LAW & ORDER: SVU Will Explain Detective Stabler's Exit Over Various Episodes

It was announced weeks ago that after twelve years of starring in the crime drama, actor Chris Meloni won't be returning to the crime drama's upcoming thirteenth season. Showrunner Warren Leight has confirmed that the detective's absence will be explored within the first episodes of the season.

This hard-hitting and emotional series from NBC's "Law & Order" brand chronicles the life and crimes of the Special Victims Unit of the New York Police Department, the elite squad of detectives who investigate sexually based crimes.

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Word is Meloni and the network couldn't reach an agreement on a deal due to the actor wanting a salary increase. Sources close to the actor say otherwise stating, "It was a great run and a wonderful experience. Now he is ready for the next chapter of his life."

NBC boss Robert Greenblatt recently squashed speculation of Stabler being killed off and told TV Line that the detective's exit isn't a "big shocking mystery.” Warren Leight also told TV Line, “The reasons for his absence and the effect it has on the squadroom — and Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) — will be explored in the first several episodes.”

Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino have been signed on to the crime drama's thirteenth season, playing two new detectives. Executive producer Dick Wolf said in a statement, "I'm very pleased that we have two amazing actors joining the cast. I know this combination will give us the opportunity to explore the world of SVU with new eyes."

Mariska Hargitay is said to be returning full time for 13 of the 22 episodes and at midseason Detective Olivia Benson will be promoted to a supervisor's position. The network has been looking for a new female lead to replace Hargitay but it's unclear if Giddish is meant to be the replacement or if another actress will be brought in when Benson is promoted.

The series stars Dann Florek, Richard Belzer, Ice-T, B.D. Wong, Tamara Tunie, and Michaela McManus. Law & Order is created and executive produced by Dick Wolf with Neal Baer, Ted Kotcheff and Peter Jankowski as executive producers.