It's no accident that Rizzoli & Isles did not close Season 5 with a cliff-hanger. After taking over the showrunner reins last season, Jan Nash had the foreboding task of dealing with star Lee Thompson Young's death before diving into anything else. So, the promise of Season 6 offered a bit of a reset.
"We wanted to start fresh in Season 6 ... and figure out the stories we could tell, what we think could be fun and interesting for these characters," Nash tells TVGuide.com. "Last year was a lot of heavy stuff going on. This year [there] will definitely be some good emotional strings that we'll be pulling, but they won't have that emotional weight as last year's. You can't do that two years in a row without feeling heavy-handed and clichéd."
Instead, Season 6 will loosely focus on family, getting right to the point on Tuesday's premiere (9/8c, TNT), when Frankie (Jordan Bridges) is implicated in the shooting of a man on a train platform. "The show is about the relationship between Jane [Angie Harmon] and Maura [Sasha Alexander], but in a broader sense, it's about family. We wanted to have an episode that tested the family and gave everybody a rooting interest and everybody would be invested in the outcome," Nash says. "I do think when you get to the end of the season, you look back and see that the episodes tie together from the perspective of stories. There will be some themes related to what we mean to each other. We're really trying to do new and meaningful things in Season 6."
Here are five things to expect on the new season — and one thing that you might wanna cross off your wish list.
1. An (almost) season-long villain
Toward the latter half of the season, Jane will get tangled up with a new villain and the arc will last through the end of year. "It will unroll in a slow burn," Nash says. "There's a mysterious element to it. It takes a while to figure out what's going on. When they do figure out what's going on, it'll take a while to catch the perpetrator. It will become increasingly clear that Jane is in danger. There will be some fun elements involving Jane getting a bodyguard, things like that. We want to give her a meaningful nemesis in addition to these [standalone episodes]."
2. Bent out of shape over Kent
As we previously reported, Kent Drake (Adam Sinclair), Maura's new assistant medical examiner, is a little left of center — and he will stay that way. "We wanted to introduce someone who would get under her skin a little bit. He's like her in that he's smart and worldly and interested in a lot of things, but he's not like her in that he's just kind of weird!" Nash says. "As the story unfolds, he's just a little bit of a weirdo! He pops up in weird ways. He's a little unsettling. Maura eventually comes to accept that he's a little weirdo. Toward the middle of the season, there will be a nice story between them and we'll learn a little more about who he is and how he ended up in Boston."
And before you ask, they will not mix business with pleasure. The sole purpose of introducing Kent is to give more play to the medical examiner aspect of the show. "We wanted Maura to have someone else to bounce things off of [besides Jane]," she says. "We're not planning on an inter-office romance. They're coworkers. As we go forward, there will be other conflicts of her managing him. It will hopefully make her world more interesting."
3. Maura has daddy issues... again
No, not with Paddy. The show will finally introduce Maura's adoptive father, college professor Arthur Isles (David Odgen Stiers), and not all is well between the two. "It dawned on us as we were breaking the season that we had met all of Maura's family except her adoptive father. If you were going to bring him in, you had to explain why you hadn't seen him," Nash says. "We came up with what we think is a fun story about their relationship and the childhood secret that explains why they aren't closer. It has nothing to do with Maura's adoption or anything like that. This is very much just between Maura and her adoptive father. But there is a secret at the core."
4. Love is in the air...
Christina Chang will play Korsak's (Bruce McGill) heretofore unseen life coach-turned-girlfriend Kiki, and the two will double date with Angela (Lorraine Bracco) and her new boyfriend, Ron (Gregory Harrison). "That happens when Jane and Maura are in Los Angeles on a case," Nash says. "They're both nice relationship stories and we love seeing the two of them happy."
5. ... but not so much for Jane and Maura
The besties will have their share of suitors — including a competitive bass fisherman who's after Jane in the second episode — but nothing will get serious for now. "We're gonna bring in characters we hope they have interesting sparks with, but at this moment, we're focused on other things," Nash says. "We're not done with the season yet, so that can change."
The real problem is that the actors who have recurred as their other halves get scooped up for series regulars roles elsewhere, the latest being Enver Gjokaj on Agent Carter. "We should just put out there that you should come here to be their boyfriends because then you'll get a series regular on another show," Nash jokes. "That's all you have to do. Come here, do four or five episodes and then you'll get a steady job on another show. We're magic!"
6. No Rizzles this season?
Yes, Nash is aware of the rabid Jane-and-Maura-'shipping. "I will say that we are grateful to have such a devoted audience," she says. "There are so many shows that don't make it out of their first seasons and many of those that do don't make it out of their second seasons. There are very few shows that get to 92 episodes, which is where we'll be after this season. That only happens if you have a devoted, loyal fan base that cares about the characters and the work the actors are doing. We're grateful for that. The people who see the show a certain way and want it to be that, we're grateful that they love the show as much as they do... and that's really all I'm gonna say about it."
Rizzoli & Isles returns Tuesday at 9/8c on TNT.