arrested: It's James Van Der Beek, who wasn't in the promos. Then, in "Learning Curve," Tony Hale and Jane Adams are both falsely accused by Dylan Minette to hide his actual statutory rape by a minor character we had seen throughout the episode. Oh, and Martha Stewart is in there too as Adams' former boss for some reason.
Nausea Fuel: Part of one episode took place at a really unsanitary meatpacking plant, with gratuitous shots of cockroaches and mouse droppings.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Yeah, nice job sharing your personal opinions about a perp within earshot of a man with mental issues, Beck.
Paranoia Fuel: Pretty much every episode if you are a woman who lives alone or who has children or who leaves the house.
Or if you're a man involved with a woman who does any of those things.
Or if you're a man who does any of those things. There have certainly been enough male rape victims on this show.
The tactics the SVU detectives use to convict criminals or trick them into confessing, including their railroading of suspects who have only circumstantial evidence behind them, can start to give watchers rather pressing paranoia about cops.
Recycled Script: SVU has a nasty habit of doing this with the original and then adding The Unfair Sex aspects to the plot. For example the episode "Bitter Fruit" a young girl is kidnapped between school and her music lesson and later killed. While it was questionable exactly who did it due to the fact that they both were Jerkasses. In the end it turns out it was the mother and while she tried to blame her ex husband she was given the maximum sentence. However “Shattered” had the exact same plot only they eliminated all of the ex husbands jerkassiness while transforming the mother into the biggest Misandrist that they possibly could. It turns out that it was the father who kidnapped his son even though that made absolutely no sense.
Casey Novak was not warmly welcomed by all corners of the fandom. However, as the show went on and Casey began to prove that she was, in fact, a fairly awesome character in her own right, most fans warmed up to her; they still bemoaned Cabot's departure, but not because they disliked Casey, who is now generally considered the second-best ADA the show has ever had.
Kathleen Stabler is one as well. In addition to being seen as an obnoxious troublemaker by the fans, the episode where it's learned that not only is she bi-polar, but Stabler's never-before seen (or since) mother is as well was narmish on its head and failed to actually make her more likable and her actions better understood.
Carisi is getting there. Following fan-favorites like Munch and Cragen, he was bound to have a hard time being endeared to fans, but even after he's been on awhile, he doesn't have that many fans of his own.
The most famous Scrappy has to be Dani Beck who becomes Stabler's partner when Olivia is given an assignment for the FBI. She's more prone to action which leads to almost being knifed by a perp, acts unprofessional to the point where Stabler actually lectures her, her temper is even shorter than Stabler's, her negative words against a perp drove John Munch's unstable uncle to push him into an oncoming train, and she never had a really powerful way to be written out unlike Chester Lake. She also got to kiss Stabler which really set off the Elliot/Olivia fans' Berserk Button since their relationship never got passed past the platonic stage.
Seasonal Rot: The show suffered heavily from this, although it's very much a YMMV on when this set in. There was some rumbling of it when Alex Cabot left the show, quite a bit more when Casey Novak went out on an Idiot Ball / Honor Before Reason note, and the rot was unquestionably in swing by the infamous "monkey basketball" episode, which was possibly the nadir of the entire L&O franchise. The show recovered quite a bit in Season 13 (see Growing the Beard, above) with a new showrunner taking over and the introduction of new detectives Amaro and Rollins, both of whom seem specifically written to avoid or subvert the It's Personal cliches that the show had been heavily criticized for.... but come Season 15, many were complaining that the quality had deteriorated, with soap-operaish plots for Rollins, Amaro, and Benson taking the place of courtroom scenes, which meant fans saw little of the one almost universally loved character. The Lewis arc was heavily criticized too, with many seeing it as using rape for a cheap ratings boost.
Ship Sinking: Many Fin/Amanda and Benson/Amaro shippers regard the Amaro/Rollins hookup as this.
Shocking Swerve: "Unstable" involved rapes being committed in the same fashion as some Elliot had already put away a man for. They find the real rapist, he confesses, Elliot goes to apologize to the guy he put away, then the perp falls out of the bathroom window, possibly pushed by that week's guest detective. Without the perp to alocute, they can't get the other guy out of jail. Episode ends.
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.
Strawman Has a Point: Many of the characters with a weird kink or unusual sexual orientation turn out never to have hurt anybody, but the detectives (especially Stabler) think of them as "perverts" or "sickos" who ought to be in jail and it seems like the show expects us to agree with them. A lot of those characters (pedophiles trying desperately to suppress their urges, for instance) come across as more sympathetic than they're probably intended to be.
