'Southland' season (or series?) finale: 'We're just getting into the meat of who these people are'

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Image Credit: Doug Hyun

After last week’s incredibly visceral, emotionally draining episode of Southland, it’s hard to imagine that tonight’s season 5 finale could have any juice left, but according to the stars of the show, the finale delivers the same shock factor, albeit slightly less graphic.

We caught up with four stars of the show — Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy, Michael Cudlitz and Regina King — to talk about where their characters are headed in what could potentially be Southland‘s series finale (if TNT decides against ordering a season 6). Here’s what tonight’s episode has in store:

Michael Cudlitz on John Cooper
Despite the fact that John Cooper survived the kidnapping that took his partner’s life in last week’s emotional episode, Michael Cudlitz doesn’t believe that Cooper is at his breaking point… yet. However, by the end of the finale, that could change. “There is a point where everybody snaps, and he’s not at that point strangely enough after that ordeal,” Cudlitz says. “He’s put on light duty when we come back, so I’m basically doing office duty.” And for Coop, desk work has always been his greatest fear. “A large portion of his life is not only devoted to the job, but the job defines him. [You see] that taken away from him and the consequences and the self doubt.”

Fans won’t be surprised to hear that John is dealing with “feelings of responsibility for what happened” and isn’t exactly taking care of himself. “We come back 18 days later,” says Cudlitz. “We open with a scene with me and Laurie having breakfast, and John’s okay on the surface. And then we see throughout the episode what things are not okay with him. There’s a lot of things that can’t continue the way they are, and we see what toll they have.”

Regina King on Lydia Adams
After a season of personal ups and downs — gaining a son, losing her mother, and finally finding a permanent partner in Ruben — tonight’s episode is all about the little moments for Lydia. Regina King teased a “special” moment between Lydia and a certain man in her life. No, we’re not talking about Christopher’s father, but rather Lydia’s one-time partner Russell. Bringing Russell back into Lydia’s life was something King always wanted. “That was one of the things I mentioned when they said that they were going to kill her mother — that we can’t get rid of Ruben and maybe we should have Russell come back.” According to King, Russell is one of the few people who really knows Lydia.

However, long-time fans of the show might find themselves talking about a different scene come tomorrow. Southland‘s veterans are finally coming together for what King called an “intimate” moment between Lydia and John. “It is a moment just between them, and I think one of the things that people really like about John Cooper and Lydia Adams is that they’re both just so committed to what they do. And we are the veterans on the show, and to see those two characters get together, for us it was very special, so I think it will be the same for the fans.”

Could the moment have something to do with the meth addicts that were behind John’s kidnapping? Possibly. King did say that fans “will find closure” when it comes to the meth heads, but “the closure in some ways is just as shocking” as last week’s episode.

Ben McKenzie on Ben Sherman
For Ben Sherman, season 5 has been about the patrol officer’s descent into “moral ambivalence.” And after making his most questionable decision yet when he had his girlfriend’s brother break into his partner’s home, therefore putting his partner’s son in danger, Ben is finally going to be confronted with the repercussions of his actions. “He’s entered into a weird world where he thinks he’s the ultimate arbiter of justice and he gets to dispense it at his will, and when he finds himself in a tight situation, like he does with Sammy and this tape that could ruin both of their careers, he does whatever he believes is necessary to make that go away,” McKenzie says.

“The thing is, though, once you’ve gone down that rabbit hole, it’s not like you suddenly jump out. You can’t snap your fingers and it’s all over. I think part of what he’s doing while he’s processing is trying to figure out how to cover his ass.” And that can only mean one thing: more manipulation.

“So you’ll see him as the wheels start to fall off try to keep them on by manipulating each person around him, and that will definitely involve his girlfriend and her brother,” McKenzie says.

Shawn Hatosy on Sammy Bryant
Although his Tammi troubles won’t be over until Nate is 18 years old (if ever), Sammy’s main focus in the finale is trying to solve the mystery of why an NBK member would try to break into his house. And it looks like Sammy’s too smart to be fooled by his partner’s charm. “Sammy was a really good detective, so if he’s on his game, he’ll be able to put the pieces together or he won’t. It just depends on who’s better at hiding and who’s better at discovering,” Hatosy says. And when the situation does come to a head, fans can expect “one of the most raw scenes I’ve ever done as an actor.”

In addition to his disappointment in Ben as a partner, this blowout is more than meets the eye for Sammy, who returned to patrol in order to try and help young cops. “In episode 10, he talks about that a little bit: his choices and what led him back to patrol. I think he holds true to that as best as he can, and he realizes that you can’t help everybody. He can just be true to who he is and hope that that sticks for the people that he surrounds himself with on patrol.”

But patrol isn’t the only thing on Sammy’s mind in tonight’s finale. On a more positive note, Hatosy confirmed that Sammy finally goes on a date! So maybe Ben has positively influenced Sammy after all? Well, sort of.

Now about that season 6 …
The big question that we asked all of the stars was whether they felt this finale could work as a series finale if TNT didn’t pick up a season 6. All cast members agreed that while it could work as a series finale, they certainly hope it doesn’t have to.

King: “I don’t think that the fans would want this to be the finale. And I feel like this is our best season in terms of characters and arcs, and we’re just getting into the meat of who these people are.”

McKenzie: “I think it gives each character interesting things to do and brings some things full circle but does not wrap it up in a bow either. And I think that’s all you can ask for in a series finale. I think it’s a very good episode of what I believe is a very good show, and that’s all you want.”

Hatosy: “I think it works as a series finale. I certainly hope it’s not. I would love to see what these writers have in mind for the main characters for season 6. But it certainly could end like this.”

Cudlitz: “I think it will be satisfying for some. I think that some might be frustrated. It definitely, definitely could continue. These stories are not done, but these specific portions of the story do come to satisfying if not spectacularly disturbing resolutions.”

Watch the season 5 finale of Southland tonight at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.

Samantha on Twitter: @samhighfill 

Read more: 
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