In the criminal justice system, no matter how horrific or disturbing the cases faced by the detectives of the Special Victims Unit, there are occasional moments that remove the grimness and replace it with hope. These are some examples.
- The end of "Denial" has a Fin moment when he gives the victim of the week a framed picture of a forensic reconstruction of her long dead baby sister, whose face she has been forgetting unless she was high, and she HUGS him in thanks.
- The ending of "Dolls". It has to be seen. For context, Fin spends the whole episode bonding with and helping a woman, Violet, who left her daughter with a neighbor while she went to rehab, only to come back to find out said neighbor had died and her daughter was missing. An unidentified girl (nicknamed "Cherish Doe") has been discovered dead, and Violet is understandably terrified that it's her daughter. It's not, but Cherish was killed by the same man that kidnapped Violet's daughter. However, the team manages to track the girl down, and Fin finds her in the killer's hideout, traumatized and assaulted, but alive. He carries her out, cradling her like a baby, and gives her to Violet, who's shedding Tears of Joy.
- Just Fin's bond with Violet that whole episode. He's the first person to truly believe Violet when she says she's clean, and recognizes that she only left to help her daughter and get clean. Fin spends the whole time fighting tooth and nail to help her.
- The ending to "Coerced", when Elliott visits paranoid schizophrenic Kevin at the hospital. Kevin kidnapped a child (who later gets rescued) who he thought was his son, Tate, whom he hadn't seen since his wife kicked him out of their home after he lied about being on his medication. When Kevin reveals that he witnessed a murder in a corrupt mental institution however, Elliott investigates into the accusations, and promises to retrieve a photo of Tate. After the asylum's director is arrested, Elliott wasn't able to get the picture Kevin wanted. Instead, Elliott gives him a camera, and motions outside the door - for Kevin's wife and son to step inside, with his wife mentioning that she wanted Tate to see how great his father's been doing recently. While he did do some terrible things during his psychotic break, Kevin and Tate's reunion scene is extremely touching.
- The ending of "Haunted", where Fin finds the grandson of a woman whose daughter had been killed by drug dealers. It's a very sweet moment especially with Fin holding the toddler and pointing him toward his grandmother.
- The end of the episode "911" (which itself is probably the CMOA of the series). Good lord. To elaborate, after an absolutely grueling and suspenseful build up, and Liv's badass beatdown of the perp, the detectives are in a race against time to rescue a little girl who was buried alive in an abandoned lot. Until the the literal last minute, the show keeps us guessing as to whether the girl will be found alive or if it would've all been in vain (It wasn't). Olivia's frantic digging leads her to find a trash bag, and what seems to be a Downer Ending - however, this trash bag was full of clothes. She keeps digging again, and finally finds the bag that the girl is in. And the girl is alive. She coughs, and says Olivia's name. The expressions on the face of the little girl and Olivia are indescribable.
- Munch getting shot in the ass may be a funny moment, but when Fin comes to visit him in the hospital and expresses that he's glad to see Munch pulled through after the courthouse shooting, even sneaking in a little something for him, it shows just how close the two partners are.
- The beginning of "Rockabye" features some blood-curdling screams of a girl in a motel while several other residents ignore her. One woman, a prostitute about to service a John, overhears the girl and runs to her, tells her client to take a hike as soon as he demands that she come back to him and manages to call for help and assist the discovered teenage girl. Even in a motel of people and as a prostitute, she was able to actually give a damn and save a girl's life (and provided some useful information to detectives).
- The second half of the episode "Paternity" comes to mind. Even if you absolutely hate Elliott being with his wife, Kathy, instead of Olivia, this episode's end is rather sweet and shows what kind of a woman Benson is. As she is taking Kathy to an obstetrician's appointment for Stabler, the two of them are struck by a drunk driver. Uninjured and able to break out of her side window (as it was a passenger side impact), Benson helps to extract Kathy from the car, delivers her baby and stabilizes her condition. After seeing that both his wife and son made it out okay, Stabler surprises his partner with a tight bear hug and tearfully thanks her.
- In "Babes", after a girl's mother is taken to jail for assault, and her brother for murdering the father of her child (he thought she was raped; she wasn't), she's begins crying, because she thinks she's going to be taken to foster care, and she thinks that her family is lost forever. The grandfather of her child then takes her in, despite his son being murdered by her brother, saying there's been too much grief and suffering already. It gave this troper chills, though my description doesn't do it justice.
- It helped that the same man (played by Michael Badalucco from The Practice) stood up to his neighbors, who were about two steps away from kicking down the door of the girl's apartment to get at the mother.