"Goliath" has an egregious case, wherein the military has been giving anti-malaria meds to soldiers that cause serious psychological problems in perhaps one in every one hundred-fifty people. The Military points out, however, that a few people experiencing some admittedly horrible side effects is still better than thousands of people being unable to fight because of malaria, and the pill is otherwise more efficient than alternatives.
An earlier episode centers around a young woman with Down's Syndrome who became pregnant after being raped. Her 67 year-old mother campaigns throughout most of the episode to have the fetus aborted, and the writers make it clear we're supposed to vilify her at this point. YMMV on her methods, but the points made in court by the mother's attorney are valid nevertheless. The girl clearly had no idea how to properly care for a child and would likely not only fail to be a competent mother, but may endanger the welfare of the potential child.
"Manic" is about a pharmaceutical company marketing anti-depressant medication to previous users of its products. We're supposed to believe that the big evil drug company is big and evil because the boy who took their medication was involved in a shooting where he shot two of his classmates at school. Thing is, they provided the (already FDA approved) anti-depressants free of charge to people who already had been prescribed the meds by their doctors, complete with dosing and usage instructions. The mother of the shooter (who had been taking the drug herself) gave them to her underage son in defiance of the instructions enclosed, without consulting a physician, doing any research, or even telling anyone. She's the only character who is never considered responsible, and the episode ends with the leader protesting that he hasn't done anything wrong, while Alex Cabot has a smug grin on her face as she charges him with murder.
Probably the one with the most Unfortunate Implications involved being "Snitch", where the leader of a gang apparently killed the underage wife of a witness going to testify against him in an upcoming murder trial. When he starts using intimidation tactics to keep the man silent, he's accused of witness tampering. Confronted, he argues just how many times the police have compelled testimonies from criminals in exchange for commuted sentences or have threatened jail time if a witness didn't cooperate. SVU has threatened to and (though very reluctant) thrown rape/abuse victims into lock up. They also have a very nasty track record of making Deal with the Devil all in order to get the bigger fish.
Similarly in "Heartfelt Passages", Sergeant Mike Dodds is leaving SVU for an assignment in the Joint Terrorism Taskforce just as the audience was getting to learn more about him. Instead of having him take the already built up being Put on a Bus, leaving open the door for future appearances, he gets shot in a hostage situation gone bad and ends of dying in the hospital.
Unintentionally Sympathetic: Surprisingly, Mike Jergens in "Starved" has a sympathetic moment. He was responsible for raping several women but when his wife Cora ends up in a vegetative state due to her alcoholism and bulimia making a deadly combination, everything changes. She's essentially brain dead and Mike wants to stop the life support to let her die in dignity while her mother wants her to live. The detectives immediately side with the mother since they think that Mike just wants to get his hands on the money from the insurance policy. It turns out that Mike was right all along since he and Cora witnessed a terrible accident years ago where a young woman ended up in a vegetative state. Cora told Mike that she would never want to live this way if it ever happened to her and her mother sadly agrees that ending life support was for the best. Mike and Virginia form a bit of a truce and he lets her be with her daughter when she's taken off life support. As reprehensible as his actions were and as much doubt everyone had in how much he cared for his wife, he still loved her enough to honor her decision.
Stuckey who despite his tendency to annoy everyone, at times seemed to be a bullying target for the entire SVU department. Quite a few fans were cheering for him when he attempted to torture and kill Stabler, especially since Stabler had physically assaulted him earlier in the episode.
Billy Tripley, the Michael Jackson expy from "Sick". Despite not enough credible evidence to warrant either an arrest or conviction, especially since both accusations were dismissed as being false, in the SVU's mind he's guilty because of his childlike mentality and eccentric lifestyle, seemingly going out of their way to make his medical examination as painful as possible and vowing to "get him next time".
Sandra from "Pops". Lying to cover up for her abusive husband is one thing, actively trying to frame Stabler when he was trying to help her is another.
Monica from "Selfish". Yes, she had every right to not vaccinate her 4 year old child. No, she didn't kill Ashlee's daughter on purpose. But refusing to accept responsibility for her sick son giving Ashlee's daughter an ultimately fatal disease, and violating the laws of common sense by letting her son play with other kids when she knew he was sick, just makes her look like an idiot. The next time the series did an episode about the anti-vaccine movement, it made no attempt whatsoever to treat the anti-vaxxer mother sympathetically.
