Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Law & Order: SVU Episode People Think Went Too Far

The detectives of the Special Victims Unit in "Law & Order: SVU" see horrific crimes every day. The "Law & Order" spin-off has provided viewers with 22 seasons of particularly heinous crimes, almost all involving Sergeant Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) in the investigation.

Calling the assaults "sexual in nature" only scratches the surface of the crimes depicted on the show, many of which are pulled from actual headlines. But headlines alone don't account for two dozen years, and the writers often weave together crimes that account for some of the most disturbing "Law & Order: SVU" episodes to date. Fans of the crime show clearly have a high tolerance when it comes to the subject, but even the most hardened of fans have an episode they felt was too much.

Looper conducted a survey of 536 people and asked fans of the show which episode they felt went too far. There were a couple of close calls, but one chilling story rose above the rest when the votes were all added up.

One Season 3 episode of Law & Order: SVU was too shocking for many fans

Looper's question brought one particular episode to mind for longtime viewers of the show. Season 3, Episode 11, "Monogamy," opens with the discovery of the victim, this time a pregnant woman who has had her unborn child surgically extracted from her. Shortly afterward, the child is found dead from asphyxiation. As the detectives investigate, it becomes clear that the woman's husband committed the despicable acts himself, believing the baby wasn't his. 

Despite his wife's affair, DNA testing proves the child was actually his all along. The Episode ventured further into sensitive territory when ADA Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) broached the controversial subject of life before birth during the court case. The vengeful act of infanticide was voted as "too far" by 32.28% of respondents. The Season 3 episode stars "Law & Order: SVU" mainstays Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, and BD Wong, along with late television actor John Ritter as the man in question.

Aside from "Monogamy," a few other episodes went too far for a good number of viewers. Season 9, Episode 15, entitled "Undercover," had longtime heroine Olivia Benson (Hargitay) go — you guessed it — undercover as an inmate to investigate officers at a correctional facility. In an attempt to apprehend a teenager's attacker, Benson is nearly assaulted herself. That episode ranked second, getting 23.51% of the votes. 

On the tail of "Undercover" was Season 19, Episode 17, with a 22.76% share. The episode, called "Send In The Clowns," concerns a teenage girl engaged in a relationship with her music teacher — a man who turns out to be her biological father.

Other Law & Order: SVU episodes that are hard to watch

"Intimidation Game," Season 16's 14th episode, came in as the fourth most controversial in "Law & Order: SVU" history. The story was loosely based on the real-life GamerGate controversy of the time, as detailed by The New York Times. In the episode, a female video game developer is threatened, kidnapped, and assaulted. For 9.89% of survey takers, the story hit too close to home.

Next on the list was Season 14, Episode 18, "Legitimate Rape." David Marciano of "The Shield" plays an audacious cameraman who not only sexually assaults his co-worker but also impregnates her. He then decides to represent himself in court so she is forced to face him. The storyline and Marciano's performance placed the episode in fifth place with 6.16% of the votes.

Lastly, Benson's own well-being placed her on the list again in the Season 15 premiere, "Surrender Benson." The episode saw "Orange Is The New Black" actor Pablo Schreiber reprise his role as serial killer William Lewis, a character who first appeared in Season 14. Here, Lewis kidnaps Benson and holds her captive for several days. The arc drew 5.41% of the vote for episodes that went too far on the show.

TV Insider recently reported that "Law & Order: SVU" has been renewed through 2024, giving the writers plenty of opportunities to re-arrange this list in the future.