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The Rookie Boss Breaks Down That Explosive Finale and Teases the Future of Chenford

'I love the scene in the elevator in the finale'

Max Gao
Alyssa Diaz, The Rookie

Alyssa Diaz, The Rookie

Disney/Raymond Liu

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for The Rookie Season 6, Episode 10, "Escape Plan." Read at your own risk!]

The Rookie wrapped up its shortened — but more serialized — sixth season with a literal bang, putting nearly all of its major players in the line of fire.

Tuesday's thrilling conclusion brings to a head a season-long conspiracy involving Monica Stevens (Bridget Regan), the sinister lawyer who represents an untold number of criminals in Los Angeles, and Dr. Blair London (Danielle Campbell), the LAPD therapist who has been blackmailing patients and selling their confidential intel to various criminal organizations. Juarez (Lisseth Chavez) discovers that Monica and Blair first crossed paths three years ago, when Monica agreed to speak at a student-led panel that Blair was moderating. It was around that time that Blair made the mistake of asking Monica to help her get out of a charge for running someone over while under the influence — and Blair has been in her debt ever since.

Monica, as it turns out, has her work cut out for her. After discovering the identity of Eric Ramsay, the man who has been conspiring to kill her, Monica enlists inmate Oscar Hutchinson (Matthew Glave) to rough up Ramsay's right-hand man. In exchange, she agrees to help Oscar and Jason Wyler (Steve Kazee), the ex-husband of Bailey (Jenna Dewan), break out of prison. Monica learns from Oscar that Ramsay has been sleeping with the wife of one of his biggest benefactors, and her plan is quickly set into motion: She gets money launderer Christian Bautista (Will Beinbrink) to send a hit team to the laundromat where Gundo (A Martinez) and his gang will be waiting to collect $2 million from her, and then she plans to kidnap Blair and leave on a private flight to Argentina to meet with Ramsay's benefactor.

Using intel from Chen (Melissa O'Neil), who was working as a fake nanny for the Bautistas as part of an undercover op, the police prepare for an attack on the laundromat and get into a shootout with the hit men and other gang members. For his part, Bradford (Eric Winter) jumps into the bed of a pickup truck that one of the hit men uses to get away from the crime scene, and the two wrestle in the front seat while the criminal attempts to keep the truck on the road. Following in close pursuit, Chen and Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) get close enough to the pickup truck for Chen to jump into the truck herself. She is able to physically restrain the driver enough for Bradford, who would have otherwise been stabbed in the face, to hit the brakes and stop the car.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, Nolan (Nathan Fillion) — who was under express orders to not stop Blair from being kidnapped — and Harper (Mekia Cox) get involved in a shootout of their own in their attempt to save the naïve shrink. Although Monica manages to escape (and Nolan is shot in the side of the ass!), Nolan and Harper are able to extradite Blair back to the U.S. But in the final moments of the hour, Nolan gets some not-so-great news from Grey (Richard T. Jones): Oscar and Jason have escaped from prison.

A couple weeks after reopening the writers' room for Season 7, which will headline ABC's midseason schedule in January, creator and showrunner Alexi Hawley sat down with TV Guide to discuss the reasoning behind Chen and Bradford's controversial break-up, why he chose against writing Dewan's real-life pregnancy into the season, and where viewers can expect the show's next chapter to pick up.

More on ABC and The Rookie:

Let's talk about the elephant in the room: the "Chenford" breakup. Melissa O'Neil told me that you guys had spent the first half of the season building up to that moment, which came as a shock to many fans. When did the idea of the break-up first occur to you?

Hawley: We were laying some breadcrumbs as far back as last season, in terms of obstacles [for their relationship]. [Tim's ex-wife] Isabel coming back was a big thing, and him sort of being reintroduced to the trauma that he felt by her undercover work, especially her deep undercover work where she was gone for months, if not a year at a time. And now, with Lucy wanting to become an undercover cop like Isabel was, could he really go through that again? That all felt really important. So we started that season with that potential trouble spot. But then we went a little sideways. At the beginning of this season, we were breaking the story, and I started to think about Ray [one of Tim's Army buddies] and what from Tim's past could come back that could really turn everything upside down. 

