On Monday, The Closer‘s Brenda Leigh Johnson will hear her final confession. But TNT’s Closer spin-off Major Crimes should be able to keep you from grief-eating a dozen Ding Dongs.
The Closer‘s series finale finds Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) trying to put away slippery defense attorney — and suspected serial rapist —Phillip Stroh (Billy Burke) once and for all. And although the climax of the Stroh storyline heavily impacts Brenda’s future, it’s the introduction of another character — an orphaned teenage hustler named Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) — that may ultimately prove to be most important. So much so that he’ll also be a focal point of Major Crimes.
“Brenda meets a witness … who indirectly changes her life,” creator James Duff tells TVGuide.com. “I didn’t want to necessarily have this character transition, but when this kid showed up… he just did an amazing job. And because he became Brenda’s sort of unexpected doppelganger, a lot of her energy transfers on to him in the show. It was a way of sort of keeping her voice alive even though she was gone.”
And indeed, after closing the Stroh case, shedding a few tears, and eating one last sweet treat, Brenda will leave the squad room behind. But Major Crimes, which features almost all of The Closer‘s supporting cast and is shot and edited similarly, picks up almost exactly where its predecessor leaves off. The two major differences: Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) is now leading the team and the Major Crimes unit now has a new guiding principle.
“Whereas Brenda wanted to go for the confession, Raydor wants the conviction,” Duff says. “Brenda did not care about the financial costs of what she did, [but] there are serious budget issues inside the California Justice System right now. There’s a limit to how much justice we can afford. There is an incredible pressure to get plea bargains now. …The justice system was not designed to be a bargain, but we have to turn it into one.”
While the LAPD brass’ conscious decision to let crooks skate by on lesser charges might seem counterintuitive to most police work, Raydor, whose career began in Internal Affairs, takes a more pragmatic view. “Her theory is: Why go through the process of a trial when I can put them in jail and throw away the key right now?” Duff says. “She embraces that because she believes the justice system can be made to work. She believes in the rules, and it’s interesting to see that person at work with homicide detectives who are by nature tricky and untrustworthy.”
In particular, look for Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) to push back against Raydor’s way of doing business. (Of course, his complaints may also stem from being passed over to lead the unit.) “In Provenza, we are exploring someone who has obtained the position to which he is going to rise — someone whose ambitions have been frustrated and whose potential to command has been examined and discarded,” Duff says. “What do you do in a situation where you are finally in the place you are going to be the rest of your life?”
Raydor will have at least one ally, a new detective named Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), who transfers to Major Crimes after working mostly undercover. “This is without question one of the smartest people in the room, but she is a little socially awkward,” Duff says. “She’s suddenly switched to homicide, which requires an element of diplomacy that she has never had to learn. She’s more conscious about how criminals work than she is about how she works herself, but she’s likable in spite of all that.”
Ultimately, Duff hopes Major Crimes is more of an ensemble show than The Closer. And to that end, he thinks his new series is not just made for die-hard fans of the mothership. “I approached it at first as a sequel to The Closer, but it’s something that eventually finds its own rhythm,” Duff says. “My own feeling is that if there were people who didn’t like The Closer, they might check into Major Crimes around Episode 3 or 4 and find it is another show.
“You will see more of Provenza than you’ve ever seen, and you will see Flynn [Tony Denison], Sanchez [Raymond Cruz], and Tao [Michael Paul Chan] take the lead in [different episodes],” Duff says. “Raydor still stays like sort of the first among equals I’d say, and it’s her personal story that you get more involved in. But it’s much more focused on the team.”
The Closer‘s series finale airs Monday at 9/8c on TNT. It will be immediately followed by Major Crimes at 10/9c.
TNT’s The Closer is coming to an end — and perhaps so is Brenda Leigh Johnson’s obsession with her work.
In Monday’s new episode (9/8c, TNT), the first of the show’s final six hours, Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) is still adjusting to the Los Angeles Police Department’s newly instated “Johnson Rule.” The mandate — which was instituted as a means of dismissing a lawsuit brought against the LAPD by the family of a suspect who was murdered after Brenda purposely left him unprotected in hostile gang territory — hasn’t lessened Brenda’s quest for justice, but it has forced her to consider exactly who she can rely on at the office.
