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Law & Order Fans Weigh In On The Most Brutal Episodes Of SVU

As the new millennium approached, "Law & Order" continued its reign atop the TV mountain and exhibited no sign of giving up its lofty position any time soon. After all, it was a consistent favorite among viewers, hence why NBC not only chose to keep it around but expand the world it had established. Thus, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" made its grand introduction in September of 1999 — a series that endures to this day and has done so incredibly well for itself that it has, in many ways, surpassed the program that paved the way for its creation.

Starring Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni as Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler, respectively, "SVU" proved to be a stark departure from the original "Law & Order." Sure, the legal drama and focus on bringing criminals to justice remained, but the overall content of "SVU" was much darker. Cases of child abuse, sexual assault, pedophilia, and more horrendous subjects — often rooted in real-world tragedy — took center stage, and there wasn't always a happy ending to look forward to. Nevertheless, the show's fanbase continues to tune in, no matter how rough things get.

Be that as it may, there are a select few "SVU" stories that fans have collectively deemed some of the most brutal of the bunch.

SVU boasts a handful of especially difficult episodes to watch

With over 20 seasons and 500 plus episodes to sift through, finding the darkest "Law & Order: SVU" episodes is no easy task. However, for longtime viewers of the program, selecting the most brutal installments isn't so difficult, as evidenced by a Reddit thread from May of 2021 by user Peter_Jamarino2004 that asked the masses for their personal picks.

One episode that came up several times is "Charisma" from Season 6, where the pregnancy of a 12-year old Melanie Cramer (Holliston Coleman) sent the New York City Police Department down a rabbit hole full of con-artists, family fortunes, and cults. "That episode was very memorable especially the ending and the mass murder," wrote Redditor asht_mz, with numerous other users agreeing.

"Aside from the ones already mentioned, Signature was pretty brutal too," added paleolive, bringing another popular choice into the conversation. This specific installment from Season 9 saw Stabler and Benson help FBI agent Lauren Cooper (Erika Christiansen) track down a serial killer named Larry Moore, aka the Woodsman. It should've been a straightforward case, but Cooper's involvement made things a bit complicated — resulting in her suicide by the end.

Season 8's "Annihilated" also got quite a few mentions in the Reddit thread, and it's not difficult to see why. It covered the case of Malcolm Royce (Dylan Walsh), who wound up killing his family as well as his mistress, Cynthia Yellin, due to his increased paranoia. Though he tried to frame his late wife Lindsay (Kelly Deadmon) for the murders, Stabler managed to get Malcolm to admit that he was the one ultimately responsible.

"Law & Order: SVU" has never had the faint of heart in mind, but when it comes to these specific stories and some others, viewer discretion is highly advised.