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What Happened During Psychopathic Kidnapper William Lewis' Creepy SVU Episodes?

The chill-inducing villain tormented Olivia Benson during several unforgettable SVU episodes in Seasons 14 and 15. 

By Jessica White

The chilling William Lewis, portrayed by the talented Pablo Schreiber, still maintains his status as one of the scariest Law & Order: Special Victims Unit villains in the show's 25 years and counting.

How to Watch

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

Introduced in Season 14 and dominating the squad's attention throughout Season 15 of SVU, Lewis was a cunning master manipulator and sadistic serial killer and rapist who excelled at eluding justice.

RELATED: 11 Law & Order: SVU Villains Fans Are Still Terrified Of

He became obsessed with Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) after first brushing shoulders with her and the squad in Season 14, and his sick vendetta against her created some of the series' most intense and emotionally charged episodes.

If you're looking for a goosebump-inducing marathon of Law & Order, William Lewis' multi-episode SVU arc is bound to get the blood pumping.

Trigger warning: This piece contains descriptions of sexual assault and suicide 

Pablo Schreiber as William Lewis

Which episodes of Law & Order: SVU featured William Lewis?

Pablo Schreiber made his first chilling appearance as William Lewis in Season 14, Episode 24 ("Her Negotiation").

RELATED: Why William Lewis Is the Worst Villain in Law & Order: SVU

Lewis' main SVU storyline unfolded over the course of the following seasons, starting with Season 15, Episode 1 ("Surrender Benson").

His arc continued with: Season 15, Episode 3 ("American Tragedy"); Season 15, Episode 10 ("Psycho/Therapist"); Season 15, Episode 14 ("Wednesday's Child"); Season 15, Episode 20 ("Beast's Obsession"); and Season 15, Episode 21 ("Post-Mortem Blues").

All of Lewis' episodes are currently available to stream on Peacock.

How did Olivia Benson meet William Lewis on SVU?

The squad first crossed paths with Lewis in the Season 14 finale of SVU ("Her Negotiation") when he was spotted in a halfway house sizzling off his own fingerprints with a grin, an ill omen of what was to come.

While the detectives enjoyed a rare day off, then-Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) was enjoying a relaxing day in the park when two teenage girls reported Lewis for flashing them. Rollins quickly brought him in for questioning but soon learned he had no form of identification or fingerprints.

The entire SVU had a sick feeling about it and so, to gather more time to unveil his identity, they arraigned Lewis. He refused to accept a plea bargain despite an elderly woman named Alice (Judith Ivey) witnessing the entire episode of public indecency play out.

RELATED: See Photos of Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler Over 25 Years

Later, then-Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) walked Alice home and asked if she'd testify, but Lewis was waiting for her after Cragen left. He subsequently tortured and assaulted her. After the SVU detectives found her, she was adamant that her attacker was Lewis before being whisked to the hospital in critical condition.

Predictably, Lewis denied any involvement in Alice's horrific assault during his interrogation. Emboldened by the attack, Lewis described the assault in graphic detail all under the guise of hypothetical taunting. Benson and the squad knew it was him, but his confession wouldn't be permissible in court.

Rollins, however, had figured out who their mystery suspect was: William Lewis, a repeat offender who had kidnapped and assaulted his ex-girlfriend's mother 15 years before but wasn't convicted because she was too traumatized to testify. He later abducted two roommates and assaulted them for several days in a remote fishing cabin, but got off because those victims were also too traumatized to testify. He also charmed his defense attorney during the fishing cabin case to help him get off, only to later assault and murder her, again getting off on a technicality.

He excelled at legal loopholes and often skirted his criminal record by using aliases phonetically similar to his actual name to fog up police records.

Cragen promised the squad Lewis wouldn't get away with it again, but that proved to be easier said than done when it was clear he'd struck up a good rapport with his new defense attorney.

To make matters worse, Alice died from a heart attack while in the hospital and her fading eyesight was leveraged against her statement to police. The SVU watched as Lewis was let off on another technicality, with the entire squad feeling gut-punched by the troubling verdict as the detectives headed home for the night.

Benson was especially upset, prompting Cragen to tell her to take a few days off.

William Lewis on Law And Order Svu Episode 1421

When did William Lewis kidnap Olivia Benson on SVU?

In the final moments of SVU's Season 14 finale, Benson returned to her apartment to discover Lewis waiting for her arrival with a gun in his hand. He then dragged the horrified Benson to the bedroom as the episode faded to black.

In the Season 15 premiere ("Surrender Benson"), Lewis was tying up a beaten-up Benson for horrific questioning. Despite her attempts to convince him to released her, he promised her she'd never be saved and took her to a car.

