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It feels like it all went by very fast. One moment, Michael Robin, Greer Shephard and I were sitting at a long conference table at TNT in Burbank, "pitching" an idea to Michael Wright and Lillah McCarthy for a new series; the next, I am writing a few stray thoughts about its finale. Time flies faster than light, so thank God we took lots of pictures.

For now we come to the final payment exacted from Brenda Leigh Johnson for having given her obsessive desire to close cases free rein over her better judgment. She has lost her perspective, given up her nostalgic relationship with her boss, buried her mother and sacrificed a good deal of her identity in the process. Now, at last, she must choose between properly pursuing a killer and giving up her job. How will it end? I can't say, really, except to gently remind the viewer that Brenda is called "The Closer," and not the employee of the month.

When it comes to this week's case, I should only mention that psychopaths are, by definition, people who consider themselves superior (intellectually) to those around them, criminally versatile and finally... no, that's enough! Instead of hinting at what is about to happen, I should tell you one thing that will not.

Many friends urged me not to allow Fritz and Brenda to wed, fearing walking down the aisle would mark the end of their romance. I disagreed; not every great love story ends with the words "I do." Electing to marry puts two people on the road to one of the most intimate adventures life has to offer. If one is lucky enough to find a great mate, and capable of embracing one's husband or wife as a complete partner, the tests life throws at that relationship form the foundations of terrific drama.

And, on a personal note, I have observed that, in crisis, good marriages often get even better. And I wanted that for Brenda and Fritz because... they have suffered enough!

Speaking of suffering, I put Kyra Sedgwick through the mill during these last few episodes. Deputy Chief Johnson was confronted with obstacle after obstacle on her way to finally accepting full responsibility for her actions. The effect of my and Kyra's collaboration (and our mutual respect for each other) offered us an opportunity to reach for some real dramatic highs as we move toward the end. And whether or not you think we succeeded, we thought through every moment of this finale -- together and apart -- so that the last words of the story would satisfy those who had been with us from the beginning.

By announcing this season would be her last, Kyra gave me the opportunity to prepare and write the ending I had envisioned from her very first scene. And since we are discussing loss this season, there are no words to express how much I miss working with my good friend, my partner-in-crime, my second self and one of the people I most admire on earth. Kyra Sedgwick was a gift, an actor who so closely tracked the workings of my own internal rhythm that all I needed to do was imagine her voice to write the words.

Much the same could be said for J.K. Simmons, who tackled the tricky job of embodying my other alter ego, William Pope, with grace and authority. If Brenda was my heart, Pope was my head; the attempt to integrate those two aspects of what might be called my personality has never been easy. Pope and Brenda's relationship dramatized that struggle by illuminating the many, many things I simply don't like about myself. These two actors were a gift to both my professional and personal life.

Corey Reynolds, who shines his brightest at the last, came to The Closer as an almost entirely brand new face to series television. But beginner's luck had nothing to do with his success. Corey's natural charisma, amplified by talent and commitment, seemed like that of a seasoned professional from the very start, and his presence in scenes tended to make everything better.

I mention Corey, J.K. and Kyra because though our show will spin off into Major Crimes (it premieres immediately after The Closer finale, and then will ever after run on Mondays at nine, like its predecessor), these three fantastic actors are all moving on. Mary McDonnell, G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz, Phillip P. Keene, Robert Gossett, Jon Tenney, Jonathan Del Arco, Ransford Doherty and Kathe Mazur will return, along with newcomers Graham Patrick Martin and Kearran Giovanni, to form the ensemble of our new series.

As loss led to transformation in the life of Deputy Chief Johnson, so it will for those of us who remain after Kyra goes.

For the record, the finale was written by the much-esteemed Mike Berchem and myself, and directed with his usual virtuosity by Michael Robin. Our thanks to special guest star, Billy Burke, who allowed us enormous liberties over the years, and to Graham Patrick Martin, the gifted young man who created Brenda's unexpected doppelganger with remarkable empathy and skill.

As the show must finish, so must I. I possess no means to adequately express the gratitude Michael Robin and I feel to the viewers who loyally attended our performances over the last eight summers (and our little Christmas breaks). The good faith and credit of our audience allowed us an opportunity to live and work in a learning environment, testing just how far the procedural format could go, trying always to entertain and surprise. You trusted us with your time; we took that trust seriously. I hope we didn't let you down.

Thanks for watching. And if you get lonely for the old gang from The Closer, you can find us still mixing it up on Major Crimes, Monday nights in the same time slot, all the way through October of this year.

Until then -- James Duff

 

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