The following contains major spoilers from Tuesday night’s episodes of TNT’s Major Crimes.
TNT’s Major Crimes hit the century mark on Tuesday night, but it was actually the cancelled crime drama’s 101st episode that viewers will remember most. Because as the hour drew to a close, Commander Sharon Raydor (played by Mary McDonnell) suffered what would prove to be a fatal heart attack.
“It was unexpected, which is my job,” Major Crimes and The Closer creator James Duff tells TVLine of the tragic twist, which had the series lead’s blessing. “Mary and I were collaborators and partners in this process, all the way to the end.”
“And it’s not the end. This is not her last episode,…” Duff adds, declining to say more (though we suspect the two SD cards Sharon handed to Buzz after borrowing his video camera have something to do with it). But lest anyone read too much into that statement, Duff confirmed that Raydor indeed died. The doctor’s pronouncement of her death — which visibly shattered husband Andy — is not, as a few have hoped/desperately theorized, some elaborate ruse to get the drop on recently resurfaced nemesis Phillip Stroh.
As for the timing of the character’s exit (with four episodes left in the final season), Duff explains, “As Sharon said to Provenza, many, many people die with this disease, not from it. And we had discussed maybe having her retire for medical reasons. But that left open the chance they she could get a transplant and come back, and the show would not really have a curtain [call]. And if we [killed her off] in the last episode, we felt that would be a dark way to end the whole series.”
And to be “brutally honest,” as Duff puts it, to keep Sharon alive through what at the time had not been publicly announced as the final season would have done a disservice to its star.
“We knew they were going to cancel the show, but we did not know they were going to [announce that] in advance of airing it,” Duff says. “What was Mary to do in that situation? If we had left the fate of her character in the air, people would not know she was available. And who am I to coop up Mary McDonnell in a dead show? That does not honor our professional relationship in any way, shape or form.”
And yes, you heard that right — Duff has declared a time of death for Major Crimes, months after its cancellation by TNT made headlines. The series finale airing Jan. 9 will be just that — the very final episode. So power down those online petitions and find solace knowing that the good fight was fought… alas for naught.
“Every Facebook post I made was about how the show could not go on,” Duff maintains. “People will always find loopholes [to campaign for more], but I’ve already said that we have accepted our fate and we have moved to take advantage of the storytelling opportunity provided us.
“Streaming platforms and other cable channels, all the places where the show could have gone, want to do other, new things — and we are not new, whatever else we are,” he continues. “We discovered this last year when we began looking for other means of distributing the show, which is still very popular overseas. We wanted to continue but we couldn’t find anybody who would come on board.”
Said differently: What viewers witnessed Wednesday night “was not just Sharon’s death, it was the death of the show,” Duff affirms. “In a way, it was a metaphor.”