How Olivia Benson calmly saved herself and her son during a gang attack on 'SVU'

The start of the new year kicks off a high-stakes trilogy - and quite a bit of pain - for Capt. Olivia Benson on "Law & Order: SVU," but as Mariska Hargitay, who's played Benson for almost 25 years now, once said about her character's trauma in Season 24: "The only way out is through."

In the Jan. 5 episode "Jumped In," the first of three episodes set in the Bronx, Benson and Sgt. Odafin "Fin" Tutuola (Ice-T) commiserate over the departure of Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) in the squad room, and after Benson says goodnight, Fin's reply of "nothing good ever happens at night" is a hint of foreshadowing.

After a heated exchange with her boss, Chief McGrath (Terry Serpico), about their Manhattan SVU team needing to assist the struggling Bronx SVU unit despite their limited staffing resources, Benson walks home hand in hand with her son, Noah (Ryan Buggle).

As the two approach their residence, Benson notices red graffiti on the wall and two hooded figures across the street in the shadows who quite literally look ready to jump her.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 24 (Will Hart / NBC)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 24 (Will Hart / NBC)  

When Noah asks his mom what's going on, Benson responds, "Noah, I want you to go inside." When he starts to protest, she calmly insists he go in the building and tell their doorman to call the police before also handing him her walkie-talkie to radio in a 10-13 - which means an officer needs help immediately.

She tells Noah not to leave the lobby as she shuts the door and turns to confront the duo across the street. After one of the hooded men wields a machete, Benson then pulls out her gun and announces herself as NYPD and tells him to put down his weapon.

"We take what we want," the other hooded person, who turns out to be a teenager, responds.

Someone on a motorbike speeds past Benson, knocks her down and causes her gun to go flying out of her hands. Both assailants start kicking her in the ribs and saying names that include "Ricky" and "Sleep." Avid viewers may recognize those names from a few episodes back ("The One You Feed") when Benson worked with the Bronx gang unit to track down and later arrest teens involved in the rape of a young girl on the New York City subway. Those teenagers were members of the BX9 gang - a Dominican gang which has appeared on "SVU" a few times over the years, including in the Season 15 episode "Betrayal's Climax" in which the incarcerated leader of BX9, Carlos Hernandez, threatened Benson at the time. Benson boldly responded, "You threatening me? I got the biggest gang in the city. You think your guys are loyal? Go ahead, test the NYPD. I dare ya." It's also worth noting Hernandez once shared a prison cell with William Lewis - a sadistic killer who previously abducted and tortured Benson.

Benson rolls away and pulls out another gun and shoots one of her attackers in the leg. As she tells the remaining young man to put his hands up, Noah comes running out of the building screaming, "Mom!"

Benson, still lying on her back in the street, turns to face her son and yells for him to "get back inside."

Two motorbikes then pull up and pick up both assailants as Benson slowly gets to her feet.

After help arrives and the officer taking Benson's statement asks her why she thinks the attackers were part of BX9, she points at the graffiti and mentions the case she previously worked in which she "collared a couple" of the BX9 gang members. "I'm guessing that I was greenlit," Benson says.

Fin shows up at the scene and tells her he heard on the radio she "blew out one of their kneecaps," and Benson replies, "I didn't want to shoot any of them. They were kids. ... He's somebody's son."

"Some bullets have a lesson behind them," Fin says.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 24 (Will Hart / NBC)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 24 (Will Hart / NBC)  

He stays with Noah while Olivia gets checked out at the hospital, where McGrath visits and asks if she's OK.

Benson says she'll be OK once she gets her "hands on Oscar Papa," who's the current leader of BX9. McGrath reminds her this isn't an SVU case and asks how she knows Papa orchestrated the attack on her.

"Who else has the power to greenlight a New York City captain and her 11-year-old son?"

