From the very start of Season 15, Law & Order: SVU has been pulling out all the stops. And since its brutal premiere — which saw Mariska Hargitay’s Detective Olivia Benson savagely tortured by a serial rapist — the show sudden has everyone talking again. But has it been going too far? That’s one question viewers have been struggling with since the graphic season premiere.

Speaking exclusively with Wetpaint Entertainment, Hargitay’s co-star, Danny Pino, who plays her partner Detective Nick Amaro, gave us his thoughts on the escalating violence this season. He also opened up about his partnership with Duracell Quantum to donate 40,000 of the world’s most advanced and long-lasting alkaline batteries to the Miami-Dade police and fire rescue departments. Here’s what he had to say:

Wetpaint Entertainment: What interested you about the partnership with Duracell Quantum?

Danny Pino: Given that I’m from Miami and I play a police officer, it spoke to me. Also, having a brother who is on the force in Miami-Dade, it was an honor for me. I’m honored to take part in anything that gives back to our first responders and our community.

Credit: Marc Serota /Invision for Duracell Photo: Danny Pino for Duracell

Tell us a little more about the program.

Well, these aren’t regular batteries. Thanks to the technology, they last longer. It’s the kind of technology our first responders need to keep up with the equipment they use. Equipment that often makes the difference between life and death. And it’s not just Miami-Dade — Duracell is donating a million of these batteries nationwide.

Let’s talk about Season 15 of SVU. It’s caused a lot of controversy so far with respect to its brutality. What are your thoughts?

You know, any show that’s been on the air 15 seasons has its challenges of remaining relevant. The goal is to write shows that are provocative while also changing the paradigms of these characters.

That first episode set the tone for this season. We’re not just going to follow these investigations, we’re also going to explore how these detectives suffer unspeakable violence while trying to stem the current of crime and do their jobs. Normally, when shows have been on this long, they become gimmicky or outlandish, so I really tip my hat to the writers for keeping things grounded. I think the show is in its renaissance, actually.

What kind of transformation will we see in Detective Amaro this season?

The premiere set things in motion in the squad room. There’s a sea of change. And I think the entire season can be encompassed in the term ‘Save Benson.’ It wasn’t just about the first episode. She needs to become a survivor, not a victim — and her partner is the closest thing she has to someone who can attempt to empathize with her.

He’s someone who wants to help her and wants to see her back to the strong and confident Liv she was, but the stress of that does start to affect his personal life. His world will crumble because of the pressure he feels in the squad room.

Beth Sobol is editor at large at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Bachelorette Spoiler Diva. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!