Signature (Season 9, Episode 12)
This episode was written for true crime fans. A serial killer on the loose, a visit from the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit, bodies turning up in Central Park… this episode could be a standalone thriller movie and it would kill at the box office. Signature follows the detectives as they get wrapped up in a murder mystery surrounding a serial killer known as The Woodsman. The Woodsman’s MO was abducting women, torturing them in his torture chamber, recording their cries for help, murdering them by dry-drowning, and then leaving bodies for the police to find in the woods. The murder the team is searching for is scary enough on its own but this one also has a twist ending you won’t see coming.
Undercover (Season 9, Episode 15)
Every SVU fan knows this episode where Olivia Benson goes undercover to investigate a ring of prison guard rapists — only to come inches away from being orally raped herself. Saved at the last minute by Odafin Tutola (also undercover, Benson delivers one of her best lines of the series, ‘Who’s the bitch now?”
The William Lewis episodes
It’s hard to believe the William Lewis episodes of SVU even exist in the same universe as the normal episodes of the show. These episodes are beyond disturbing. William Lewis is arrested in Central Park for flashing and the SVU team cannot identify him because he has burned his fingerprints off on a stovetop burner. A game of cat and mouse begins as Lewis seems to always be one step ahead of the SVU and ADA Barba. Eventually the case against Lewis is dismissed.
However, Lewis’ real story begins here. Following the trial he breaks into Olivia Benson’s apartment and holds her hostage. He forces Benson to consume sleeping pills and liquor while torturing her. He drives her to a secluded house where he keeps her incapacitated and bound. The whole saga is long and contains plot twist after twist. The entire William Lewis arc can be found in episodes:
Season 14: Her Negotiation (S14, E24)
Season 15: Surrender Benson (S15, E1)
American Tragedy (S15, E3)
Psycho/Therapist (S15, E10)
Wednesday’s Child (S15, E14)
Beast’s Obsession (S15, E20)
Post-Mortem Blues (S15, E21)
Obscene (Season 6, Episode 3)
The lines between media and reality are blurred when a starlet is raped in her trailer and the perpetrator is found to be the teen son of a famous shock jock DJ who obsessed over the starlet’s sexuality. I don’t know about you, but the very real threat of impressionable men driven by ideological hatred to violence against women and minorities is more real and scary than ever before. You can literally trace the line from where this kid started to how he was made into a rapist.
Conscience (Season 6, Episode 6)
What’s creepier than a child murderer? One who toys with the empathy of the adults around him. What at first seems to be just a tragic accidents turns into something more sinister as the team investigates a boy who murders another boy in his neighborhood.
The Yates and Rudnick episodes
Gregory Yates and Carl Rudnick were classmates at Duke University where they both studied medicine. Both Yates and Rudnick grow up to be serial rapists and murderers who compete against each other to be more famously depraved. Yates is a criminal mastermind and it’s genuinely unnerving to see him out-maneuver the detectives and ADAs at every turn. However, I have to say, I think the all time creepiest moment in this entire show is when Yates tells Rollins he knows she is pregnant because he can “smell” it.
The Yates/Rudnick arc takes place in these episodes:
Season 16: Daydream Believer (S16, E20)
Season 17: Devil’s Dissections (S17, E1)
Criminal Pathology (S17, E2)
Nationwide Manhunt (S17, E4)
Born Psychopath (Season 14, Episode 19)
Another case of killer kids. This time a school nurse notices injuries on a young girl and calls the SVU. They discover the girl is being tortured by her sadistic older brother, unbeknownst to their busy parents. Henry, only a child himself, is described by the nanny as a “monster” who stabs his mother soon after the detectives visit. Dr. Huang evaluates Henry and says he is a psychopath and urges the family to get help for him.
Charisma (Season 6, Episode 7)
In this iconic SVU episode the gang investigates a 12-year-old who checks herself into the hospital, about to go into labor. They discover the girl is a member of a cult lead by a charismatic leader who rapes and impregnates his follower’s daughters. If you remember one thing from this episode, it’s the creepy blue-eyed star of cult leader “Abraham”.
Glasglowman’s Wrath (Season 16, Episode 6)
SVU ripped from the headlines episodes are always a treat and this take on the real life “Slenderman” murder is no different. Three girls go into the woods, two come out. A rare SVU episode that flirts with the paranormal.