“It seems that Brenda cannot trust her work life at all, and that she has lost her center in a way,” creator James Duff tells TVGuide.com. “She has always been more about work than anything else in her life. Until now. I personally think one should trust one’s spouse more than one’s profession. … I cannot imagine anything better than my relationship and I would not jeopardize it for any job. [But] does Brenda feel that way?”
While that remains to be seen, there is no doubt that the person receiving most of Brenda’s ire is Chief Pope (J.K. Simmons), who allowed “The Johnson Rule” to be implemented. Duff says that Pope’s decision may have unintended repercussions.
“Brenda has counted on Pope… as the slippery rock in her professional life, but she never thought he would slip completely out of control,” Duff says. “‘The Johnson Rule’ offends her not only because it strikes her as an unwarranted punishment that robbed her of a day in court, but also because she feels Pope sacrificed her for his own political ambitions. I’m not sure if she’s right, but I will say Pope didn’t think the option through as far as he should have.”
And let’s not forget that there is a traitor in the Major Crimes Unit’s midst. Although Duff is tight-lipped about the identity of the leak, he or she will be outed before the series wraps. “The reveal of the leak… will show just how vulnerable our public employees are to the willful malice of those who would use the system for their own ends,” Duff says.
Further complicating Brenda’s life is the return of Philip Stroh (guest star Billy Burke), the defense attorney and suspected serial rapist Brenda has never been able to build a case against. And while Stroh may still have the upper hand in Monday’s premiere, Duff promises closure to that story before the series’ end.
“Philip Stroh is the man who got away in Brenda’s cast of unusual suspects,” Duff says. “Anyone who spends any time with law enforcement officers understands that detectives do not appreciate losing suspects when they sincerely believe they are good for the crime. She has hunted Philip Stroh for four years. I don’t intend to leave any loose ends.”
But Duff isn’t promising a completely happy ending. “The final season… dramatized different aspects of our ideas about love,” he says. “The last half dozen episodes revolve around loss, which is the only promise love ever gives us.”
But don’t worry: Brenda will still be breathing at the end of the series. And she will be in the exact place Duff intended when he began the show seven years ago. But Duff says none of that would have been possible if Sedgwick hadn’t given the producers the time they needed to end the story on their terms.
“I have always known how Brenda’s story would end. … I don’t want to give anything away, but I thought about Brenda’s entrance into the series and her exit from the series at the same time. My goal was not to disappoint the audiences who have stuck with us. [I hope] that they are both satisfied by the end, and feel the conclusion was inevitable.
“I can’t stop being thankful to Kyra for letting us know before we started [writing] Season 7 that it would be the last,” Duff continues. “The gift of letting me write the end of the story that I began, knowing I was completing the journey, is such a rare opportunity in the television business that I almost hope the gratitude shows.”
Or as Brenda might say in her Southern drawl: “Thank you; thank you so much.”
The Closer airs Mondays at 9/8c on TNT. How do you think the series will end?
And so The Closer is drawing to a close.
This Monday at 9/8c, the TNT hit that drove home the cabler’s “We Know Drama” mantra kicks off the first of its final six hours, and things are not looking good at all for the titular Brenda Leigh Johnson (played by Kyra Sedgwick).
Having barely dodged one legal bullet earlier in Season 7, she now has the threat of a federal lawsuit looming, as her crime-solving techniques are hyper-scrutinized. And on top of it all? This week, and in the series finale (airing Aug. 13), she will come face-to-face with the one slippery snake that truly makes her skin crawl.
While fans of The Closer are sad to see it sign off (though most of its ensemble will appear on the spin-off Major Crimes, fronted by Mary McDonnell’s Capt. Sharon Raydor), Sedgwick – who more than a year-and-a-half ago made the decision to turn in her badge – is looking forward to this final salvo.
“I’m excited because I think people are really going to like them,” the actress shared with TVLine last month, almost seven years to the day Brenda coaxed her first confession. “I think they are among our very best.”
