The Rookie Returns With an 'Intense, Emotional' Race to Save Lucy: 'You're Going to See Tim Lose His Mind'

Rookie Season 3 Lucy Tim

For fans of The Rookie, it has been an agonizing 11 weeks since the ABC series set aside its “light procedural” label by having Officer Lucy Chen get drugged and then lobbed into the trunk of a car, at the close of a very bad first date.

But this Sunday at 10/9c, the Nathan Fillion-led drama finally returns to resolve that cliffhanger — and, as teased in haunting promos, hopefully save Lucy (played by Melissa O’Neill) from being no less than buried alive (!).

“It’s super intense, obviously,” showrunner Alexi Hawley tells TVLine. “The cliffhanger left you in a really powerful place, and from here on it’s a roller coaster ride. It’s also very emotional.”

As Chen’s TO, Tim Bradford (Eric Winter), and the rest of the team become aware of Lucy’s fate, “It is 100-percent all hands on deck,” says Winter. Tim, in particular, takes the matter “super personally,” seeing as he is the one who nudged his rookie to focus on something besides work and give this guy Caleb (guest star Michael Cassidy), whom she met at a bar, a chance.

“You’re going to see Tim lose his mind,” Winter forewarns. “Tim feels like he is the one who set her up on that date, even though he was cautious of that guy when he first met him.”

Through one-and-a-half seasons, Officer Bradford has kept things pretty formal between himself and Chen, though in recent episodes, Winter notes, “you sort of saw him ease up, which was a big turn for them.” So to feel any sense of responsibility for Chen’s dire predicament does a real number on the lawman. “When you think about all of Tim’s baggage in general — like, him feeling like he failed his wife — this is just another brick taken out of the building for him, you know?”

Rookie Preview 2x11Nolan, meanwhile, takes the lead on approaching Rosalind Dyer (guest star Annie Wersching), the serial killer on whom the LAPD was squarely focused at the time of Chen’s abduction, to see if she has information which could help capture her apparent padawan, Caleb. (Watch an exclusive sneak peek.)

“One of the things I love about The Rookie is I find it easy to watch, because it’s not dissimilar from real life,” Fillion says in teasing this midseason premiere’s tonal turn. “We have intense moments but for the most part life is normal. Life is lighter. We make jokes about our pain, and we move on. But at the same time we are a police show, and every once in a while we have to dip into that intensity, and this is one of those times. This is where we dip into the danger, the risk inherent in the job.”

(Fun fact: Though Wersching also played a baddie on Castle, where Hawley was an EP, her casting as Rosalind was pure coincidence. “I wasn’t there when she [guest-starred in Seasons 6 and 7],” says Hawley, who left Castle after Season 4 then returned to showrun Season 8. “She actually came to audition and I was like, ‘Oh, she’s phenomenal!’ And then Nathan told me she had been on Castle.”)

The Rookie‘s fall finale also left us with a second cliffhanger, in which Officer Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) came home to find that her boyfriend Wesley (Shawn Ashmore), who has suffered from PTSD ever since a stabbing, had overdosed on a mix of anxiety meds and booze. “That’s the thing with relationships — we have the good, but we also have the hardships,” Diaz observes. “But that’s how we learn and grow and become better.”

Surveying Angela and Wes’ entertaining “Odd Couple” dynamic, the actress adds, “Everything about them is opposite, but I think their passion and their drive is what connects them.”

While one might worry that Angela will be distracted by her personal drama to help her colleagues search for Lucy, Hawley says that isn’t the case at all. In fact, Diaz excitedly reports that for one thrilling sequence she got to ride in a helicopter for the first time ever.)

“Actually, what has happened to Lucy ends up being something of a cathartic moment with Wes trying to help find her,” the EP teases. “It ends up being an emotional story for him, as well.”

Want more scoop on The Rookie, or for any other show? Email InsideLine@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.