It didn't take long for Benson's then-boyfriend Detective Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters) to notice her absence from work and ask the squad if they'd heard from her — they hadn't. Rollins and Fin Tutuola (Ice T) then visited Benson's apartment to check on her, only to find it empty and in total disarray.

As the squad launched a manhunt, Lewis had taken Benson on a vicious road trip, forcing her to watch as he assaulted the mother and murdered the father of his own most recent defense attorney. She also watched as he shot a rookie cop for pulling him over for running a light.

When the squad found the defense attorney's parents, they learned that Benson had been with Lewis during the attack.

By that time, though, kidnapper and victim had arrived at a secluded beach house, where he cuffed her to an iron bed.

How was Olivia Benson rescued from William Lewis on SVU?

Lewis was seconds away from sexually assaulting Benson in Season 15, Episode 1 ("Surrender Benson") when a maid and her young daughter showed up at the cabin for cleaning. Lewis pulled the girl and then pushed her mother inside, instantly raising the stakes for Benson (who had quietly used her handcuffs to pry off the bed frame bar to which she'd been secured).

As she taunted Lewis, he indicated he planned to make the little girl his next victim after her, and then moved to finish the sexual assault he'd started before the interruption. Benson pulled off the bed frame bar, hit Lewis in the head with it, broke his arm with it as he reached for his gun, kneed him in the solar plexus, and grabbed the gun herself. He then taunted her — "OK, you want to be in control for a while, baby, I can play that" — so she hit him in the forehead with the butt of the gun, knocking him out.

She then freed the maid and daughter, who Lewis had tied up in the next room, and told them to leave and never tell anyone.

Having cuffed the unconscious Lewis to the foot of the bed where he'd planned to assault her, Benson then mused about all of the ways she wanted to torture and kill him, at one point even referencing what she thought her former partner Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) would do to him. Lewis, however, was awake for some of it and taunted Benson for her inability to just kill him. But after he begged her to shoot him and then taunted her for lacking the nerve, Benson beat him within an inch of his life with the bar from the bedframe.

In the next scene, Benson was led out of the home by her partner, Detective Nick Amaro (Danny Pino), and Fin told her that Lewis had narrowly survived.

Years later, the episode remains a significant SVU turning point, and Benson was never the same.

"It was, without a doubt, the most difficult episode I ever shot in 15 years, and it was unlike anything I've ever done," Hargitay revealed to TODAY after the episode aired in 2013. "I have to tell you, after 15 years, to be nervous and scared and excited to go to work — it's a pretty great thing."

William Lewis on Law And Order Svu Episode 1512

When did William Lewis go on trial in SVU?

Then-Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) had his work cut out for him when Lewis returned in Season 15, Episode 10 ("Psycho/Therapist") on trial for several charges, including the kidnapping, assault, and attempted rape of Benson. Despite Barba and Benson's careful preparation, Lewis threw a wrench in everyone's plans by first representing himself and then proposing a deal wherein he would plead guilty to raping Benson (despite not having done so).

She refused to allow him to plead guilty to the wrong crime just to embarrass her.

From the get-go, it was clear Lewis' intention at trial was to make Benson look culpable by leveraging his many injuries; he'd lost some hearing and eyesight due to beating she'd inflicted. And, while cross-examining her, he poked holes in her testimony, attempting to get her to admit that she'd lost control and beat him, which she'd claimed was done in self-defense after he escaped from his own handcuffs.

Benson, however, stuck to her (false) testimony that she only beat Lewis after he escaped, earning a strong reaction from Lewis. After successfully pointing to the holes in Benson's story and making it seem that she'd been sexually interested in him, the jury ultimately acquitted Lewis on the general assault and rape charges but found him guilty of kidnapping and assaulting a police officer.

He was sent to prison for 25 years to life, and Benson was left feeling sick about the results.

In the closing moments of the episode, however, Lewis was seen on a stretcher being rushed to the hospital after having a seizure. From his meaningful glance with Janice Cole (Sarah Street) — the prison physician who helped him ham up his injuries, at trial — it was clear that Lewis still had something up his sleeve.

How did William Lewis escape from jail on SVU?

It was revealed in Season 15, Episode 20 ("Beast's Obsession") that Lewis had charmed the jury forewoman during his trial and, believing Lewis to be innocent, she prepared spiked pastries and gave them to him during a prison visit. After ingesting the spiked treats, he complained of chest pain and was wheeled to the hospital... where he was pronounced dead.

RELATED: Where to Watch and Stream Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

But 10 minutes after the proclamation, Lewis came to and subdued the surrounding guards, successfully escaping from the hospital after killing the guard, raping and mutilating the nurse, and stealing her uniform.

