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Olivia Benson's Best Episode In Law & Order: SVU Season 9

Since its debut in 1999, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has been consistently praised for one thing in particular: Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). The detective-turned-captain has been a mainstay for 23 seasons and is universally celebrated for being what NBC writer Amanda Green calls "the wish-fulfillment of every victim" (via Jezebel).

Hargitay's thoughtful portrayal of Benson has earned her critical acclaim, heartwarming fan encounters, and countless awards and nominations. Season 9 earned the actress her second Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama (via IMDb).

Like previous seasons of the hit series, Season 9 doesn't shy away from tackling controversial subject matter like abortion and the morality of seeking justice against victims who perpetrate violence. Hargitay also stunned audiences with a chilling performance in Episode 15, "Undercover."

The episode contains one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in "SVU" history, but it's also the best Olivia Benson episode in Season 9.

Mariska Hargitay reached new heights in Undercover

"Undercover" is one of the most memorable episodes of "Law & Order: SVU" because of Mariska Hargitay's outstanding performance. The episode follows Detective Olivia Benson as she goes undercover in a women's prison to investigate the rape of a teenage girl whose mother is an inmate.

During the investigation, Benson becomes the next target of the corrections officer at the top of her suspect list. She suddenly finds herself in danger when the officer brings her into an isolated part of the facility and attempts to sexually assault her. Detective Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) arrives in time to interfere, but Benson doesn't get to walk away unscathed.

In a retrospective for Jezebel, "SVU" writer Mark Goffman admitted that he "still (has) nightmares watching Mariska's performance" because it was "so haunting and intense."

Showrunner Neal Baer added that the episode received backlash due to the intensity of the scene. However, Goffman explained that they sought to make the episodes "authentic," no matter how dark it got.

Fans agree that "Undercover" is hard to watch, but it's a testament to Mariska Hargitay's acting.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).