8:00am PT by Kate Stanhope
'Law & Order: SVU' Boss: "A Lot of Things Will Pay Off" in the Season Finale
For the season 16 finale of Law & Order: SVU, showrunner Warren Leight brought in the big guns. Or more precisely, the big names.
"It's the biggest episode of the year that we've done in a lot of ways," Leight tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Michael Slovis is directing, who did the Game of Thrones season premiere. We don’t have 150 people on horseback in a medieval world, but … we bring back a lot of people we've met during the season."
Wednesday's season finale brings back several familiar faces during the season (returning guest stars Lili Taylor and Peter Hermann) for a story that the entire 23-episode season has been building to: Will Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) officially and formally adopt baby Noah?
"If you're just watching this one alone, it's a great ride. If you've been watching the whole season, a lot of things will pay off," says Leight. "Some of our greatest hits during the season will be replayed."
Although it may seem like a straightforward answer for anyone who's watched the former workaholic transform into a doting mother, Olivia's personal journey will be complicated by her discovery earlier this season that sex trafficker Johnny D. (Charles Halford), the man behind a prostitution ring, is Noah's father. "Now the question is as she's moving to adopt: Does she tell the truth on the form about does she have knowledge about who the baby's biological father is? And if she does, what will that mean for baby Noah's future?" says Leight. "It's the trial of Johnny D. and the tribulation of Olivia and Noah."
It doesn't take long for Johnny D. to find out about his son. "When he finds out the truth about that baby, he has to use it," says Leight. "He's not really good father material but he develops an interest in that baby very early on in that episode."
Olivia's struggles with Noah come just as she faces change in her precinct as well. In the most recent episode, Tucker (Robert John Burke) urged her to take the Lieutenant's exam to prevent an outsider from coming in and usurping her power. However, the question then turned to who on the team would step up and become her No. 2. Fin (Ice-T) is the most veteran, but isn't interested. Amaro (Danny Pino) does seem interested, but will his record, which includes shooting an unarmed teenager boy and assaulting an acquitted sex offender, be a problem?
"It will certainly be explored. Tucker also comes back with his thoughts on who the No. 2 should be," says Leight. "He has his ear to the internal politics of 1 Police Plaza and he's trying to give Benson the heads up on how things might go."
Combined with a courtroom shooting teased in the season finale promo, it makes for what Leight calls "an emotional rollercoaster ride" of a season finale. "It doesn’t end on a cliff, but I think people will be ready for a break by the time it ends," says the executive producer. "There are a couple of big surprises in the finale that will have to resonate in the new year."
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.