07/30/2012 09:59 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2012

'Last Rites'

Now we are near the end, and the payment for daring to love grows higher.

In tonight's episode, which may well be¬ one of our most ambitious, Deputy Chief Johnson takes on the full power of the Catholic Church as she tries to solve a disturbing murder threatening to open fresh wounds inside the Los Angeles Diocese. Meanwhile, Clay and Willie Ray visit as Brenda's father struggles to overcome the debilitating side effects related to his recent bout with thyroid cancer.

Our themes of love and loss flow through this story like two rivers that must inevitably join together as they pour their way to the sea. It will be hard for Brenda to avoid being swept away by this flood, as the foundation of her world once again dissolves into water.

David McWhirter, affectionately known around our stages as DMac, beautifully directed an achingly delicate script by Leo Geter. And while I'm always impressed with Kyra Sedgwick's boundless talent, this could be her best performance of our entire series.

Now might be a good time to also thank (in addition to the above mentioned Leo Geter) Mike Berchem, Adam Belanoff, Steven Kane, Michael Alaimo, Duppy Demetrius, Jim Leonard, Ralph Gifford and Carson Moore, and the team of Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny (who have gone on to create the tremendously successful and entertaining Longmire on another network) for their years of hard work and dedicated effort in the writer's room of The Closer. Whenever I take a bow as the creator/executive producer of our show, I am keenly aware that I am standing in the reflected light of brilliant friends and collaborators. Each one of these gifted artists put themselves forward, in one way or another, to help form and focus the vision of the show, and it's a great honor to have spent so much of my life in their company. Also, for the last two years, our script coordinator, Kendall Sherwood, has been an ever-present joy to those who work here; we are all in her debt.

This, too, is the proper time to express the gratitude of our whole company -- actors and crew alike -- for the beautiful, complex performances given by Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin as Brenda Leigh's patient parents. "Last Rites" marks their final appearance in the series. In their respective roles of mother and father, they help Brenda confront the inevitable as it races toward her, offering her (even in extremis), the best approximation of unconditional love any of us are likely to experience during our brief, all-too-human lives.

The consequences of Brenda's actions in "Last Rites" will reverberate through the next two episodes. I have never urged fans not to miss an episode; I have always felt such hectoring to be boastful, or overly proud. But if you want to completely understand The Closer's finale, this is the place to begin.

Next week, we will discuss the leak, as all is finally revealed.

Until then. -- James Duff