Southland‘s shocking finale left viewers’ jaws on the floor and one character’s fate up in the air.
With the gritty police drama on the bubble, what will happen to one of the LAPD’s finest could remain a mystery forever if the cancellation axe comes swinging down. So TVLine went to executive producer Jonathan Lisco, who also penned the hour, for
comfort answers about the future of the bullet-ridden Cooper and the show.
TVLINE | That was a bold ending, especially considering the show’s future is up in the air.
It was bold. But I hope you’ll agree that every season, at least that I’ve been associated with the show, we’ve done our best to give our audience an extremely satisfying finale — you have to put satisfying in quotes sometimes if it’s a dark ending that you wish didn’t happen because part of it’s being compelling — that could both be a season ender as well as possibly a series ender. The reason we do that is because of how much we value our audience, and because we’ve never been able to predict whether the show is going to get canceled or renewed.
TVLINE | When John gets shot, should viewers be taking it as this is the end for him?
I don’t think so at all. We’ve had many discussions about this in the writers room and on set. John has rebounded from so many challenges over the seasons, so it’s very possible that he could come back in some capacity, and even as a policeman. You might say, “How is that possible? He crossed a line.” Well, look at the character of Dewey. He’s “only” crashed about eight cop cars in his life. He was openly a drunk on the force, although you might argue that the LAPD has become more squared away and more regulated over the years. Yet Dewey is still an extremely respected cop. John’s gone through an odyssey this season that not only police people, but also your average person, could identity as extremely trying. If he’s guilty of anything, [it's] not being aware of how much pain he was in, not seeking help. The possibility for him to be rehabilitated and be a character in Season 6 is certainly on the table.
TVLINE | So even after he assaults someone like that, he can still be a cop?
That’s to be determined. That’s the drama that you’d want to play out next season. I’m sure you’d have people on both sides of that argument. It’d be yet another odyssey for John to try to get his badge back. Would he succeed? You’ll have to tune in. Anything is possible. Yes, there may be criminal charges against John. If he gets out of it, if he doesn’t, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. We all believe that he’s certainly a viable character to have on the show again — and an equally compelling one.
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TVLINE | One theory circulating online is that John wanted to get shot when he turned around. He didn’t put his hands up. Care to comment?
We value the ambiguity with which that moment is viewed. It’s really interesting that some viewers believe John committed “suicide by cop,” and other very loyal viewers believe that he was in such a surreal haze [that] he simply wasn’t aware of what he was doing and forgot to drop the gun. I’m not going to answer that for you because in typical Southland style, we don’t hand you on a silver platter what to think. That’s one of the things that most of our viewers love about the show. … The irony of him being taken out by cops when he has a moment of feeling real despair is classic Southland. Did he do it on purpose? Did he want to leave this earth? Or was he just in a surreal haze? That’s something that every viewer is going to have to decide for themselves.
TVLINE | So does Cooper definitely survive?
I can’t comment about that. I can say this show has always been about Cooper and the other principal characters. That’s what compels people to watch. But I would argue that it’s also always been about the men and women in blue. So if in fact John is end of watch, there are plenty of other men and women in blue suits who are going to take his place and take their own journey, for better or worse. As a training officer, this is very much John’s legacy, so even if he is gone off the show – and I’m not saying he is – his spirit lives on through those people.
TVLINE | Where would you place the renewal odds for a Season 6 right now?
It’s funny — everybody in Hollywood thinks that when you work on a show, you have some kind of crystal ball. It’s anything but that. We read the trades and hear rumors just like everybody else. If you believe those, you would think there’s maybe a less than 50 percent chance of renewal. But I really think there’s a chance, and a non-trivial chance, that the show gets at least another season. This season was so compelling and felt so earned and inevitable. And we’ve got so many ideas for reinventing [the show], which I think is the hallmark of Southland. Every season, we’ve done our best to reinvent the show. I have no doubt we could do it again.
TVLINE | Given that Cooper’s fate is up the air and several cast members have booked pilots, could you see yourself reinventing the show with a largely different cast?
It’s absolutely possible. I love these actors so much that it would be very difficult for me to think along those lines. But in the spirit of the show being about police men and women and their day-to-day on the job and the struggles and victories that define their lives, I absolutely could.
TVLINE | Some passionate fans out there would hate to see the show go out now. Is there anything they can do?
I’ve never really put a lot of stock in the audience signing petitions because I don’t know what happens in those rooms over at the network. But I know I’ve signed one. [Laughs] At the same time, while I’m not sure if they actually do any good, my attitude toward it is it can’t hurt. And The Powers That Be, who have the power to cancel or renew the show, I can’t see that they’re not swayed by passion and people loving the show. And I also believe they want to be associated with a really high quality product.
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