Michele Osborne from "Birthright". Sure, what her doctor did to her was wrong, but her behavior throughout most of the episode alienates any possibility she had to being sympathetic. She acts very cold when discussing being reunited with her daughter and seems to view her as a trophy rather than a child she loves. Plus, there's the fact that she's either unaware that taking Patty from the only family she's ever known will destroy her or she just doesn't give a damn. Luckily, in the end, she decides to let Patty stay with them.
Darius from "Transgender Bridge" True, he didn't mean to kill the victim, and he was genuinely remorseful afterward, but the fact that, for whatever reason, he deliberately set out to assault a transgendered kid for being transgendered doesn't win him a lot of sympathy. In the end, the judge's ruling, finding him guilty of a hate crime and sentencing him to seven years in prison, is correct given that even the defense expert's testimony ultimately supports the finding that Darius assaulted the victim out of transphobic bias.
"Collateral Damage" centers on the SVU catching a city official in a child pornography sting, but the entire episode is about how sad it is that his family is ruined by his porn addiction and that he's really not such a bad guy; even Olivia says she feels bad for him, his wife is implied to stay with him, and Barba gets him the lightest possible sentence. Why? Because hey, he didn't rape his own children, he just traded in a mountain of kiddie porn for twenty hours a week and stashed it in the bottom of his underwear drawer, it's not like he really hurt anybody!
Hailey in "Transitions" is meant to be seen as a struggling child fighting for the right to be herself, but Hailey is confrontational, out of control, irrational, and violent against just about everyone in her life whether they mean her any harm or not, and she's openly proud of it. Her problems might be exacerbated by her situation, but they don't have anything to do with her gender, and although her mom and dad are a bit clueless and struggling with denial respectively, they don't stop her from living and dressing as a girl. Jackie Blaine is in a similar boat, since she basically tried to kill Hailey's father in revenge for an assault she suffered years ago that had absolutely nothing to do with him, with the excuse that she was protecting Hailey from his "abuse". The abuse in question? Carrying a picture of his own kid in his wallet. After the godawful nightmare that Cheryl Avery went through, hearing a twelve-year-old brat congratulate herself for giving her mother a black eye for catching her sneaking into the house at two in the morning just doesn't work.
The killer in "Perverted". We're supposed to sympathize with him because he was abused in prison. However, unlike the aforementioned killer in "Wrath" (see Jerkass Woobie), this guy actually was a serial rapist, so he was rightfully arrested by Benson — and he flat-out admits to having had no remorse on top of it. The only real point in his favor is that his Asshole Victim — his main tormentor behind bars — was even far worse.
Megan Ramsay from "Repression". It's not her fault that her therapist essentially convinced her she had been abused by her father through a combination of drugs and badgering, but she started seeing that therapist because of her drug abuse, for which her rich parents cut her off and kicked her out of the house. The abuse never happened and her father ends up dead over it, but Megan gets exactly what she wanted from the beginning, and whatever problems she had before meeting the therapist are never addressed. With Megan deliberately fabricating evidence against her father, it's easy to read the situation as Megan throwing her dad under the bus to get back in her wealthy mother's good graces.
Casey and Olivia, as well. Decidedly more blatant because Casey as a character was more touchy-feely than Alex, and arguably teased as bisexual in the first couple of episodes.
Also with Benson and Stabler.
Values Dissonance: Nowadays, it can be jarring to hear how freely the detectives threw around the word "tranny" in earlier seasons.
What an Idiot: In "Dependent," Elliot is being investigated for causing the death of a suspect. The ME rules the suspect's death as a homicide based on the fact that his spleen ruptured... and Olivia, who is right there when this discovery is made, neglects to tell Warner that Elliot gave the suspect CPR. If Elliot hadn't casually brought it up later, Warner would have presented the ruptured spleen as cause of death and Elliot would have gone to jail.
In "Haystack," an absentee father kidnaps his son, causing the indirect death of the mother (via suicide) and attempts a civil suit against Elliot and Casey. At the time, there was no tangible evidence to link him to the kidnapping, that is until he pulled out a second sonogram picture of the baby in open court, after having stolen the other to cover open the kidnapping in the first place. In essence, he handed the prosecution a smoking gun and they buffed him into confessing.