- Some more credit to the grandfather for having a tough life, a dead schizophrenic son who died horribly and wouldn't come home and a wife who left them believing the ailment to be both 'too much' and 'fake'. He had no reason to be that kind - but he did it anyway. Considering the running subplot of the Christian chastity group that included the actual murderer of the pregnant girl mentioned below and repeated references to what "God would want you to do," and it was a nicely subtle way to show what a godly person really would do.
- The neighbors were trying to get the mother because they thought she badgered a pregnant girl, a friend of the daughter's responsible for the pregnancy pact and the cause of everything, into hanging herself in her room, which isn't exactly a situation that would bring out that much sympathy.
- It should finally be mentioned that he doesn't do any of this out of avowed godliness. He doesn't quote scripture, or speak from a position of moral righteousness. He does it all out of pure compassion and with a sense of quiet dignity. It is just beautiful and heartwarming to watch. As the first troper said, the description doesn't do it justice.
- It helped that the same man (played by Michael Badalucco from The Practice) stood up to his neighbors, who were about two steps away from kicking down the door of the girl's apartment to get at the mother.
- One of the last scenes of "Stranger," when the poor girl is finally reunited with her mother after six long years of being kept as a sex slave by her father.
- The episode "Liberties" is a questionable one. The judge presiding over the case for one defendant is revealed to be the defendant's long lost father. The realization and reunion at the end is heartbreaking, but all the more beautiful for it.
- Alex Cabot's first episode back, "Lead". Due to the case at hand, nobody can really spend time reveling in the fact that Alex is back at all, but it's nice to see everyone in the episode pleasantly surprised at her appearance. Surprisingly, one of the few people that takes a moment to welcome her back is Judge Petrovsky, who even notes that it's good to see her again. It's especially heartwarming since Petrovsky never forgave Alex for pulling several Amoral Attorney stunts in her courtroom.
- In "Savior", the genuine joy and excitement from the victim, Gladys, over the prospect of having a child, her determination to turn over a new leaf and be a good mom, and her singing a lullaby to her baby in the hospital when she's born prematurely. Which only makes Gladys leaving Olivia in charge of the child for the baby's own good even more heartbreaking.
- In the episode "Bedtime" when investigating an old murder, Cragen shows Olivia and Elliot commercials of the victim's husband who was a local celebrity years ago, Elliot recognizing them gets a uncharacteristically delighted and almost childlike look on his face.
- In "Behave", Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Vicki, a woman raped four times in the last fifteen years by the same person who has been stalking her across the country. The first scene of the episode has her being discovered, barely conscious, by a street-preacher who initially assumes she's drunk — upon realising that she's hurt, he immediately drops his sermon and approaches her with gentle, honest concern.
- "Personal Fouls":
- Very blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but when the new detective Nick Amaro makes an offhanded question to Fin about the comments he'd heard about his predecessor "UnStabler" Elliot and Fin responds by saying Elliot was "a good cop" which shows that in spite of all the antagonism shown between the two characters, Fin still considered Elliot to be a good cop and felt sorry he was gone (even if it was just out of empathy for Benson).
- Earlier, Fin watches Liv clear Stabler's table with a bit of an absent look on his face like it's just dawning on him how much the dynamic of the precinct is going to change without Elliot there and how much of a struggle it'll be for Liv to adjust to life without him.
- In "Educated Guess", a man who was arrested for masturbating in public while under a drug's influence witnesses a victim (Gia) being raped. Immediately afterwards, he tells Fin and Rollins about the assault. He doesn't pretend not to see anything. He doesn't try to say it wasn't rape. He doesn't try to use Gia's rape to get him out of trouble or anything, he just wants to help Gia. A genuine Pet the Dog moment.
- In "Theatre Tricks," it turns out that among all the pervs in the poor victim's life, the evildoer was the roommate. Benson comments as she leaves that you'd like to think women would look after one another. Rollins agrees, then unexpectedly calls after her to get home safe.
- The entirety of "Home Invasions". Rollins has a personal connection to the case and . . . consults her reliable friend and partner Fin for advice. He is very concerned for her, instructs her to come clean immediately, and she actually does. The whole team rallies to her defense, and she deals with her problems in a professional and responsible manner. Everyone demonstrates their care and concern and a sense of professional ethics. It is awesome and rare and a wonderful It's Personal episode done right.
- The SVU squad celebrating Christmas, intercut with shots of Amaro and his daughter, at the beginning of "Presumed Guilty". We love to see them in action, but it feels just as good to see them happy and enjoying the holiday, when they can forget their daily burdens and laugh and have fun like normal people.
