Spoilers ahead for the season premieres of Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and Law & Order: Organized Crime on NBC.
Law & Order returned for Season 22 in a history-making three-part crossover with SVU and Organized Crime, and the result was a cinematic television event with some of the biggest names in network television. As it happens, however, the event was missing one of the biggest names from Law & Order’s first revival season, as Anthony Anderson was nowhere to be seen as Det. Kevin Bernard, and none of the three episodes addressed his absence… for a reason.
Anthony Anderson’s departure from Law & Order after returning for the first revival season was announced over the summer, so any fans who kept an eye out for L&O headlines during hiatus already knew not to expect him, but the Season 22 premiere paired up Jeffrey Donovan’s Frank Cosgrove with new series regular Mehcad Brooks’ Jalen Shaw right away with no mention of his partner as recently as the Season 21 finale in May. So, why did the series ignore the character?
Well, it’s because the character will get a mention in the next episode. Law & Order showrunner Rick Eid (who was previously showrunner on Chicago P.D.) revealed back in August that Bernard will be mentioned in the second episode of Season 22, although it will be very brief. He didn’t share any details about why Bernard is missing, but even the promise of an update is more than P.D. fans got with the sudden absence of Lisseth Chavez as Officer Rojas a couple of years ago!
So, the big reason for Bernard going unacknowledged in the premiere is that the show is saving the mention for next week’s second episode. As much as I would have probably appreciated at least a name drop, I can understand why Eid decided to skip it this week.
The three-part crossover was packed from beginning to end, and had to combine the casts of three ensemble shows into one sprawling case that involved everything from sex trafficking to shootings to even an explosion. If the goal was to use every minute of screentime to set the stage and tell the story, then perhaps it was best to save the mention of Bernard for next week. Plus, it meant that Mehcad Brooks’ character’s arrival wasn’t overshadowed by however Kevin Bernard left.
So, will the upcoming mention of Bernard be the last that viewers hear of him, and was the Season 21 finale the last time that anybody will see Anthony Anderson as the detective? The actor recently weighed in and told CinemaBlend that he “wouldn’t have a problem going back,” but shared that he wanted to “develop some new things.”
Given that co-star Odelya Halevi only had good things to say about what he brought to set, I can imagine that he might return someday. For now, though, viewers can look forward to answers about his absence and seeing Detective Shaw in action with Cosgrove.
See what’s next on Law & Order after the three-part crossover with new episodes in the 2022 TV schedule on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. The original series opens up a full night of Law & Order action, with SVU at 9 p.m. and Organized Crime at 10 p.m.