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'Law & Order: SVU's' long-awaited 'Spring Awakening' arrives

Mariska Hargitay and Danny Pino star in "Law & Order: SVU."
Mariska Hargitay and Danny Pino star in "Law & Order: SVU."
Michael Parmalee/NBC.

In the most recent episode of "Law & Order: SVU," once again, one of their own was in a bit of a bad spot.

Detective Amaro, not happy that photographer Simon Wilkes had been acquitted of charges against him, took it upon himself to enact his own brand of justice by confronting Wilkes on the street and assaulting him.

Amaro’s actions will have severe consequences as explained by ‘SVU’ Executive Producer Warren Leight. “Obviously, he just snapped on some level, succumbing to the stress of this guy getting off, but cops are not allowed to punch people randomly on the street, even if you don’t like what happened. This could be the end of Amaro as a cop, and if it isn’t, in what capacity could he possibly come back from this? There’s no mistaking that what Amaro did is not effective police work and he's made some mistakes in the past as well. He shot an unarmed kid recently. He will be punished for this.”

While Amaro’s career is in jeopardy, his situation isn’t the only thing happening in this episode, entitled “Spring Awakening.” “Our cops catch the case of a male tourist who has a prostitute come to his hotel room and he ends up getting robbed and raped at gunpoint,” explains Leight. “Sometimes in the past, the squad sort of dropped everything to work on the case that involved one of their own, this time they really can’t do that. There’s a bad crew out that and they have to act right now to stop them.”

An unlikely source does step up to help Amaro as Detective John Munch, who left the squad earlier this year, returns to the fold. “Munch was really a guiding force for Amaro since the moment Amaro started in the unit, and Amaro’s been a little lost since Munch left,” explains Leight. “So we felt the time was right to bring Munch back.”

In the past, Amaro has mentioned that the loss of Munch has been hard on him and this was by design says Leight, “I’m always trying to plant things to come, but the audience might not pick up on them because it’s not something that was ever done on the show in the past.”

Leight and his writing staff also like to throw in moments that have not been overtly foreshadowed in any way. Case in point, the recent reveal that Amaro and Rollins are involved outside the job. “I loved the immediate response to that,” Leight revealed. “You could feel it on Twitter the second it aired. There was a spike in comments and everyone was suddenly using 'Rollaro' and combinations like that.” But conversely, Leight knows that the pairing was not universally accepted, saying, “There’s always going to be a certain percentage of the audience that when anyone on this show has sex with anyone, they’ll say, ‘What about Olivia?’ ’’

Whether accepted by the audience or not, Leight defends the decision to move those characters in that direction, explaining, “This sort of thing happens in real life. They’re both at pretty lonely, dark places in their lives and they’re two attractive people who maybe just needed someone else at that time and it just happened.” He goes on to say that the nature of the relationship is a bit undefined for a reason. “Are they just ‘office mates with benefits,’ or is this the kind of thing where one of them really cares more about the other person than they’re letting on? At this point, we don’t know too much about it. I kind of like that we just saw a glimpse of it and moved on.”

It may have been a quick look but Leight did divulge that, “I think there will be some aftereffects, or let’s say, repercussions, resulting from their relationship in the finale, and possibly going forward.”

Also in the finale, fans will have to say goodbye to Lieutenant Murphy as Donal Logue is off to star in “Gotham” for FOX. “We closed out his story as much as we could,” says Leight, “but that one just broke my heart. I would have loved to have him as a permanent addition to the squad.”

The loss of Logue hasn’t been the only challenge ‘SVU’ faced this year, “Doing 24 episodes is difficult no matter how you look at it,” explains Leight, “but creatively, we all felt very energized. We worked really hard and I feel like this year is my first year as a showrunner on a procedural in which we didn’t have any episodes that just fell apart. A lot of things have to go wrong for an episode to really miss but it always seems to happen at least once a season and this year it didn’t happen. That feels pretty great. We just didn’t have that unmitigated disaster episode and I’m proud of that.”

Leight also seems to beam when he talks about some other aspects of season 15 of ‘SVU’ that he’s pleased about. “I like that we shifted to doing a lot more with the personal aspects of these characters,” he begins. “The Olivia/William Lewis arc was so powerful. The visual look of those episodes was right on target, very striking, but more importantly, every time those two were together, in every piece of that storyline, everything just seemed to get deeper and stronger. I also loved bringing in Murphy. That new blood in the station house really seemed in reinvigorate everything and everyone in the squad. Then there’s the way we told stories this year. I think that our methods of using different storytelling techniques and how we pushed things forward really evolved. By constantly adjusting the mix of procedural to personal, we kept things moving in unique ways. Our goal was to keep engaging viewers week after week using innovative methods every time out and I really think we accomplished that.”

Returning to discuss the finale a bit more, Leight goes on to say, “It has a lot of closure to it. It was a high wire act this year. There was a lot of jeopardy, but if you just do pure jeopardy all the time it’s like crack for the audience and they need more and more of it and they don’t want anything else and that's hard to maintain. We worked hard to find a good balance, we kept the show jumping and off of that high wire from time to time and that was great. Keeping in mind everything that’s gone on in the past 23 episodes, I feel like we really nailed this last one.”

Leight admits that this season finale doesn’t have a shocking closing scene like season 14’s did last May did, explaining, “I can’t end two seasons in a row with a gun to someone’s head. It’s a very different type of finale than last year’s, but, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be extremely full. We have our case that we’re trying to solve, Amaro’s dealing with his situation, and there are some other things going on as well.”

All of these things lead to some interaction that Leight promises will be very satisfying for viewers. “Munch has a scene with Amaro that’s one of the best scenes Munch has ever had and there are a lot of great moments for everyone that have been earned because of the backstory we’ve been building all year.”

These moments include a certain infant that fans have been speculating about since he was first introduced earlier in the season. Yes, Baby Boy Doe has a featured role in this episode.

“We find out Baby Boy Doe’s real name, who he is, and how he came to be in this situation,” confirms Leight. “What we find out about his family is harrowing. All of the stories in this episode intersect in an interesting way.”

This doesn’t answer the question that fans have been asking since Olivia first set eyes on the little boy; will she finally have her chance to be a mother?

Leight wouldn’t, or more appropriately, couldn’t, verify that outcome one way or another, because he disclosed that as of late last week the last few scenes were still being tweaked in the editing room. He did offer this; “The mystery of his maternity will be solved in a heartbreaking way. Baby Boy Doe is out there, and he’s waiting for a bit of luck.”

As season 15 wraps up, Leight wanted to convey to the fans that he’s very appreciative of the relationship that they have with the show. “You can just feel when an episode is connecting and that's amazing. I thought it was great the way the fans were so supportive of the show while we were in ‘purgatory.’ That was a big help.

While this season doesn’t close out with a cliffhanger, Leight believes that the ending of the finale will still have viewers anxious for next season to begin. “There’s a nice little turn at the end of this. I think the audience will definitely want to come back.”

This week’s hashtags = #SpringAwakening and #SVUFinale

“Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesday nights at 9/8c on NBC.

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