Christopher Meloni’s departure from the show was a shock to fans, but it was due to a contract dispute as he allegedly tried to increase his salary.
Detective Elliot Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni, and his partner, Olivia Benson, played by Mariska Hargitay, took on perpetrators for 12 years on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU). Stabler was always the emotional one of the two. His emotions often got the best of him, which resulted in angry and violent outbursts towards suspects. He, however, remained dedicated to the duties of the Special Victims Unit. After 12 seasons and an Emmy nomination, Meloni decided to leave the show and the beloved character behind.
The reason why Stabler left the show can be found in the unexpected season 12 finale. The episode, Smoked, saw the team investigating the murder of a rape victim. The detectives jailed three men in their squad room, awaiting transfer to a penitentiary. The episode ended horrifically, as the teenage daughter of the murder victim entered the precinct and opened fire on the imprisoned men. The teenager accidentally shot a recurring character, Sister Peg. Upon Sister’s death, Stabler was forced to return fire on the girl, ultimately killing her.
An Internal Affairs investigation was opened due to Stable’s shooting incident. Captain Cragen informed Benson that if Stabler did return, he had to undergo psychological evaluations and counseling. The episode ended with the news that Stabler decided to retire instead of returning to work.
Christopher Meloni allegedly left Law and Order: SVU over a salary dispute. Meloni and Mariska Hargitay were reportedly paid the same amount for the first 12 seasons of the hit series. However, Meloni reportedly wanted a pay increase for season 13. The network reportedly held its ground and offered him $8 million per year, so he walked.