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‘Southland’ will end its season next Tuesday (March 20), as the cast, crew and audience wait to find out whether TNT will renew the critically-acclaimed drama for a fifth season.
Debuting in April 2009 on NBC, ‘Southland’ was intended to take over from ‘ER’ (John Wells and Christopher Chulack executive produced both shows) as the network’s next, gritty, high-octane drama series. It followed the experiences of several members of the Los Angeles Police department, weaving in and out of various divisions ranging from Homicide, Narcotics and Patrol. The first season order of six episodes performed well enough for NBC to renew the series for a second season to air in the fall of 2009, however, when NBC designated all of its weeknight 10pm slots to ‘The Jay Leno Show’, ‘Southland’ was left without a place on the schedule and was soon cancelled altogether.
Soon after, TNT picked up the rights to re-air the full first season and proceeded to put the show back into production for a second season consisting of six further episodes. Since then, TNT has continued to renew ‘Southland’, now with 10-episode orders, and the series will conclude its fourth season on March 20 with no word as yet on whether it will live to see another season. Season-to-date, ‘Southland’ has averaged 1.85 million viewers, roughly on par with its Season 3 average, making it difficult to determine TNT’s decision on the series’ fate.
Regardless of its uncertain future, the producers of ‘Southland’ have plotted this season in such an intricate, slow-burning way that the approaching finale will likely come to be seen as the most significant and game-changing one yet.
The season began with multiple changes to the series’ structure, with long-time patrol partners John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) being re-teamed with Jessica Tang (special guest star Lucy Liu) and Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy), respectively. Moving away from the teacher/student dynamic between Cooper and Sherman, which had served as the series’ central relationship throughout its first three seasons, gave Cudlitz the opportunity to play the lighter shades of his character now that Cooper was on more equal footing with Liu’s character. Similarly, McKenzie’s character got to move beyond his ‘student’ position by developing a more relaxed rapport with Hatosy’s Officer Bryant while making several lapses in judgement with regards to his professional behaviour. Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King), meanwhile, juggled a new partner of her own while coming to terms with an unplanned pregnancy, thereby enabling the show to explore the professional and personal ramifications of a woman in her late-30s who is ready for motherhood but must reconcile this with the dangers, not to mention institutional bigotry, of working on the streets and hunting criminals while heavily pregnant and already at risk of miscarriage due to previous complications.
In the penultimate episode, “Risk”, which aired on March 13, all of these season-long developments began to come to a head as:
Thus, fans are eager to see how the finale resolves the partnership between Cooper and Tang (Liu is only signed on to appear in this season, and has taken a role in a CBS pilot), how Sherman reacts in light of Bryant’s injuries and his continuing involvement with the prostitute, and how Adams will handle the nature of her job after the stress it caused to her pregnancy.
The season finale, titled “Thursday”, is written and directed by Jonathan Lisco and Christopher Chulack, respectively, who also wrote and directed the season premiere, titled “Wednesday”, suggesting that audiences can expect the episode to focus on the resolution of all of the above-listed season-long storylines.