On Monday, The Closer's Brenda Leigh Johnson will hear her final confession. But TNT's Closer spin-off Major Crimes should be able to keep you from grief-eating a dozen Ding Dongs.
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The Closer's series finale finds Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) trying to put away slippery defense attorney — and suspected serial rapist —Phillip Stroh (Billy Burke) once and for all. And although the climax of the Stroh storyline heavily impacts Brenda's future, it's the introduction of another character — an orphaned teenage hustler named Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) — that may ultimately prove to be most important. So much so that he'll also be a focal point of Major Crimes.
"Brenda meets a witness ... who indirectly changes her life," creator James Duff tells TVGuide.com. "I didn't want to necessarily have this character transition, but when this kid showed up... he just did an amazing job. And because he became Brenda's sort of unexpected doppelganger, a lot of her energy transfers on to him in the show. It was a way of sort of keeping her voice alive even though she was gone."
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And indeed, after closing the Stroh case, shedding a few tears, and eating one last sweet treat, Brenda will leave the squad room behind. But Major Crimes, which features almost all of The Closer's supporting cast and is shot and edited similarly, picks up almost exactly where its predecessor leaves off. The two major differences: Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) is now leading the team and the Major Crimes unit now has a new guiding principle.
"Whereas Brenda wanted to go for the confession, Raydor wants the conviction," Duff says. "Brenda did not care about the financial costs of what she did, [but] there are serious budget issues inside the California Justice System right now. There's a limit to how much justice we can afford. There is an incredible pressure to get plea bargains now. ...The justice system was not designed to be a bargain, but we have to turn it into one."
While the LAPD brass' conscious decision to let crooks skate by on lesser charges might seem counterintuitive to most police work, Raydor, whose career began in Internal Affairs, takes a more pragmatic view. "Her theory is: Why go through the process of a trial when I can put them in jail and throw away the key right now?" Duff says. "She embraces that because she believes the justice system can be made to work. She believes in the rules, and it's interesting to see that person at work with homicide detectives who are by nature tricky and untrustworthy."
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In particular, look for Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) to push back against Raydor's way of doing business. (Of course, his complaints may also stem from being passed over to lead the unit.) "In Provenza, we are exploring someone who has obtained the position to which he is going to rise — someone whose ambitions have been frustrated and whose potential to command has been examined and discarded," Duff says. "What do you do in a situation where you are finally in the place you are going to be the rest of your life?"
Raydor will have at least one ally, a new detective named Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), who transfers to Major Crimes after working mostly undercover. "This is without question one of the smartest people in the room, but she is a little socially awkward," Duff says. "She's suddenly switched to homicide, which requires an element of diplomacy that she has never had to learn. She's more conscious about how criminals work than she is about how she works herself, but she's likable in spite of all that."
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Ultimately, Duff hopes Major Crimes is more of an ensemble show than The Closer. And to that end, he thinks his new series is not just made for die-hard fans of the mothership. "I approached it at first as a sequel to The Closer, but it's something that eventually finds its own rhythm," Duff says. "My own feeling is that if there were people who didn't like The Closer, they might check into Major Crimes around Episode 3 or 4 and find it is another show.
"You will see more of Provenza than you've ever seen, and you will see Flynn [Tony Denison], Sanchez [Raymond Cruz], and Tao [Michael Paul Chan] take the lead in [different episodes]," Duff says. "Raydor still stays like sort of the first among equals I'd say, and it's her personal story that you get more involved in. But it's much more focused on the team."
The Closer's series finale airs Monday at 9/8c on TNT. It will be immediately followed by Major Crimes at 10/9c.