Warning: Contains Spoilers
Law and Order SVU is back tonight, September 27, for it's 20th season. As the longest-running scripted drama in U.S. television history with over 400 episodes filmed, there are a lot of great moments from the show. Here are the 20 best episodes of Law and Order SVU.
"Manhunt" (season 2, episode 18) - Munch and Fin weren't usually the center of attention in episodes but they were in this episode . When a serial rapist and killer resurfaces, they manage to identify him from the tattoo on his arm. The killer was a dishonorably discharged Army veteran that was working with a man who posed as a good Samaritan at one of the kidnappings. In the end, the rapist was extradited from Canada and the partner turned up dead.
"Loss" (season 5, episode 4) - This episode had one of the best plot twists. ADA Alexandra Cabot's life was threatened by a rapist who works for a drug lord. So, she ends up faking her own death and entering the Witness Protection Program. The looks on Benson and Stabler's faces this episode said it all.
"Conscience" (season 6, episode 6) - A five-year-old disappears during a birthday party and ends up being murdered by his neighbor, Jake. The 13-year-old turns out to be a sociopath and when the five-year-old's father realizes that Jake will keep killing, he steals a gun and shoots him. The father ends up getting acquitted but admits he knew what he was doing when he killed the boy.
“Identity” (season 6, episode 12) - Some of the best SVU episodes are based off of true stories, like this one based off of David Reimer's life. It starts off as an investigation about a gang rape and leads to the story of twins, one of which was born male but raised female after a botched circumcision.
"911" (season 7, episode 3) - While most episodes are filmed in and around NYC, the majority of this one is filmed on the set of the police station. A nine-year-old girl calls 911 and says she's locked in a room. She's a victim of child pornography and the entire episode focuses on Benson trying to figure out where the child is based on their phone conversation.
"Raw" (season 7, episode 6) - This one is a heart-wrenching. A young African American boy is killed when a sniper shoots at a playground. During the episode, detectives trace the gun to a shop run by a white supremacists and arrest the shooter. But, during the trial the neo-Nazi group starts a shootout, killing the judge. In the end, the detectives find out that the kid's adoptive parents hired the shooter so they could collect the hefty insurance policy they took out on the child.
"Venom" (season 7, episode 18) - This episode is my all-time favorite. Between the story line and Ludacris guest starring as Tutuola's nephew, it's perfect. Tutuola's son, Ken, gets picked up by police after he goes looking for a corpse. He said he "overheard" someone talking about murdering a woman. You think the episode will end with a closed case after a DNA test shows that Ludacris' character, Darius, had murdered the woman but it also shows that the killer is Ken's brother. DUN DUN. PLOT TWIST. In the end Darius' confession gets thrown out.
"Recall" (season 8, episode 3) - Chances are you gasped out loud during this episode. A woman comes forward to accuse a lawyer of rape and they struggle to make the charges stick. That is, until an old woman who was the best friend of the man's mother comes forward. She testifies that he raped her decades ago and the police are able to use the DNA evidence off the clothes she hid to convict him.
"Pretend" (season 8, episode 21) - If you couldn't already tell SVU is filled with plot twists. Like this episode that starts out with an investigation of a boy's death and ends with the squad finding out that the victim's girlfriend is actually in her 20's and has been posing as a 16-year-old for a decade.
"Screwed" (season 8, episode 22) - Ludacris reprises his character's role to finish out the plot line. After being arrested, Darius' case goes to trial but any mention of the woman's 14-month-old child gets thrown out. He manages to avoid jail time but he does find out that he's the product of a rape.
"Alternate" (season 9, episode 1) - Cynthia Nixon may not have won the race for Governor of New York but she made it on this list! (that counts for something, right?) She plays Janis, a woman with multiple personalities and after her sister is released from jail, their parents are murdered. Janis is arrested for the crime but she's found not guilty by reason of mental defect. The crazy part is, her and her sister planned the entire thing and because of double jeopardy the detectives can't arrest Janis, even after she confesses.
"Signature" (season 9, episode 12) - Another episode, another plot twist. This one involves SVU tracking a serial killer and rapist only to find out that he's already dead. It turns out the special agent who helped them on the case is the one who killed him.
"Undercover" (season 9, episode 15) - Season 9 had so many suspense-filled episodes. In "Undercover" Benson goes DUN DUN undercover at a female correctional facility. One of the corrections officers was raping incarcerated women and their family members and during the episode Benson almost gets raped herself. This is one of the few times viewers see Benson in a vulnerable position.
"Persona" (season 10, episode 8) - When Benson investigates a domestic dispute turned murder she meets with the victim's neighbor, Linnie, a victim of spousal abuse herself. It's revealed that Linnie was been a fugitive for 30 years for killing her former husband. In the end she admits that she fled because she was pregnant and wanted to get an abortion and she knew she couldn't get one in prison.
"Zebras" (season 10, episode 22) - When a tourist turns up dead, the detectives find the killer pretty quick. But, the evidence gets thrown out because the forensics technician, Stuckey, made a clerical error. He then goes on to murder more women and frame the actual killer to make up for his mistake.
"Behave" (season 12, episode 3) - With guest stars like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Skeet Ulrich this episode had to be included. Hewitt's character claims that she's been raped by the same man for the last 15 years. During the investigation Benson learns that there are rape kits that have never been tested, just sitting in boxes in police precincts. Benson travels across the country to find the DNA evidence needed to catch the rapist.
"Dreams Deferred" (season 14, episode 9) - Patricia Arquette plays an aging prostitute who has to help the detectives track down a killer on a rampage. The guy happens to be one of her clients that's been seeing her for years. Arquette's character almost gets killed during the investigation when she gets in a car with the man.
"Secrets Exhumed" (season 14, episode 14) - Perhaps one of the biggest plot twists of the entire series: an FBI agent that SVU has worked with frequently, Dana Lewis, turns out to be a murderer. Munch brought a cold case to SVU and asked them to get a confession from a man in Miami. Lewis offers to help them get the confession but Amaro and Benson figure out that Lewis killed the woman because she was pregnant with Lewis' ex-boyfriend's baby. This episode was actually inspired by the murder of Sherri Rasmussen.
"Her Negotiation" (season 14, episode 24) - This one is a doozy. It's the start of a multiple-episode story arc in which Benson almost gets killed. Rollins arrests a man for exposing himself at a park but they can't fingerprint him because he burned the tips of his fingers. Eventually they find out that the man, William Lewis, is a serial rapist, killer and kidnapper who's managed to avoid being convicted because of technicalities. He gets off on the rape charge SVU tried to convict him on because the prosecutor gets an investigator to say the DNA was mishandled. Immediately after he's free, he breaks into Benson's apartment and holds her at gun point.
"Gone Baby Gone" (season 19, episode 9) - Not going to lie, I cried during this episode. It starts off with Benson's son getting kidnapped at the mall while he's with his biological grandmother. Things take a turn for the worse when Benson discovers that the grandmother is the one who set up the kidnapping. In the end they get Noah back but it was really tough to see Benson so upset.