Philip Winchester as Peter Stone in LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT "End Game" (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Law & Order: SVU bid adieu last night (May 16) to a fan-favorite character at the end of the season 20 finale. The show was renewed for a historic season 21, but we’re going to be missing Philip Winchester’s Peter Stone on SVU when it returns. Stone was one of the few characters to cross over in the Dick Wolf TV universe. But this appears to be the last case for the tough ADA. Why did Stone leave the SVU? Here’s what you need to know about Philip Winchester’s departure from the show.

Philip Winchester Announces Departure from SVU

Philip Winchester originated the character of Peter Stone as part of a backdoor pilot that aired on Chicago PD season 3. Stone’s work was worthy enough for him to join the main cast of NBC’s new Chicago Justice.

He starred in the epic Chicago franchise crossover back then. But when NBC canceled Chicago Justice after one season, Stone was brought on board another Dick Wolf show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, in season 19.

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In March 2019, NBC renewed SVU for season 21, making it the longest-running live action series in TV history. The same day, Winchester revealed that he won’t be returning to the franchise after season 20.

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Winchester took to Twitter to announce his departure on March 29. Per his tweet, Stone won’t be part of the cast in season 21.

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Stone Bids Adieu to the SVU

In the season finale last night, the murder of a teenage girl leads the victims to suspect Rob Miller. If you remember, Miller is an attorney who raped the defense attorney, Nikki Staines, but the charges against him were dropped.

The team is naturally furious about this, but when they arrive at Staines’ to question her about it, they find out that Miller intimidated her into dropping the charges. Staines also refuses to hand over evidence of Miller’s underage sex parties.

Meanwhile, the cause of death of a teenage girl whose body is discovered in the Hudson River is revealed to be drugs. And she had sex with different men before she died. When they track down her parents, they discover that the victim’s family attorney is *drum roll* Miller!

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Our guys are hopeful they have enough reason to connect Miller to the young girl’s death and the sex ring he was running. However, Peter Stone doesn’t think they have enough evidence to make a case.

But when he learns through Olivia that Miller was threatening Staines, Stone decides they’re going to put Miller behind bars even if they have to break some rules to do it. He proves it by shrewdly getting an arrest warrant for Miller, and brings him to trial.

At the trial, Stone offers evidence that Miller bought the drugs that were used to kill the girl. But just when we think Miller’s going to get nailed, his lawyer brings Staines to the stand, where she says that she worked with Stone to frame Miller.

But our smart guy Stone uses Staines’ confession to prove that she had been intimidated by Miller.

Miller’s not done yet, though. He turns his sights on Olivia, threatening her subtly. His threats aside, Olivia confronts Staines for breaking the law, only to find out that Stone is the mastermind behind the plan.

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Olivia is shocked that Stone would risk getting himself and Staines disbarred. So, even though the jury finds Miller guilty of murder, Olivia is furious at Stone. She’s grateful, but still mad at him.

And what does Stone do? Imply that he has feelings for her.

Yup, he admits that she is more important to him than any case and he is willing to do anything for her, including conjure up evidence against an evil man who threatened her. In their line of work, it’s not always good and Stone knows that.

So he tells her that he has to leave before he loses “perspective” again and walks away from Olivia and the SVU.

Why Did Philip Winchester Leave SVU?

In his tweets, Winchester didn’t make clear the reason why he’s exiting the show. From the looks of it, he’s not leaving on bad terms. He even congratulated the show for getting renewed.

After the finale aired, he thanked the writers for giving Stone a deserving send-off. So it’s not like he was fired or quit due to “differences.”

It’s speculated that he was written off to make way for a new creative path in season 21. Nonetheless, it can’t be said that there’s no room for Stone’s return. His departure was very open-ended and we’d love to see him return, even as a guest, and give Olivia some closure.

Fans are, of course, sad to see him go. But a few blame the writers for developing Stone’s character inappropriately. This section of fans speculates that the writers let Stone go so they could rebuild a better chemistry between the ADA and the precinct.

With Stone gone, there’s a void in the ADA’s office that will be filled in season 21. Longtime fans are hoping this will be an opportunity to bring back favorites like Raúl Esparza’s Rafael Barba or Stephanie March’s Alexandra Cabot.

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