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All About SVU's New Agent and Where You've Seen Her Before on the Show

A fascinating new FBI agent is giving Benson's squad a bit of a remix on Season 25 of SVU.

By Jessica White

For 25 gripping seasons of Law & Order: SVU, viewers have watched as Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) expertly closes whatever case comes her way, but sometimes, she needs backup. That's where Agent Shannah Sykes, played by Jordana Spiro. 

How to Watch

Watch the Season 26 premiere of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Thursday, October 3 at 9/8c on NBC.

SVU viewers met Sykes after Benson got a promising lead in the ongoing Maddie Flynn case, a missing persons incident reported in the Season 25 premiere. On the day of the kidnapping, Benson coincidentally saw Maddie in a suspicious van but didn't realize it was a kidnapping until it was reported later that day. With the kidnapper utilizing Amtrak trains to quell detection, the FBI got involved, but there were no viable leads on Maddie's location. 

RELATED: Law & Order: SVU Season 25 - Premiere Date, Cast, Details

Read on to learn everything we know about Agent Sykes, a new character making her way to SVU Season 25. 

Who is Agent Shannah Sykes on Law & Order: SVU?

After a month-long manhunt for Maddie's kidnapper, a breadcrumb finally fell into her lap in Episode 5 ("Zone Rouge") after a Pittsburgh civilian reported a photo of a drugged Maddie on the train. Knowing the perp was in Pennsylvania, Benson made her way to Maddie's last known whereabouts to team up with the Pittsburg SVU. That's when she met the tight-lipped but determined FBI Agent Sykes, an investigator Benson described as the "East Coast expert on child abduction."

Sykes was the one to draft the behavior analysis profiler on Maddie's kidnapper, so before even crossing paths with Benson, the SVU Captain was impressed. Sykes accompanied Benson throughout the investigation, but once they managed to track down Maddie's kidnapper, they were devastated to learn he had already sold Maddie to the highest bidder.

While it was upsetting, Sykes lost her cool while interrogating the kidnapper, screaming for him to tell them where Maddie was taken. Benson instantly clocked that the case was personal for Sykes, whose terrified pleas gave away that she was rattled by the case.

FBI Special Agent Shannah Sykes holds coffee on Law and order SVU

Agent Shannah Sykes' dark past came to light

Benson is a literal expert at getting others to open up, and after some initial hesitance, eventually correctly guessed that Sykes had lost someone in her life. All that Benson had to ask was, "Who is she?"

Sykes cautiously shared her tragic story: when she was a young girl, her sister was kidnapped. The mystery of her sister's whereabouts was seemingly solved when remains were found — but after a year of DNA testing, the family learned it wasn't Sykes' sister. Years later, a box of Polaroid photos in the woods with a picture of her sister inside was reported, confirming her sister met a horrific demise after being kidnapped. 

"I don't feel her in the world anymore," Sykes confided before quickly changing the subject. 

Agent Shannah Sykes is helping the Manhattan SVU

Benson and Sykes made quick work of tracking down Maddie's kidnapper, equally fueled by their mutual passion for finally closing the case. Benson and Sykes tearfully watched as Maddie reunited with her family, finally putting to rest a harrowing case that had been keeping Benson up at night. 

After returning to New York City, Benson was delightfully surprised to learn Sykes was looking for a shake-up within her career. While catching up over coffee, Benson questioned Sykes about her wish to join Benson and the squad. 

"So you're leaving the FBI?" Benson asked. 

"No," Sykes clarified. "No, no, no. I love the FBI, it was always my dream..."

"OK, so how is this gonna work right?"

Sykes explained that she'd still work for the FBI, but would be loaned out to the Manhattan SVU, giving Benson and her team access to a variety of federal cases and FBI resources. Benson couldn't help but like the sound of that, but insisted on knowing why Sykes wanted to join her team. 

"The past 10 years, I've been bouncing all around the country, I mean, they're like, my lost years... The real Shannah has been missing for a long time," she said. 

"Well, let's see if we can find her," Benson said confidently, earning the first grin we saw from Sykes the entire episode.  

Jordana Spiro's Television Roles

FBI Agent Shannah Sykes is played by Jordana Spiro. Eagle-eyed SVU fans might recognize her as a Law & Order guest star. Before taking on the role of Sykes, Spiro appeared in Season 23, Episode 22 ("A Final Call At Forlini's Bar") as Delia Hackman, a woman who killed her husband.

Viewers may also recognize Spiro for her role as Rachel Garrison in the drama series Ozark. Some of Spiro's other celebrated television credits include The Huntress, My Boys, Harry's Law, and The Good Wife. 

Watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on Thursdays on NBC and the next day on Peacock.