Why did you feel a break-up was necessary to further complicate and develop their relationship?

Hawley: I just think that there's no drama in stasis, and I feel like obstacles are drama and also [true to] real life. I love our audience because they've gone with us on this journey, and I feel like they understand that we never do anything that's meant to be manipulative. It's always grounded in organic storytelling. There was a moment a couple of seasons ago when Tim and Lucy were riding together, and he didn't think she would be a good undercover cop, and she basically told him she was in love with him and he bit, and then she's like, "Psych!" That was a moment where I was worried the audience was going to get mad at me, but they got it because she was f--king with him, and that was part of a good character journey. 

I really appreciate the trust that they have given us, and I just felt [it's important], ultimately, to have an obstacle [in their relationship] — something from Tim's past coming back in such a way that it really opened a door that he had forced closed. [It reopened] a chapter in his life that he was ashamed of and that he'd managed to not forget about, but bury. Ultimately, he got to a place where he was punishing himself by breaking up with her and ended up punishing her [too]. The fallout from that felt like a really valuable story to tell, [as well as] how they both dealt with the aftermath.

I love the scene in the elevator in the finale. I feel like that scene is super valuable. The fact that in an age where every other breakup song on the radio is some version of "a b c d e f--k you" — [I felt it was important] to have a relationship where even as angry as she is at him, she can see his distress and show him some kindness. And for him to see and value that, but also understand that he's the one who has to do the work [to earn back her trust] and that he can only do it at her pace — that's a big human moment. So I think that was just really important in their relationship.

Melissa O'Neil and Eric Winter, The Rookie

Melissa O'Neil and Eric Winter, The Rookie

Disney/Raymond Liu

To your point, in the elevator, Tim apologizes to Lucy and thanks her for saving his life, and he declares that he will spend the rest of his life trying to make it up to her in whatever small doses she will allow. Where do we leave Chenford by the end of the finale? Where do you see their relationship going from here?

Hawley: I don't fully know. The [writers'] room has only been going a couple weeks. I think hope is an important word there. I don't think it's easy. I think what he broke is not as simple as an "I'm sorry." And if it was, I don't know that I would respect Lucy as much, given the damage he did. It was always really important to me and to the room that she wasn't a victim in this [situation], that she had agency in her story and in her reactions. And the fact that she was mad about it, and that was okay — that was always really important to us. So it can't be just as simple as him saying, "I'm sorry," but I do think there's hope, obviously, for them, which is good. It's what the audience wants. They want the push and pull of that relationship.

And on an individual level, Lucy failed her detective's exam earlier this season, which was a bit of a harsh wake-up call for her professionally. What was the purpose of that storyline, and where do you envision her career going from here?

Hawley: Look, on a completely practical level, at our heart, we are a patrol show. So being out on the street and driving around — the unexpected nature of patrol work where anything can happen anytime you get out of your car is the DNA of our show. So, on a purely practical level, that's definitely who we are, but I think all of our police officers have had obstacles over the years.

Nolan thought he was going to be a detective, and then he f--ked up and that was taken away from him, and he had to work really hard to win back any sense of promotion. And in the wake of George Floyd's death, our conversations about [policing] came to a place where training the next generation of police officers was the most valuable thing he could do. So that was the path that he went, which doesn't mean that down the road, we couldn't open a door to [being a] detective for him as well. We saw Tim got bounced out of metro, and that was a path that he wanted to go.

I wouldn't say that Lucy's path to detective is done. Just by doing the five-player trade for Tim at the beginning of last season, she pissed somebody off, and politics are a big part of bureaucracy. So, yeah, I don't think any doors are closed for Lucy. I just think that she's had to deal with some very big setbacks this year. I love that moment in Episode 9 [of Season 6] where Nolan asks her how she is, and she gives him this long answer. There's a long answer about "I'm good" and then it devolves. I think that's really funny.