- In "Undercover Blue", the entirety of Amaro's reaction to learning he has a nine-year-old son. He starts the episode being a little bit of an Arrogant Cop Guy and is distinctly unsympathetic to Brian Cassidy's predicament, only to get knocked down a few pegs himself when his own indiscretions while working undercover are revealed. One of those indiscretions resulted in a child, which Amaro only learns about when the mother sues for child support. Amaro's first impulse? Is not to look out for his own interests, but to go out and immediately try to establish a relationship with the boy, and then to go Papa Wolf when he's blocked by the kid's drug dealer stepfather. Equally heartwarming is watching the SVU squad help him do exactly that, rallying just as they did for Rollins in her It's Personal episodes.
- Munch's retirement party in "Wonderland Story" alternates between this and funny. There's a lot of heartfelt moments mixed in with teasing.
- "Military Justice":
- Barba assuring the victim, a female navy officer getting shamed left and right, that he'll be "in her corner" during the trial.
- The way Amelia talks about not wanting to let her admiral father down, it is easy to expect he's a chauvinist who would blame his daughter for "letting herself get raped". Instead, he turns out to be an Officer and a Gentleman who stands by his traumatized daughter 100%, completely disregards that her attackers were fellow officers, and when her commanding officer insinuates that Amelia got what she deserved for being "uppity" about her family's history of navy service, the admiral gives the misogynistic ass an overdue punch in the face. At the end, he tells her how proud he is of her for standing up against her attackers during her trial.
- The season 15 finale and conclusion of "Spring Awakening", when Liv becomes a mother to Noah. You can see how thrilled she is when the judge grants her custody.
- From the same episode, Munch posting Amaro's $500,000 bail with the money he has saved up from salaries and two pensions.
- In "Padre Sandungeuro" , Barba privately offers Amaro a way out of testifying against his own father, remarkable given Barba's normally ruthless drive to win his cases. Barba adds the rare personal admission that that his own father was similar to Amaro's and that he knows what it's like to have to face down someone like that. Given that Amaro and Barba don't always have the warmest relationship, it's a really nice Not So Different moment.
- Martha being reunited with her daughter Ariel in "Undercover Mother". This is a mother has dedicated three years of her life trying to find her missing child.
- Benson comforting Barba when he has to put his grandmother in a nursing home in "December Solstice":Barba: Where will you be at 85?"
Benson: Squabbling with you?
Barba: (smiling) Wouldn't that be nice.
- Benson finally and officially adopting Noah in "Surrendering Noah".
- In "Transgender Bride", the perp, Darius, is a 15 year old boy who accidentally shoved a trans girl, Avery, off a bridge. Unlike his buddies who were egging him on, Darius genuinely feels terrible for what he did, and is wracked with guilt. He gives some papers to Fin, asking to see that Avery reads them. It's a beautiful comic he drew for Avery, apologizing for what he did, saying he'd give anything to change it, and hoping that one day Avery can find it in her heart to forgive him. The comic ends on an image of Avery and Darius holding hands. Judging by Avery's tearful smile, she did have it in her forgive him. Unfortunately, she dies before she gets a chance to tell him so.
- In "Patrimonial Burden", Rollins ends up in the hospital again where she tells Carisi that she doesn't think that she can raise a baby on her own. Carisi gently assures her that she will.
- In "Townhouse Incident", when the leader of the home invasion group tells Benson to pick someone from her unit to call who really cares about her and would be upset if she died, she picks Tucker of all people, a man who has tried to destroy the lives of her and her squad members, nearly got one of her past boyfriends killed, and has even tried to go after some of her friends, even the ones he has no jurisdiction over. At the end of the episode, when a traumatized Benson is finally rescued, she collapses into a near child-like state and is lead away to safety by him. When she begins repeatedly thanking him, he gently reassures her that she has nothing to thank him for, she saved herself and the family being held hostage.
- At the end of "Collateral Damages", Benson and Tucker are shown going to get a friendly drink together. When Benson turns down the usual bar (as there were a bunch of cops there, and she didn't feel like having to talk to them), she slips her hand into his as they walk away.
- "Unholiest Alliance":
- Barba sympathizing with Carisi's plight. Bear in mind, whenever the two share a scene, Barba usually says something sarcastic or insulting to Carisi; here he could could see how much this bothered Carisi and instead of putting him down he shares his own doubts. No insults, jokes, or sarcasm. Just understanding.
- All the previous moments between Benson and Tucker in the season are made more heartwarming when it's revealed that the two have been dating for a while. At the end of the episode, when the two are in a bar together, Benson takes Tucker's hand and kisses his fingers, and it's absolutely adorable!
