Ral Esparza of Law & Order: SVU talks about the season 23 finale, which set up a possible love triangle between Benson, Barba, and Stabler.

Barba & Benson - Law & Order: SVU Season 23

‘Law and Order’ is a television show that follows the law.

Ral Esparza of Law & Order: SVU talks about his character Rafael Barba’s prospective romance with Olivia Benson. Since the show’s inception in 1999, Mariska Hargitay’s character, Benson, has been one of the show’s main characters, focusing on a team that investigates and prosecutes sex-related offenses. Her longstanding associate Elliot Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni, has been her character’s principal prospective romantic interest throughout the series.

Stabler departed the show after season 12, but he recently returned for a crossover with his new show Law & Order: Organized Crime, causing fans to speculate that a Benson-Stabler romance is once again in the works.

Barba & Benson - Law & Order: SVU Season 23

The season 23 finale of Law & Order: SVU, however, has thrown a spanner in the plans. Esparza reprised his role as Barba, the former assistant district attorney who first appeared on SVU in season 14 in 2012 and went on to appear in another 90 episodes this season. If she chooses to open up to him, they could become romantically intertwined very quickly, signaling a potential love triangle if she follows her therapist’s advice and seeks to explore her feelings with Stabler.

Ral Esparza of Law & Order: SVU spoke with TVLine about the unexpected twist in the finale. The scene “may be taken in a number of ways,” according to the actor, and it doesn’t necessarily imply that Barba and Benson are dating. “Well, are we suddenly in a triangle here?” he jokes about the writing with Hargitay. “What is the matter?” They had not added romantic themes in their own performances, so they were just as astonished as the fans. Below is the entire quote from Esparza:

Barba & Benson - Law & Order: SVU Season 23

I think that it can be taken in a number of ways. So, it surprised me to have it brought out so explicitly, however, but not too much. There are fans that have always wanted to kind of spin off that story. And Mariska [Hargitay] and I kind of laughed about it, too. Like, “Well, are we suddenly in a triangle here? What’s going on?” [Laughs] Which is hysterical, because it really isn’t how we play it. I think she and I always play it as best friends and almost brother and sister sometimes. However… I don’t know, I know what I was thinking when I said the words that I said onscreen… I like that it can be read in number of ways.

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Barba and Stabler’s ability to return to SVU on a regular basis determines how long this particular love triangle will last. Both actors are no longer part of the series’ core cast. Meloni will be busy filming Season 3 of Organized Crime, while Esparza hasn’t appeared on SVU since season 19.

Barba & Benson - Law & Order: SVU Season 23

Meloni is frequently associated with Law & Order: SVU because he is now portraying a character from the same universe, and the shows are known for their frequent crossover. Even if Benson tries to date Barba, it appears like Stabler will be there for the long haul, even if he won’t be able to appear in every episode. Law & Order is known for its unpredictable plots, so fans should be prepared.

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