You elected not to write Jenna's pregnancy into the show, but you did toy with the idea of her character, Bailey, trying to get pregnant midway through the season. Why did you choose to have her and Nolan decide to adopt?

Hawley: We have a history as a show — if we start writing potential pregnancies for characters, the actors get pregnant. It's happened four times at this point. So [with Nolan and Bailey], we had been talking about finding a kid in a closet and the foster story and then that going wrong and then going down the path of, "Do we want to have a kid?" Jenna called me and she's like, "I'm pregnant," and literally the first thing I said to her was, "I'm sorry it's our fault because we just do that" — to the point where the writers' room is working on a storyline about a writers' room that hits a billion dollar lottery. We just feel like we're maybe setting ourselves up! But it definitely felt like something we wanted to explore to the extent that for the first time in our history, we didn't actually just write a character pregnancy into the show. We want to tell stories that people can identify with — fertility issues, IVF or adoption, which I feel like is a super valuable conversation to have and an idea to champion.

At the end of the finale, while discussing adoption, Nolan and Bailey learn of Oscar and Jason's escape. How will those two antagonists factor into next season? Will Monica also continue to be a threat?

Hawley: It's early days still, and Jenna's going to have a baby in the beginning of our production schedule, so we're probably going to take a bit of a beat at the beginning just to let her go through her maternity leave and all that kind of stuff. But I do think that Jason is probably the most immediate risk for our people. And from there, I don't necessarily have a plan yet for exactly how the rest of it will play out.

Have you had a favorite villain to write over the years?

Hawley: Oh, so many. Oscar is really a favorite of mine. I just love Matthew so much. Obviously, Harold Perrineau as Armstrong was really an unexpected villain, and he's such an incredible actor, and Bridget Regan is amazing as Monica. But they've all been so great. We've managed to find such great actors over the years.

Any time Bridget shows up on a show, I know she's in trouble, but more often than not, her character will be the one causing the trouble.

Hawley: [Laughs.] Especially at the end of the season, [between] those three women, Monica, Lopez and Harper, there were no f--ks left to give. They really had each other's number. There's no social niceties. They were just basically rude to each other, and I just thought that was great.

Nathan Fillion, The Rookie

Nathan Fillion, The Rookie

Disney/Raymond Liu

You mentioned during The Rookie's Television Critics Association panel in February that The Rookie: Feds was really a casualty of last year's dual strikes. Some of the Feds actors appeared in the finale. Have you been actively looking to find ways to keep those characters alive in the universe, even if it's in a guest-role capacity? Are you planning to generate any storylines around the FBI?

Hawley: When [the cancellation] happened, I did reach out to ABC and say, "Hey, look, I would love to see these characters again, at least the ones that we can get," because obviously Niecy [Nash-Betts] went off and booked a bunch of stuff — of course she did, she's a highly in-demand actor. And look, everybody else will too. It's such a talented group. But I'm like, "I love these characters. They're a part of our universe. We do interact with the FBI on the show, so why can't we?"

ABC was very supportive of that, but it also felt like we needed to tell a story worthy of bringing them in. I didn't want to just bring them in for a line or a scene. So, as we were breaking the season, it felt like the finale — escalating the Monica story to a place where we needed the Feds — was the time to do it. It was great to see them again, and I'd love to see them again in the future. I just, obviously, want to give them something to really sink their teeth into and also [it depends] if they're available.

The show really dug into the mental health side of policing this season, only to have the therapist betray her patients' trust. Will we see any members of the force seek out therapy from someone who is not crossing ethical boundaries and engaging in corrupt behavior so that they can truly get help?

Hawley: We've been championing therapy since the beginning. There were some conversations about it in Season 1, so yes, we will. We hung a lantern on it with the scene with Tim and Lucy in the car. He's like, "It turned out my therapist was a psychopath." And she's like, "They're not all like that." But yes, I do think that Tim has opened a door now into some trauma that he had not dealt with, which he won't just close. But we might find other avenues for him to explore so [that] we're not just sitting across from somebody in a room [again], just on a pure story level. But I think it's important that Tim keeps moving forward, that [this situation with Blair] is not something that causes him to retreat from therapy. 