"Child Welfare": Simon, Olivia's brother, gets caught with weed at a traffic stop, which leads to him and his fiance losing his kids. Despite Olivia helping him out and getting a great lawyer, he gets frustrated, and they kidnap the kids from their foster parents. After getting caught, the only way to keep him from facing 25 years in jail is to plead out...which means he can't see his kids outside of supervised visits for three years, and he sure can't get married.
The episode combining inspiration from the Steubenville case thrown into a college frat and sorority setting. "We gang-banged her gangnam style" should win an award for both this and narm AND Critical Research Failure (no, no one gets gang-banged in Psy's song...)
There was an episode in which the team was searching for a female hacker and vigilante who branded rapists. It first premiered around the time that the Millennium Trilogy became popular in the US...
A recent episode this year has a line where a girl being taken away from her man yells at him "I'm not your thot". "Thot" stands for "that hoe over there" and it is becoming a common saying on Twitter and other social media sites this year. The saying make no sense because it is used in the wrong tense
The entirety of "Intimidation Game", to the point of being painfully obvious.
What The Hell, Casting Agency?: Gilbert Gottfried, of all people, as a one-off lab tech in "Lost Traveler". He basically analyzes and traces cell phone evidence, and doesn't speak in his usual voice.
Olivia Benson was conceived through a rape, grew up abused by her alcoholic mother, wrestled with fears of being like him, has been the victim of Attempted Rape three times, two of which were by the same man in the span of a year and included brutal torture, and was abandoned by her partner, who was the only family she had at the time and has trust issues as a result.
Elliot Stabler grew up with an abusive father and bipolar mother who nearly killed him, has struggled with anger issues, has issues with his family and seems unloved at times by his wife and kids, and finally had to leave the force after he was forced to shoot a teenage girl.
Casey was woobified almost immediately upon her introduction to the series, by both her backstory and the traumatic cases she worked. One episode even had her beaten into unconsciousness. By season 9, her crying episodes were a frequent occurrence.
John Munch's last words to his father before the latter killed himself were that he hated him. He has regretted this ever since. His uncle appeared in one episode only to go insane from depression and kill a man.
Odafin Tututola's son and wife are estranged, his nephew who is the product of incestuous rape on said wife commits murder and gets off scot-free, his former partner got shot protecting him which led to his daughter shooting his current partner, and his current partner betrayed his trust.
Nick Amaro grew up in an abusive household and has struggled with anger issues, which cost him his marriage. His wife and daughter have been the target of The Villain Knows Where You Live more than once (perhaps most creepily when he discovers his daughter Zara innocently talking on the phone to a representative of that week's Big Bad), and his daughter and mother were nearly killed by vigilantes shooting at Amaro's house. Padre Sandunguero takes this Up to Eleven, showing Nick having to testify against his father for assaulting his fiancee, having to admit in open court that his father abused him and that he still has nightmares about it, the rest of the Amaro family taking his father's side and gaslighting the hell out of Nick like he's the one who's crazy and emotional, his father being found not guilty, and his father successfully making one last power grab against Nick.
Amanda Rollins is from a Big Screwed-Up Family. Her dad gambled until their mom kicked him out, her mom went through a series of abusive boyfriends, her sister tried to frame her for murder to get insurance money and later cleared out with everything Amanda owned. Amanda also gets beaten up by some loan sharks she owed money to and two years after that, relapses after her current boyfriend is revealed to have been cheating on her on the stand. She was also shot by someone with a grudge against Fin.
Don Cragen lost his wife in a plane crash and is an alcoholic.
Rafael Barba grew up in extreme poverty in a barrio, was bullied, and was never believed in by his mom as much as his best friend was. Said best friend, Alex, also married the woman Barba loved and still loves, Yelina. He comes back while campaigning for mayor and asks for help with their other best friend, Eddie, who has been accused of rape. Barba risks his career to help Eddie and then Alex when suspicion turns to him. In the end, though, he must report Alex. End result: Barba loses Alex and Yelina's friendship, gets called a sellout on national television, turned against by the people of New York City, probably ruining his political future, and is left questioning whether he really did go against Alex because of jealousy. The penultimate scene shows him Drowning My Sorrows. Then there's Padre Sandunguero, where he reveals that his father is deceased, and hints that he may have been abusive as well. Then, in December Solstice, he has to put his sick, injured grandma in a nursing home, but before they can move her in, she dies. And he tells his mom it was his fault.