‘Law & Order: SVU’ reaches 400 episode milestone with Mariska Hargitay directing as well as starring

On Wednesday (Feb. 8), the NBC crime drama “Law & Order: SVU” aired its 400th episode, “Motherly Love. The show’s Emmy-winning star Mariska Hargitay did double duty as she also helmed this tightly paced installment, which was episode 10 of season 18. Per the official description: “A teenaged boy uses a rifle to stop an assault on his mother, but soon learns the target was someone he knows.” But, as with the best episodes of “SVU,” the team led by detective Olivia Benson (Hargitay) soon discovers that the truth lies behind a web of lies.

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Hargitay had helmed four episodes of her show prior to this, beginning in the 15th season with episode 18, “Criminal Stories.” In that explosive hour, her character investigated a possible hate crime involving the alleged rape of a Muslim woman in Central Park. In season 16, she directed episode 12, “Padre Sandunguero,” a showcase for her then co-star Danny Pino in which his character, Nick Amaro, is put in a uncomfortable situation when his abusive father is accused of striking his bride the night before their wedding.

She was back in the director’s chair for episode 12 of season 17, “A Misunderstanding.” That timely tale chronicled the story of a high school rape accusation that turns into a complicated “he said, she said” without a conclusive or satisfactory resolution. Later that season, she oversaw the action in episode 19, “Sheltered Outcasts,” in which Dominick Carisi (Peter Scanavino) goes undercover at a homeless shelter to find out if a resident is the suspect in a series of neighborhood rapes.

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Hargitay reaped eight consecutive Emmy bids for Best Drama Actress beginning in 2004 for season five. Season seven turned out to be the lucky one for her as she triumphed over Emmy darling Allison Janney (“The West Wing”), Oscar champ Geena Davis (“Commander in Chief”), Tony nominee Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under”) and Golden Globe winner Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”).

“SVU” is a spin-off of Law & Order,” which aired 456 episodes over 20 seasons. While that tenure ties it with “Gunsmoke” for the longest-running TV drama, the CBS western produced a staggering 639 installments. Closing in on that mark is “The Simpsons,” with that FOX cartoon comedy at 609 and counting.

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