Were there specific dynamics or relationships that you were most looking forward to digging into this season?

Hawley: Tim and Lucy's dynamic is at the forefront of stuff that clearly engages the audience, and I love writing for them. Obviously, [I love writing] Nolan and Bailey — their wedding, the 100th episode, and all of that. We have a big cast, and they're all so talented that being able to write any tone for them and knowing that they'll knock it out of the park is really rewarding.

But with only 10 episodes, you can't necessarily give everybody as much time in the sun. So Season 7 will be nice to open up again a little bit more and really focus some attention on everybody over the course of the season.

Are there any specific personal storylines that you are looking to explore next season?

Hawley: I am trying to approach Season 7 with a more standalone vibe because Season 6 was so serialized, but we've always carried personal stories through the season. But I think the fun for me in Season 7 is like, how do we level a little bit more in a character journey within an episode, but then also carry some stuff through the season, but also in an arc so that we're not just telling the same story for 18 straight episodes? You want to build stuff up and then reach some conflict or a cliffhanger and then resolve it and start something else.

More on spring TV:

There's only so much you can explore on a network show about the personal lives of these cops, but you have a particularly diverse cast that has, I would imagine, pitched you little cultural details over the years that either will or won't work in the context of the show. That being said, are you hoping to show more of certain characters' lives outside of work going forward?

Hawley: I mean, every episode is about the characters; it's not about the cases. We invent cases and storylines to service the characters, so I think you'll see when you watch our show that we never just go to work and talk about the case, right? There's always [something about the characters] depending on the episode, depending on whether it's a one-day story or whether it's a multiple-day story. Sometimes we can go home; sometimes we can't. We are looking to go home with more characters in Season 7. We only have so many stages and so many sets, but we are looking to expand that in Season 7. I'm still working on that, but that's a hope, so we can go home with others. But I feel like we really do try to embrace people's backgrounds and heritage and different points of view, and we're always open to that if it feels organic to the storytelling.

There's one big mystery that we weren't able to solve this season: Does baby "Wopez" have a name?

Hawley: [Laughs.] Yes, she has a name. It's not officially out there yet, but yes, she has a name, although I will confess it took me an embarrassing long period of time to land on a name for her.

Do Alyssa and Shawn Ashmore themselves know the name, or are you the only one who knows the name right now?

Hawley: Only me and the room know the name at this point. 

I lied — there's also another mystery that fans of the show have been wanting me to ask you about: What exactly is the timeline of The Rookie? Do you have some kind of understanding of how time works in this fictional universe?

Hawley: The timeline breaks your brain in the same way the multiverse breaks your brain, and part of that is because of all the interruptions, the pandemic, and the strike. A rookie year, the FTO program for rookies, is 13 months, and we were in Season 3 before they graduated. So, obviously, that means those two-and-a-half seasons were meant to be 13 months. But it's just tricky. It's a bit of a mess. [Laughs.] At its heart, it's a TV show, and if you start doing the math...

I guess it doesn't really matter at the end of the day. Considering that your shows exist in the same city and now on the same network, have you spoken with 9-1-1 showrunner Tim Minear yet about doing a crossover in the future?

Hawley: They're new neighbors, I would say, so we haven't gotten there yet. But we live in a world where anything's possible, so…

You've also been working on the second season of The Recruit. Do you have a status update on that production? Is there anything you can say about the new season?

Hawley: We're almost done shooting, and I'm super excited about it. I think it's so much more than Season 1 was in a lot of good ways. I love Season 1, but I think we just feel more expansive in Season 2. I don't know what I can share beyond that at this point, but you probably saw the cast that we got announced a while back. It's just a great group of actors and great storylines. So I'm waiting to hear exactly when you'll see us, but hopefully sooner rather than later.

The Rookie will return with Season 7 in early 2025. All episodes are now available to stream on Hulu.