These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Anvilicious: The show has about as much subtlety as getting hit over the head with a 2x4 that has "X is bad!" on it.
Arc Fatigue: 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.
Creator's Pet: 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-recieved, the exes took the hint and by season 12 she was gone.
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.
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.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Munch is one of, if not the most, beloved characters of the entire franchise.
Fin is also one, to a lesser extent, 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.
Family-Unfriendly Aesop: "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.
Fanon Discontinuity: As far as the Stabler fangirls are concerned, season 13 does not exist.
Fetish: Olivia has been known on occasion to use a suspect's fetish as an interrogation technique.
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.
Harsher in Hindsight: 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.
The episode "Sick," in which the department tries to arrest a celebrity who's obviously modelled after Michael Jackson, is a little uncomfortable to watch after Jackson's death.
Hilarious in Hindsight: 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.
Ho Yay:And how. "Loss" is a virtual cornucopia of Les Yay for Alex/Olivia, but there's evidence well before that It just breaks your heart.
In comparison to everything between Alex and Olivia, Casey and Olivia were about as subtle as a flying mallet. Lots of touches, displays of concern, and comforting. Some of their most pivotal confessions are to each other. And Casey seems to show up in a lot of places she doesn't need to be given she's an ADA, even acting as Olivia's partner in Elliot's stead at times. Heck, the sheer amount of screen time they get together is grounds for subtext.
Jerkass Woobie: 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.
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.
Narm Charm: This has become a deeply silly show, a fact which the producers seem to be oblivious to. Still very watchable.
As of Season 13, the writers have apparently decided they wanted to be a good show again, but as always, YMMV.
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 it 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.
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.
Replacement Scrappy: 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.
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.
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.
Take That, Scrappy!: In "Burned", Kathy Stabler makes a few derisive comments about Dani to Olivia.
Tearjerker: Oh come on, the episode Hell didn't make you cry? There hell of lot more too.
In the episode "911" when the little girl Maria tells Olivia "Most of the time there's only his footsteps. Other nights it's more. Those are the nights I feel like dying."
Every Alex/Olivia shipper in the fandom must have been in tears when Alex was shot and presumed dead. Olivia is almost hysterical as she tries desperately to staunch the blood, and she actually cries when it turns out Alex isn't dead. Heartbreaking.
The ending of the episode "Personal Fouls", when basketball star Prince Miller testified about his childhood sexual abuse to the grand jury, and then held a press conference about his sexual abuse.
In that same episode, Aaron Tveit's character breaking down in tears over being molested by the same basketball coach is pretty heartbreaking, mostly because he's just so convincing doing it. Made worse by the fact that his character dies later in the episode.
The episode "Liberties" is a strange tearjerker episode that is very complicated to explain. But the short story is that the rapist originally on trial is revealed to be the son of the judge. His son had been kidnapped by a man who sexually abused him and after all those years, the judge and his son were reunited. In spite of all the ugliness that surrounded it, it was really tearjerking to see the two reunite.
"Careless" involves an epileptic child with ADHD being suffocated, and from there, things get even more depressing. The social worker who was repeatedly called by the exasperaed-to-the-point-of-tears foster father of the child neglected to help, and, after her name was besmirched and she lost her job, she kills herself. After this, it is revealed that there was another, previously unknown, foster child living with the family, who witnessed the death of the boy, but was carted off to a psychiatric ward without anyone believing her. Fin gets her out, but it is also revealed that the foster mother would seriously abuse each of the children who came into the home, leading to them running away, and was the one who killed the boy. At the very end of the episode, Fin, who saw the suicide and found out about all of the other events, is visibly disturbed and emotional, which is telling, considering how much of a hardass he usually is.
Wangst: Casey gets a fuck-ton. While Olivia does the majority of the crying in the series, it's usually justified and important to the scene, although she has her moments. When Casey cries, it's generally unnecessary, she even cries in her first fucking episode because she can't handle the case.
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.
We're Still Relevant, Dammit: The latest 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...)
The Woobie: Benson did not have a happy childhood. The same could be said for Mariska Hargitay herself, who was with her mother when she died. Sometimes the character filling this archetype is in fact responsible for a lot of damage such as a bipolar girl in "Influence". Everyone felt sorry for her even though she got two of her class mates expelled and went off her meds and killed people in a car crash.
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.