S.W.A.T. Boss Talks Rejiggered End-of-Season Plan, Postponed Finale That Flashes Back to 1992 L.A. Riots

SWAT Season 4 Production

Season 3 of CBS’ S.W.A.T. came up just one episode short as a result of Hollywood’s coronavirus pandemic-related shutdown. But that postponed finale was poised to be a historically resonant one.

After the shutdown was announced in mid-March, “We barely got Episode 21 in under the wire. And obviously we couldn’t film our finale,” showrunner Shawn Ryan tells TVLine. “But I guess because we got an earlier start, we only lost one episode, and a lot of other shows lost two to four. We’re fortunate in that way.”

The final three episodes of S.W.A.T. Season 3 will air April 22, April 29 and then — following back-to-back weeks of Survivor-related preemptions — Wednesday, May 20.

Though an unintended “season finale,” that third episode, titled “Diablo,” will still bring the season to an interesting close — and with a bit of a cliffhanger. “I was remarking the other day to the other producers and the writers that it really plays really well as a season finale for us,” Ryan shares. “It’s a particularly big episode, with big emotions. I’m not unhappy that this will be the last episode of the season.”

But what did the originally envisioned Season 3 finale look like? And might it still see the light of day?

As scheduled out at the very beginning of the season, S.W.A.T.‘s finale would have landed on April 29, which is the 28th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots. The CBS cop drama would have acknowledged that anniversary with an episode “that split time between present-day action and a teenage Hondo and his father during the L.A. riots,” Ryan says. “And it picks up an A-story beat that was sort of a cliffhanger in the previous episode, which will now be our [May 20] finale.”

If S.W.A.T. is renewed by CBS, that flashback-heavy hour now “will probably become either our season premiere or an early episode in Season 4,” Ryan ventures. “But we will get around to filming that episode, because that’s a special one, to look back at the riots through the perspective of a teenage Hondo.”

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