- "Sheltered Outcasts":
- You have to give credit to the Caskey's. Despite the fact that Richie did rape rape a girl and admits it, he and his wife still love each other deeply, and have stuck together through everything they had to go through. He couldn't live with her anymore (which was why he lived at the shelter) because their apartment was too close to a school and they couldn't afford to move, they decided to never have kids because they didn't want to deprive a child of experiences like playdates and sleepovers (because he couldn't be near kids) or force them to live with the stigma of being the child of a sex offender, and he can't find a job to help support her. Despite the fact that Richie did admit to a horrible crime, they both were willing to work through their problems and not give up on each other. They are really one the few true examples of a good, trial-tested couple in this series.
- At the end of the episode, Rollins cheers up a dejected Carisi by inviting him to come over to cook her dinner and play with her daughter. Even sweeter because Carisi's reaction makes it quite clear that this was exactly what he needed.
- Fin happily tells Olivia that he has a dinner date with his son and his husband; Ken's fiance did survive being the victim of a hate crime and the two were able to become a couple.
- The episode "Fashionable Crimes" has at least two:
- The opening shows Benson, Rollins, and Carisi taking Noah and Jesse to a carousel at a park so that Carisi can try out his professional camera on them.
- At the end, Benson comes home to Munch babysitting Noah. The two detectives agree that they are glad that they learned there is more to life than SVU. The ending is simply adorable with Noah saying "Bye-Bye, Munch" as he falls asleep in Olivia's arms.
- The beginning of "Intersecting Lives" has a small one for Fin's arc: Over dinner with his father, Ken reveals that he and Alejandro are going to adopt a child, and Fin is delighted. He may never be able to fully make up for being a subpar father to Ken, but at least now Fin has the opportunity to be a good grandfather.
- A very subtle one amongst the Tear Jerker that is "Heartfelt Passages," the episode where Mike is killed. After rushing him to the emergency room, Olivia and Chief Dodds are approached by the attending doctor, who asks if they're the family. Olivia responds with, "I'm not, he is," while Dodds responds with an immediate, "yes, we are." Despite the crap he sometimes gives Benson and SVU as their boss, he considers them to be family to himself and his son. It makes her comforting him when Mike dies all the more poignant.
- Also from that episode, when Carisi finds out he has a blood type compatible with Mike's, who is desperately in need of a transfusion, it takes him all of a nanosecond to volunteer to donate blood for him. Given how mistrusted Mike was when he started SVU, it's triply heartwarming.
- In "Motherly Love", a boy named Luke shoots and kills his friend, who he thought was raping his mother. When Luke begins to break apart as his mother throws him under the bus, and Benson assures him that he is a good, gentle person. This gives the young man the courage to face his self-centred mother who pressured his friends into sexual relationships and give the statements that prove her guilty.
- At the end of "Know It All" Barba is in danger of getting fired or disbarred after a past action of his comes to light (paying off a junkie witness to put a criminal away, inadvertently resulting in her death because she overdosed shortly after). Olivia walks with him to the meeting that will decide his fate, and in a poignant moment puts a hand over her heart in support for him, which he clearly sees and appreciates.
- The final scene of "Gone, Baby, Gone" Benson watches the entire squad (including Barba) play with Noah and Jessie like a family.
- Before that, watching the whole team launch into a frenzy doing everything they can to track Noah and help Benson through this crisis. Obviously, finding any missing child warrants a level of urgency, but its clear in everyone's faces that they all care about Noah and his kidnapping hits the team on a personal level.
- In "Pathological", Barba not-so-subtly forces a mistrial to prevent an abused girl from being sent to prison, and he gets chewed out for the misconduct by the judge afterwards. Barba tells Olivia that he "deserved it", to which she responds with "whether you deserved it or not, I have absolute faith in your humanity"
- At the end of "Dear Ben," Stone learns the DA father he always resented for putting work first wrote little memos to himself as he poured over That One Case, reminding him to spend time with his kids. He didn't want to be distant, but was determined to protect the city and his family from a violent serial rapist.
- The victim in "Assumptions," Nahla, is worried to go on the stand for fear her devout Muslim parents might not accept her when she tells the court she is a lesbian. After the trial, her father and mother assure Nahla she has not lost their love, and the family tearfully hugs.
- When Rollins gets another It's Personal episode, she's equally awesome! In fact, her (loyal, supportive) friends have to stop her from being too honest and incriminating herself. Seeing everyone rally to help her is just amazing.
- Another episode has Munch tracking down a serial killer. After they catch him, Munch goes to visit the one that got away, and tells her "You can turn off your lights tonight."
- When Fin's son Ken is nervous about introducing his fiance Alejandro to his father, he seeks out Munch for guidance, and Munch is completely supportive and awesome.
- Any scene involving Benson and baby Noah.