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."
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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."
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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?