Will Hart/NBC
September 22, 2011 at 05:30 PM EDT

Phase One of the great post-Chris Meloni SVU experiment began last night with the premiere of Law & Order: SVU‘s 13th season. Kelli Giddish — last season modeling a short-lived leather jacket on last season’s gone-and-forgotten Chase — strolled into the SVU offices as Amanda Rollins, a detective from Atlanta. Her debut was remarkably choreographed: She made sure to pay fealty to reigning Cop Queen Olivia Benson, noting, “I’ve studied a lot of your cases.” (Which, metaphorically speaking, can be translated as “I’ve got a major in ‘caring too much about a case’ with a minor in ‘awesome pre-commercial one-liners.'”) L&O vets Stephanie March and Linus Roache swung by to make the torch-passing feel vaguely ceremonial.

The episode itself spent perhaps too long dwelling on Meloni’s departure — we were left to ponder the dark night of the soul that Detective Stabler was apparently having off-screen — but I’m a sucker for ripped-from-the-headlines campiness, and the decision to plug the SVU squad into the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case made for some fun bits, all of them involving Ice T. (When Faux-DSK demanded to know why he was being paraded in front of cameras, Ice T cackled: “Freedom of the press, baby!” Why isn’t he the star of the show yet?)

To my eyes, Giddish didn’t seem to immediately gel with SVU. Her cute-as-a-button Southern belle-ness seems like an especially odd fit for SVU. It’s clear that the show is experimenting — new costar Danny Pino won’t even appear until next week. But for now, we want to hear from you: What did you think of Giddish? Was she a good addition to SVU?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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