The good news when it comes to the Law & Order: SVU Season 23 finale: Raúl Esparza is back as Rafael Barba. The bad news: Things are still very tense between him and Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) after he defended Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott) during the murder trial for Detective Elliot Stabler’s (Christopher Meloni) wife (Isabel Gillies).
As the promo for “A Final Call at Forlini’s Bar” shows, Barba is coming in after the squad provides help and protection for a longtime domestic violence victim, only she ends up at the defendant’s table in court. So, Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) turns to Barba, which is going to be a surprise for her boyfriend, ADA Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino). In fact, in the preview, Carisi looks a bit confused since he thought Benson and Barba “weren’t even speaking.” Is that when he’ll find out who called his opponent?
The promo also offers a look at Benson and Barba’s reunion, and he asks her, “Why do you feel more angry at me than towards Stabler?” Ouch! Watch below for more.
— elisabeth (@daily_mariska) May 13, 2022
During the December SVU crossover with Organized Crime, Benson wasn’t happy when she found out Barba was Wheatley’s lawyer. “I step aside, whatever shark Wheatley hires will put not just the NYPD and Stabler on trial, but you. You! Not just your partnership with Stabler, but your relationship,” he explained in defense. “They’ll eviscerate you on the stand, maybe end your career.” She wanted to know if it was about protecting her, his “defense attorney outrage,” or Stabler, and he admitted that while he didn’t know Stabler, “maybe it’s the first two out of three.”
Unfortunately, the episode did not leave them in a good place. “Stabler coming back has made things more complicated,” Barba told her in their last conversation. “Just so we’re clear, I feel betrayed by you, and I don’t know how I’ll ever get over it,” she said. Hopefully that’s not still true!
Law & Order: SVU, Season 23 Finale, Thursday, May 19, 9/8c, NBC