McGrath says he already has a call into the Bronx gang unit. The team includes Capt. Mike Duarte (Maurice Compte), with whom Benson had tense exchanges when they previously worked together on the NYC subway BX9 rape case.

Noah now needs another place to stay until the threat on him and his mom is extinguished, so Benson enlists Fin to take Noah to his half brother's house outside of the city. Noah, whom Benson adopted as a baby, learned he had a half brother in the last episode ("And a Trauma in a Pear Tree") after he used a gift card from Fin on a genetic ancestry site. Noah had been texting with his half sibling, Connor McCann, until his mom took him to meet and eventually stay with the McCann family around Christmastime. Before Benson took Noah inside to meet the McCanns for the first time she said, "I just want you to remember that, you know, not everything in life turns out the way you think or the way you hope it might." While Noah had a fun visit with the seemingly perfect McCann family at Christmas, it will be interesting to see if Benson's quote foreshadowed there's more to that family than what Noah saw during his first visit.

When Noah FaceTimes Benson from the McCanns while she continues to search for "those bad guys," he tells her he's having the best time with Connor staying up all night eating ice cream and playing video games. But is it a coincidence that an ancestry kit is also mentioned in "Jumped In"? The DNA from a kit plays a major role in solving what was a closed case in the Bronx. Yes, Benson and her team made their way to the Bronx to help clear their case backlog. And, of course, by being in the Bronx, Benson could hunt down BX9 with Duarte.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 24 (Will Hart / NBC)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 24 (Will Hart / NBC)  

In 24 seasons of "SVU," Benson has faced many dangerous situations but has rarely been brutally attacked. Aside from the ambush in "Jumped In," Benson's most notable harrowing experience happened at the hands of William Lewis, who abducted Benson and brutally tortured her for days at the start of Season 15. He continued to haunt her in subsequent episodes, whether it was in the courtroom during his trial or when he escaped from prison. After breaking free, Lewis eventually gets Benson to meet him alone as it's the only chance of keeping a young girl he had taken alive. He puts Benson through a traumatizing game of Russian roulette that ends with him turning the gun on himself but making it look like Benson could've pulled the trigger.

"I think that because Olivia and so many of the characters on our show have been through so much trauma, I really wanted to delve into that a little more," Hargitay told in September 2022 about the 24th season of "SVU."

"Real strength has to do with feeling the feelings, dealing with them and moving through them," she explained.

And many fans are hoping by the end of this trilogy that Benson will finally get the chance to discuss the trauma she experienced with her former longtime partner, Detective Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni), who abruptly left her without a word over 10 years ago but has since returned to the "Law & Order" universe on "Organized Crime." If they don't get around to discussing that trauma specifically this time around, fans who have yearned for years for the two to become romantically involved hope they'll at least feel the feelings soon during a conversation with each other.

Stabler briefly addressed his departure in an emotional scene with Benson when he returned in Season 22's "Return of the Prodigal Son." In that same episode, Stabler's wife, Kathy, died, which led some fans to wonder if the show was paving the way for an eventual romance between Benson and Stabler. In the "SVU" fall finale, "And a Trauma in a Pear Tree," Benson admits to Rollins that she did feel like Stabler was her "home," but she's "not over" him leaving her. She added she "didn't have a right or a claim" and Stabler "was somebody else's husband." She acknowledged "sometimes it would be easier" if Kathy was still alive. "With her gone, it's like there's nothing but possibility, which is paralyzing," Benson says.

As for Stabler, since his return he has said "I love you" to Benson, wrote in a letter to Benson that "in a parallel universe" it was always them and, more recently, drunkenly confessed to a friend that there's a woman he is in love with.

On Dec. 12, 2022, Meloni responded to a fan on Twitter who asked for a selfie of him and Hargitay with one that looked like it was from a set where the two of them could've been filming together.

We can only hope this trilogy of "SVU" episodes includes Stabler being there for Benson after her attack and that the two of them get a much-needed chance to talk about, well, everything!

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