Shawn Hatosy, Ben McKenzie
On Wednesday's Southland (series?) finale, the entire Los Angeles Police Department will be fighting for one of their own.
This season's harrowing penultimate episode saw John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and his partner Henry Lucero (Anthony Ruvivar) kidnapped by drug addicts. By the end of the hour, Lucero was dead and Cooper only escaped after playing dead in a grave he'd dug for himself. Wednesday's episode (10/9c, TNT) picks up about three weeks later, and while John still hasn't been cleared to carry a gun and return to active duty, the rest of the force, including detetcives Adams (Regina King) and Robinson (Dorian Missick) are searching for the tweakers. "Cops don't go missing all the time, so when they do, it's a huge deal," Cudlitz tells TVGuide.com. "That story line resonates through the entire force. Everyone has been affected."
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But none of them has been affected quite like John, whose brush with death came at the end of Cooper's season-long existential crisis. He's been angry and alone, but surprisingly, he's not fallen quite as far as he can. "John thinks he is fine, but the audience will see just how much he is bursting at his frayed seams," Cudlitz says. "This [season] is one big snowball. If people thought last week was a breaking point or a bottom, they are mistaken. As bad as things have been, he still hasn't hit bottom. But he will."
Things aren't much happier between partners Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) and Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy), whose relationship has been tested all season by Ben's increasing disregard for playing by the book. "He's entered a zone where he doesn't believe there's much morality one way or another," McKenzie says of his character. "The only morality is the one he chooses to follow and he's the ultimate arbiter of good or evil."
Earlier this season, Ben lied to Internal Affairs and hired a thug to steal a damning videotape from Sammy's house. Will Sammy learn the truth? "[Ben's] the last person in the world he'd expect to do something like that," Hatosy says. "But I think through persistence, he's going to figure some stuff out."
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And when he does, you can expect one heck of a confrontation. "I think Ben is finally going to come face-to-face with the decisions that he's made," McKenzie says. "It sums up in a satisfying way how he's completely fallen apart, how he's become a shell of the man he was before. Part of him wants to face the consequences and say, 'No, I did it all for the good. I did it all for you, Sammy. I did it for us.' It's a real window into Sherman's head and how his mind works. It's pretty dark."
So, is there anywhere for the partners to go from here? "I don't think the partnership can be saved at this point," McKenzie says. "The relationship is not left ambiguous. You pretty much know where the two of them stand, for better or worse. It's a little bit like the scene from The Godfather, when Fredo is talking to Michael and he's disappointed Michael in a horrible, horrible way. They're done, and nothing's left to be said. ... If we went forward, I'm not sure where Ben would go."
Indeed, that's the question for all of Southland's characters, as the critically loved but ratings-challenged drama is once again awaiting word on its fate from TNT. This year, however, King, Hatosy and McKenzie have all booked roles on new fall pilots. Is that the writing on the wall?
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"There has been writing on the wall every single year, and I don't think it's any bigger or clearer this year," Cudlitz says. "I see all the signs, but this show is in no more danger or no more safety than we've been in every f---ing year. No matter what happens, we've been given three more years than we would have had. People keep asking me, 'Are you going to get canceled?' I'm like, 'We've already been canceled!' So, [it doesn't] scare me.
"The thing we're most proud of is that we've been doing the show we wanted to do from Day 1," he continues. "If and when the show gets canceled, it will not be because we were overmanipulated by a network or the showrunners chose to go in a different direction. This show has lived on its own merits and has lived as the show that everyone set out to create. Whatever that lifespan is, we're grateful for the time that we've had."
Southland airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on TNT. Would you like to see another season?