Thus far in her run as Brenda, Sedgwick has amassed five Emmy nominations and six Golden Globe nods, winning one of each, and been up for a Screen Actors Guild award seven times. Here, she previews the professional and personal hurdles ahead for Brenda during these final hours, addresses a big concern of some fans, consider her character’s legacy and ponders her next TV role.
TVLINE | What’s going on with Brenda during this final run? Does she feel a legal noose tightening around her?
Absolutely. It’s sort of coming at her from all sides — her personal life as well as her professional life. There comes a time in your life – and it’s certainly true of Brenda at this point – that you start realizing you’ve made a lot of choices, and you’re living through the ramifications of those choices. That’s what’s really going on for her in these last six. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all good. [Laughs]
TVLINE | You mention the personal front, and it almost seems as if her father’s (played by Barry Corbin) health is weighing on her more than what’s going on at the office.
Oh yeah. These are very personal episodes, even when they get intertwined with the cases. [Attorney Phillip] Stroh is her arch nemesis, and her overzealousness to catch him really gets in the way of her work. So her personal life and her professional life converge in a way that we haven’t seen as much as in these last six.
TVLINE | Talk a little more about how Phillip Stroh, played by the oh-so-good Billy Burke, figures in these final episodes.
Well, he’s “the one that got away,” and he continues to rape and murder these women and she knows it, and she could never get him, and that really sticks in her craw to say the least. So when she sees him and gets the idea of catching him, she just sees red and goes blind to almost anything else around her –and that gets in the way of her doing her job well.
TVLINE | Is it safe to say that he plays a role in whatever eventual transition Brenda goes through in the series finale?
Yes, I would say so for sure. For sure.
TVLINE | But we won’t get an encore from the other “Moby Dick” in her life, firebug Bill Croelick, played by Jason O’Mara?
No…. No. [Laughs] But I loved him too. He was great, such a good actor.
TVLINE | Jon Tenney is going to be guest-starring on the Major Crimes spin-off. That has fans anxious, how Fritz can remain in that world but without Brenda. What can you say to assuage any fears?
I can just say that Brenda doesn’t die. And they don’t split up, I can say that too. But I’m not sure how they’re handling [Brenda's absence within Major Crimes], honestly.
TVLINE | The Closer is going to identify the departmental leak before all is said and done. Will there be some heartbreak with that reveal?
A little bit, yeah….
TVLINE | At the end of the day, what do you think Brenda’s legacy will be? What did you and James Duff create here, in the larger pantheon of TV?
I think we created a significant and seminal character; Brenda was a creature that we haven’t really seen before. She is someone who is fierce and powerful and fragile and delicate and broken and flawed and relatable and super-heroic… and not law-abiding in some ways. [Chuckles] She is someone who’s incredibly passionate about what she does. It’s sort of hard for me to really say — it’s something that you could write about instead of having me toot my horn about! — but I think she was a phenomenon in a lot of ways. She’s a fascinating character that we really haven’t seen before in the body of a woman.
TVLINE | How does it make you feel to leave such a character behind? As an actor, you don’t know if your next gig will be for one episode, four, or for seven years.
I hope that it’s just the beginning of a whole slew of incredible characters that I will get to play. But realistically, I know that a part like Brenda is hard to find.
TVLINE | Would you consider another series regular TV role?
Not right now. But never say never, because I love the medium, and the landscape of TV has gotten much more exciting in the seven years that I’ve been on the show. I hope that the success of The Closer was a part of that.
TVLINE | Yes, you were among the first crop of film personalities to make the crossover to television.
Yeah. So I would love to [come back] at some point. I really do want to keep my eye on the movies for the next few years and then we’ll see. I’m hoping that some writer out there, knowing that in a few years I’m going to want to [do TV again], is writing that amazing role for me. I thought it was so great after nine years on The Sopranos that Edie Falco found Nurse Jackie, which is such a different character and she’s so amazing in that.
TVLINE | In fact, your husband Kevin [Bacon] has his own series coming up this winter, The Following on Fox. I’ve seen the pilot and it is quite excellent.
Oh, I am so glad you like it! That is so great. I think it is fantastic.
TVLINE | Since he directed a few episodes of The Closer, does this mean you get to return the favor and go behind the camera for The Following?
That’s so funny. But oh boy, I would be really daunted to take that on!