Kyra Sedgwick

As The Closer returns for its last winter season ever (on its way to its series finale next summer), I think it's only right to begin with a seasonal expression of gratitude. We could not be finishing our story on such a high note if you had not come along for the ride.

So what can you expect between the first Monday after Thanksgiving and the last Monday in December? The Closer sets off by investigating the death of a high school principal, leading to a stark dramatization of the challenges facing those entrusted with teaching our children. Then, next week, in our hundredth episode, Brenda checks out the death of Santa Claus, who may or may not be a victim of a rival St. Nick (played by the delightful Fred Willard).  As the holiday draws nearer, Brenda's parents, Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin, make a blitz visit to deliver both gifts and a bit of shocking news that upturns their daughter's life. We follow Mom and Dad with a special guest appearance by Elizabeth Perkins, who drives our next-to-last episode into one of the darkest places The Closer has ever gone. Finally, we end with Brenda confronting the murder of Turell Baylor. Will she step aside, as she did before, and let someone else do the dirty work for her? Or will she bring Turell's murderer to justice, and live with the consequences?

As always, we consider the middle five episodes — the island between our two summers — the perfect vehicle for experimentation and out-of-the-box offerings. You may wonder, with the show preparing to make its final bow next summer, why we would bother with innovation. In our view, The Closer has not only been a commercial opportunity, but an artistic endeavor: a chance to live our creative lives in an environment of learning. Even if we don't always succeed in making the show better, we are hopeful you will appreciate our attempt.

What else can I tell you about these middle five episodes? Brenda's peerless attorney, Gavin Q. Baker, returns to do battle with her legal nemesis, Peter Goldman. Captain Raydor searches tirelessly for the leak in the LAPD's Major Crimes Division. The federal lawsuit moves to a conclusion. And Brenda Leigh Johnson finds that sometimes, even when you win, you lose.

After I finish this little introduction, I move immediately to writing the very last episode of our series. This bittersweet project marks the end of a long and immensely satisfying collaboration with a terrific cast, an unbelievably dedicated crew and a group of writers and producers I deeply admire. Hopefully, if nothing else, we will finish with as much good fortune as we began.

Wish me luck!

— James Duff