Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1 Review: Tunnel Blind

For 25 years, Olivia Benson’s fought the good fight, but it sucks when she loses a victim.

She learned that the hard way on Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1 when all her efforts to find a missing teenager led nowhere.

This strange, heartbreaking case was the perfect way to kick off the long-running series’ historic 25th season — but is this the end of Maddie’s story?

The SVU Family - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

Maddie’s kidnapping happened at the same time as the baptism of Rollins’ baby. The celebratory scenes at the church and the bar afterward made Maddie’s disappearance even more powerful a gut punch.

I was surprised that nobody explicitly referenced the parallel. Rollins has been worried since becoming pregnant 0about bringing another child into a world where monsters prey on young people, yet she seemed undisturbed by the incident. She was focused entirely on how Benson was doing.

Is Benson the Godmother? - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

It might have been especially terrifying if she knew all the details. Maddie’s parents did their best to protect their daughter, but her mother didn’t realize that putting a photo on Instagram could endanger her teenager.

That’s something many parents probably don’t realize. The media focuses on how important it is to teach children Internet safety. Still, parents often use sites like Facebook and Instagram to share photos of their children with friends without being aware of the risks.

Maddie’s parents appeared to be headed for a split for the sake of drama after Maddie’s disappearance.

Benson mentioned in passing that the parents had no financial issues that suggested they could have been involved, but their constant fighting should have had them firmly on the police’s radar until entirely ruled out.

Caris and Rollins Celebrate - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

Maddie’s mother will never get over the loss of her daughter, but will Benson?

Olivia Benson gets attached to victims all the time as it is and is more like a social worker than a cop, often as invested in helping them heal as getting them justice.

Being unable to find a teenager taken by a pedophile would hit her hard no matter what, but knowing that she crossed paths with the victim will eat at her forever.

Benson claimed she had no idea anything was wrong when she spotted Maddie in the energy drink van. But she was so lost in staring at it that Noah had to tell her that the light had changed, suggesting that, on some level, she had an instinct something was wrong.

Proud New Father - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

She probably let it go because she wasn’t sure that anything was untoward and had Noah in the car with her, making it difficult to investigate.

Either way, she spent the entire hour snapping at anyone who told her she needed to take a break, getting annoyed at the suggestion that she didn’t see Maddie, and racing against time to find the girl alive… only to get nowhere.

That’ll haunt her for a long time. But is this the end, or will a clue to Maddie’s whereabouts surface later in the season?

They may be dealing with a human trafficker — Hal’s description of agreeing to pay $8,000 for Maddie and then changing his mind sounds like it.

And if so, could a crossover with Law & Order: Organized Crime to bust a trafficking ring lead to finding Maddie alive?

The SVU Family - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

Benson’s insistence that she saw Maddie reminded me of Law & Order: SVU Season 7 Episode 3, in which Benson was determined to save a little girl who had called 911 to say she had been kidnapped while the rest of the crew believed it was a prank.

That was a great callback to the earlier days of the series, which is precisely what I expect of the 25th anniversary season. The flashbacks Benson had to earlier cases as she contemplated Maddie’s disappearance worked well, too, though they gave this episode more of a TV movie feel.

It had to be doubly frustrating for Benson, who built a career out of believing survivors when no one else did, to constantly have to tell her colleagues that she did see what she saw.

Was I the only one who cheered aloud when she found Maddie’s bracelet? Not only did it demonstrate that Maddie was resourceful enough to leave a clue behind for the police, but it vindicated Benson.

Victim's Mother - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

True to form, Benson wore that bracelet to symbolize dedication to finding Maddie.

Throughout the rest of the season, she may be preoccupied with this case or think she sees clues while dealing with others.

That was done to great effect on Homicide: Life on the Streets (where, incidentally, the late Richard Belzer’s John Munch came from) when, years after failing to find a little girl’s killer, Bayliss became convinced that another crime was connected to it.

Benson will undoubtedly be similarly haunted, especially if she never finds Maddie.

The Weather Doesn't Help.- Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

She’s already said she can’t stop beating herself up over not pulling over that van, and it will get worse over time if she doesn’t find a way to accept that Maddie is gone.

Although this was a heavier episode, we can’t ignore the banter at the beginning of the hour.

Carisi’s annoying cousin kept trying to flirt with Benson. He was clumsy about it, and she couldn’t get away from him fast enough, but he also asked her about the compass Elliot Stabler had given her.

SVU and Organized Crime keep teasing fans by making it look like Benson and Stabler might get together, though, at the rate they’re moving, it’ll be around SVU’s 50th anniversary before they go out on a date.

Targeted Ahead of Time - Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 1

Nevertheless, Benson’s comments about having not found the right person yet and her sadness about that, as she watched Carisi and Rollins hugging, suggest that more Bensler stuff will come up this season.

Your turn, Law & Order: SVU fanatics. What did you think of this sad case and its seeming non-ending?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9/8c.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.

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