It’s been three years since Det. John Munch flashed his badge on “Law & Order: SVU,” and 23 years since he first premiered on NBC’s cop procedural franchise “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” But on Wednesday night (May 4), the character who’s become as familiar as the “bum bum” sound between scene breaks, returned to help take down fashion photographer — and previous murder suspect — Alvin Gilbert (Fisher Stevens).
It’s not just audiences that have missed having Munch around the precinct. “SVU” showrunner Warren Leight told Zap2it that they’ve been gunning to get Belzer back on set for awhile. Retirement be damned! “We had tried twice in the last year to bring Richard back, and both times life intervened. He wasn’t going to let anything stop him this time.”
During the episode, “Fashionable Crimes,” Det. Munch quietly slips back into the precinct as if he never left. Seeing Munch and Finn working on a case together, even if they are flipping through pictures of models who they suspect might’ve been raped by Alvin, is a duo as comforting to together on TV as “Sesame Street”s’ Bert and Ernie.
But then, poof! Munch is gone. He was on screen for what felt like a whole 7 seconds, making the rest of the episode feel like someone just squeezed the jelly out of Olivia Benson’s (Mariska Hargitay) donut. Alvin ends up getting killed, by who? Who cares. Where’s Munch?
But phew! Munch finally returns for the final two minutes of the episode. Where’s he been the whole time? He’s been at Benson’s home baby-sitting her son, Noah. He’s Noah’s godfather! Not officially, but it makes us feel better believing as such.
Leight, who will be departing from the long-running series after this season says, “The last scene, in which he teaches ‘Baby Noah’ to question his authority was his idea. Richard loves kids, and dogs and conspiracies– and it just played beautifully. I’m glad I got one last episode with him before I leave.”
Mirroring Leight’s real-life departure, the episode closes with Munch saying to Benson, “Turns out there’s more to life than SVU,” before exiting and closing the door behind him. Sure, but “SVU” life is so much better with Det. Munch in it.
“Law & Order: SVU” airs on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/ PT on NBC.