It looked and felt like old times this week, as camera crazy paparazzi captured Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay smiling and sharing a warm embrace. Was it the fulfillment of many a "Law and Order: SVU" fan's dream of reinstatement for the duo on the series? No, but the former costars and still strong friends did make dreams come true for children in hospitals at the 12th Annual Make Believe on Broadway Gala, allowing children to participate in interactive theatre projects even from their hospital beds. So strong are their bonds of friendship that Hargitay handily excused herself from a previous commitment to the Worldwide Orphan organization to stand beside her ex-partner and still friend, whose abrupt departure from the show after failed contract negotiations doubtless left a hole in her life not to mention big shoes to fill in the show.
Young energy from familiar faces were cast as new partners for Hargitay to break in as Benson, in the form of Danny Pino and Kelli Giddish. Only this week, in the "Educated Guess" episode, as Pino portrays his character's longing to "take his head off" in reference to a bad behaving brother-in-law who repeatedly rapes the mentally-ill sister of his wife, Benson reminds him that her former partner tried that tactic more than once, recalling the characteristic Stabler intensity, but that the approach did not always bring closure or satisfaction.
Pino seems quite content to bide his time in coming into his character, and knows full well he can't please everyone in the viewing population.
"From the very beginning I knew that I needed to find my own way and I needed to find my own character," he relates. "Benson had this relationship with Stabler and they were very tightknit, and he expects that, [but] he realizes who he's dealing with, and that he has a lot more work to do so that she realizes he does have her back."
The same sentiments could apply to fans who are struggling to discern all that makes Detective Amaro the guy he is, but Pino is already on the path to prove to all that his crime-fighting persona has a heart. Amaro may not have the frenetic side of Stabler, and certainly not the experience dealing with those dudes at Rikers, but there's more than one kind of intensity, and Pino's is just starting to smolder.