The Closer

The beginning of the end is here for The Closer: After six seasons, Emmy winner Kyra Sedgwick is only 21 episodes away from turning in her badge as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. And series creator and executive producer James Duff says it's going to be an emotional ride.

"The theme of this season is love and loss," Duff tells TVGuide.com. "Loss is part of the promise of love. The only promise that you ever get with love, is that it will end. So we wanted to incorporate how much we loved doing these stories: how much Brenda loved her job, how much she cared about her part in the justice system, and how much it would mean to her to step away from all of that."

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Viewers may recall the Season 6 episode "Warzone," in which Brenda struck an immunity deal with confessed murderer Turell "T-Ball" Baylor, and then released him without police protection. In Monday's season premiere (9/8c, TNT), Brenda threatens to quit after her newly installed superiors question her about T-Ball's subsequent murder when his family threatens to sue the department for wrongful death.

"It wasn't her finest hour," Duff says. "Technically, she did not break any laws, but you could look at what she did and you could have mixed feelings about it. I have mixed feelings about it."

With the threat of legal action against the department, Brenda is on a very short leash — and Capt. Raydor (Mary McDonnell) is her watchdog. "Raydor is working very hard on getting Brenda to tell her everything that happened, and that puts a lot of pressure on her squad," Duff says. "She's having less and less room to maneuver. Her work is being more and more circumscribed and will be even more so as she goes along."

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Ultimately, the lawsuit takes Brenda to court, where she'll face off against Peter Goldman (Curtis Armstrong), a fearless, resourceful attorney who's made a career out of suing the LAPD. In Brenda's corner, however, is the equally sharp — and sharply dressed — defense attorney Gavin Baker (Mark Pellegrino).

But attorney-client privilege doesn't necessarily guarantee a sunny relationship. "This guy is ruthless in the courtroom... [and] he sort of lays down the law to Brenda, in a very blunt, cheery, forthright way," Duff says. "He is extremely honest... She's not used to being bossed around. The first time that she leaves his office, she's in tears. You get the feeling that every time that she leaves his office she's going to be in tears."

Fortunately, Brenda has her husband Fritz (Jon Tenney) on her side too. "Two things happen when your back is against the wall and you're married: You can be driven apart or you get driven closer," Duff says. "Brenda tends to put her career first, though she doesn't know that. [This season], I think that she's going to be given an opportunity to put her marriage first. We'll see how that works."

And Duff says what she may learn is that she is indeed ready to give up her life in the interrogation room. "Brenda begins to question what she's doing and whether or not she's still a valuable asset," he says. We see Brenda beginning to change. Brenda begins to truly examine her life and consider what she wants to do with the rest of it. And not everything that she cares about will go with her."

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Thankfully for fans of the series, Brenda's goodbye will be a long one. TNT will air one batch of episodes this summer and a few more in the winter before wrapping the series for good in 2012. Although Duff is looking forward to continuing with the show's Raydor-fronted spin-off series, Major Crimes, he's most proud of ending Brenda's journey the way he's always wanted.

"I'm very, very grateful to Kyra for making the decision when she did and giving me the time to figure out exactly what I had to do," Duff says. "I've always had in mind the way that The Closer was going to end, but I didn't know whether or not I was going to get to write it. Now, I get that opportunity. It's an amazing and wonderful opportunity, and I'm lucky to have it."

The Closer's final season premieres Monday at 9/8c on TNT.