In the end, Leverage executive producer Dean Devlin made the right call.
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Earlier this month, Devlin penned a letter to fans explaining that, because the creative team hadn't received an early Season 6 renewal from TNT, the Season 5 finale was designed to tell the story the writers always envisioned as the series finale. Last week, TNT decided to end the show, which proved Devlin & Co.'s fan-first instincts correct.
"If you try to anticipate something and it doesn't happen, you may let people down who stuck with you for 77 episodes," Devlin told TVGuide.com before the cancellation became official. "We inherently knew [getting a sixth season] was going to be difficult, and it came to a certain point in the year where we said, 'Let's pull the trigger and make sure that if this is the end, we end it properly and we honor our fans and do the right thing.'"
The final hour, titled "The Long Good-Bye Job," will offer a great deal of full-circle closure to the viewers who have been with the show since Day 1. "As we were shooting the pilot, John Rogers leaned over to me and said, 'One day when we end this show, here's how I think we should do it.' And I loved it," Devlin said. "We've all been tweaking it ever since, but the essential concept of where this show was ultimately headed, we've known since the pilot. That's allowed us each year to guide ourselves."
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Ultimately, Devlin said, the story is about the family dynamic Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his team of cons have formed over the years. The final case, which features the return of Mark Sheppard's Sterling and is connected to the death of Nate's son, will challenge the foundation on which the team is built, Devlin said.
"We love the idea of, 'If you were to take a group of loners with questionable morality and form a family with them, where does that ultimately go? What are the ups and downs?' We're watching these relationships change, their behavior change, the way they look at life change. And what does that lead to?
"We tend to be a light and fun show," Devlin continued. "This episode is very intense. It's a very powerful episode — the darkest episode we've ever done. It harkens back to Nate dealing with the death of his son... and the reverberations of how [the team] deals with that affects every teammate in a deeply profound way. ... [With] the way they've built this house, can it stand? You're going to find out on Christmas."
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Indeed, Devlin said he laughed a bit when he realized TNT would be airing the finale on Christmas Day. "For me there was something poetic about this," he said. [This finale] was a gift we were trying to give our fans and being able to give them that gift on Christmas seemed oddly appropriate. It's a fairly intense episode to watch on Christmas, but maybe that's what we need: something not like everything else on television."
Although Devlin admitted that this finale offers some conclusions that would make continuing the show difficult, he said he remains open to the idea of continuing the show elsewhere or in some other format.
"This is a complete meal. It's a fairly conclusive ending," he said. "It would be a challenge to go forward but a challenge I'd love to take on. ... We're open to every thought — no door is closed. I'm an optimistic person; I still want to revive the show The Visitor that I did back in the '90s!"
Whatever may happen in the future, Devlin said he's confident the show will live on through its fans. "They've been remarkable and the level of intensity and support is so far beyond anything I was expecting," he said. "You only see this kind of support traditionally when you do science fiction or fantasy shows. They know more about the show than we do! There was just a convention in England we had nothing to do with. It's taken on a life of its own and nothing could make me happier."
Leverage's series finale airs Tuesday at 10/9c. Will you miss the show?
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