Kyra Sedgwick

Tonight's bracing premiere of the seventh and final season of TNT's top-rated basic-cable series The Closer involves a chest-thumping rap star, lifeless bodies by the handful and an interrogation scene like no other. Viewers are also introduced to the season's ongoing plotline, which hovers over the show's various murder cases: a wrongful-death lawsuit against the LAPD's Major Crimes deputy chief Brenda Leigh Johnson that threatens to take her whole team down with her.

"I've always said the way she operates has to come back and kick her in the ass at some point," says Emmy-winning star Kyra Sedgwick, who sympathizes with Brenda despite her occasional willingness to let a perp be murdered when the law lets her down. "She's given her whole life to this job," she says. "Suddenly her integrity is being questioned. The specter of this hanging over her begins to debilitate her."

It's exactly the kind of train wreck of a story line Sedgwick hoped for when she announced to the show's producers last year that she was ready to call it quits. "I'd been thinking about it for a year. It was like, 'I would hate to overstay our welcome.' We had our biggest season ever last year in terms of audience. I thought, 'Let's leave while we're on top.'"

This season, the Major Crimes team initially sticks together regarding the lawsuit, but eventually there's a leak, and something happens to one of her Georgia-based parents — Sedgwick won't say which one — that chips away at Brenda's invincibility. As for recently deposed assistant chief Pope (JK Simmons)? "Trust gets broken," she says. "S--t hits the fan."

Creator James Duff promises lots of stripped-down Closer-style tension. "[In many procedurals] actors are just walking through the special effects," says Duff. "Kyra gets a table, a manila folder and a black purse. She is the special effect."

When the dust settles, many of the familiar faces from The Closer will appear on a Duff-created spin-off, Major Crimes — without Sedgwick. "It needs to exist on its own, and maybe down the line I'll make an appearance," she says. Um, that means Brenda won't die, right? Says Sedgwick, "I don't want to know how it's all going to end — but I don't have any concern that it won't be amazing."

The Closer airs Monday at 9/8c on TNT.

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