One of the first things Lewis did was video call Benson with the nurse's phones to tell her that he missed her and would see her soon.

What happened to William Lewis after he broke out of jail?

Benson instantly orchestrated a manhunt after Lewis escaped in Season 15, Episode 20 ("Beast's Obsession"), but NYPD Captain Declan Murphy (Donal Logue) informed her and the squad that he was taking control of the unit. Benson at the helm was a conflict of interest because she was the assailant's target.

Lewis, meanwhile, went to the home of his once-helpful prison doctor, Janice Cole, killed her, raped her teenage daughter Lauren (Natalie Racoosin), and kidnapped her 12-year-old daughter, Amelia (Lily Pilblad). When Benson visited Lauren in the hospital, she told her that Lewis had a message for her: Tell the truth or Amelia would be killed.

Benson then came clean to Murphy about perjuring herself and, while shocked, he told her that she should have killed Lewis when she had the chance. 

After killing another man, Lewis called the police to speak to Benson, where he told her to confess on the nightly news that she'd beaten him while he was handcuffed. He then pretended to kidnap and kill his former defense attorney, Martha Marron (Renée Elise Goldsberry) — though he actually just killed a stranger in the lawyer's building.

RELATED: Dann Florek's Final Scenes as Cragen Feature an Emotional Heart-to-Heart with Benson

Benson ultimately agreed to confess on live TV as long the two victims were released, exciting Lewis. During the alleged release, Lewis revealed he lied about kidnapping Marron and escaped once again.

Benson went on the news and declared she had assaulted Lewis out of rage rather than self-defense, claiming the confession was of her own volition. Aware of the risks of mollifying a psychopath, Murphy assigned Benson a security detail, but she ditched them and took a civilian's car to meet up with Lewis at a junkyard to save Amelia.

How did Olivia Benson take down William Lewis on SVU?

After she arrived at the junkyard, Lewis took Benson' weapon, cell phone, and police vest before kidnapping her. He then took her to Amelia at a deserted factory. There, Lewis forced Benson to choose who he'd sexually assault: Her or Amelia. Benson mechanically volunteered but after Lewis began fondling her, Benson's lack of resistance and refusal to play along with his fantasy befuddled him.

In a fury, he pivoted and forced Benson to instead play a game of Russian Roulette while harping on their supposed connection; she reminded him that he was the only obsessed one. After loading a six-chambered revolver, Lewis pressed the gun to his head and fired an empty chamber.

RELATED: The Best Law & Order: SVU Episodes Fans Never Forget

Lewis then held Benson at gunpoint for her turn, whereupon she also pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. Lewis excitedly pulled the trigger on a third empty chamber.

But with the fourth shot looming, the sound of NYPD helicopters distracted Lewis from their game; Murphy had figured out where they were. Lewis pointed out that, if he died, everyone would assume that Benson had killed him. Grabbing Benson's radio, Lewis taunted the SVU detectives while insisting the game continue.

Benson took the gun and aimed the fourth shot at her head, revealing another empty chamber; Lewis quickly followed. The fifth shot was also an empty.

As they stared down at the revolver with the one bullet left in the chamber, Lewis informed her that it was game over and then shot himself in the head with his left hand from a distance, in order to make it look like Benson had done it.

Amelia screamed, and Benson looked at Lewis' blood on her hand.

William Lewis on Law And Order Svu Episode 1520

What happened after William Lewis died on SVU?

Lewis calculated that even his suicide would have repercussions for Benson — which it did in Season 15, Episode 21 ("Post-Mortem Blues"). She had ditched her security detail, disobeyed her commanding officer's orders, and, hours before Lewis' death, confessed to perjuring herself and using excessive force on Lewis. On top of that, he'd successfully made his death look like a murder, despite it being a suicide (and despite Amelia being in the room with her back turned).

The Internal Affairs Bureau was convinced Benson had committed justifiable homicide, but she refused to change her story, leading them to send her case to a grand jury to indict her for murder.

Murphy was ultimately Benson's ace-in-the-hole: He (ironically) lied and told the grand jury that he had commanded Benson to falsely admit to perjury to lure Lewis out of hiding; he also highlighting Lewis' psychopathy. His testimony worked, and the grand jury refused to indict her.

While Benson succeeded in ending Lewis' horrific reign, his impact reverberated throughout the series for years. Her recovery took a long time and, as she focused on addressing her inner demons in Season 25 of SVU, Lewis made several appearances via flashback.

"The William Lewis arc was the most taxing [for me to film]. It was gut-wrenching to shoot, but it was a treat to work with Pablo Schreiber," Hargitay told TV Insider in 2018. "I trusted him, so I was able to go there."

Watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on NBC and Peacock.