Rizzoli & Isles kicks off its seventh and final season tonight -- and showrunner Jan Nash was well prepared for its swan song.
"We had started talking about what we wanted to do with the characters," Nash tells TVGuide.com, "[and] we had designed the arcs that could provide interesting endings, if the show was coming to an end."
Season 6 ended in a cliff-hanger: a shooting broke out at Korsak's (Bruce McGill) wedding at the hands of Jane (Angie Harmon) and Maura's (Sasha Alexander) latest big bad Alice Sands (Annabeth Gish). But during the planning period for Season 7, TNT officially canceled the procedural.
"We did get the news before we started the season that this would be the final year," Nash continued, "so we were able to take all those things that we set in motion and take them to their logical conclusion."
Season 7 kicks off with a two-hour premiere (9/8c, TNT) that will wrap up the Alice Sands arc, but the repercussions from that case will reverberate until the very end.
Here's what you need to know about Rizzoli & Isles' final season.
Who got shot? The premiere immediately picks up from the finale shooting, and two of the team are injured. They don't appear to be grave injuries at first, but one of them will soon manifest itself in a very alarming way that will play out "very interestingly" the rest of the season. Nash says the idea came out of a desire to challenge the actors and the characters in the final season. "We wanted to give everyone something interesting to do in Season 7 so they know they left it all on the field, that they got to play all the colors of these characters," she says.
De-powered: Piggybacking off that, one of Nash's goals for our heroines was to test their skills and their will. "One of the things we thought about when we were just thinking about it as Season 7 was, 'Was there a way for us to challenge Jane and Maura's superpowers?'" Nash says. "Maura is so smart but she ... makes some mistakes and starts to doubt herself. ... Jane is a supercop. If she does not define herself as that, then who is she? And what does she want?" That theme of identity and fulfillment morphed into a fitting setup for the series finale. "The answer to 'What do I want?' hopefully carries you into one's feelings about the show after we stop making it."
Summer lovin': In happier news, love is in the air -- and we're not just referring to Korak's recent nuptials. Not one, but two new couples will be, at the minimum, hinted at in the premiere. "All I will say about that is every character will get to have opportunities and some sort of arc that will carry them through the season and into the finale," Nash says.
In terms of old flames, don't expect any of Jane's to pop up. Nash says the show did reach out to Amaury Nolasco to return one last time as Martinez, but schedules conflicted. "We did try. Amaury was on Telenovela and right after he finished that, he went to work on Prison Break, so he simply wasn't available unfortunately."
Old faces: Returning guest stars include Colin Egglesfield as Tommy and Sharon Lawrence as Maura's mom Hope, who makes her first appearance since Season 4, the last season before Nash took the reins. "When I came on the show ... people can like what I did or not like what I did, but one thing I think people did like was I simplified the world of the characters and tried to focus more on the families that existed closer to home. But I think there were characters that were established [before me] that played very meaningful roles on the show and we could work in interesting things," Nash says. "This year we tried to close the bows on some of those stories, so Hope does come back. There is a story that ... the idea that Hope in Maura's life does become an important element in Maura's journey even though we don't get to see Hope after Episode 5."
New faces: Sharon Gless, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kristoffer Polaha and JoBeth Williams are among the guest stars the show has lined up. "There's a case involving the postal service and Yvette shows up as a postal inspector, and she's utterly delightful," Nash says. "She is so funny and she was such a wonderful to have on the show."
The big 100: Gless appears in the 100th episode, which will be the eighth episode of the season. The case revolves around the murder of two bikers and will serve as a "linchpin." "From a dramatic perspective, it's important," Nash says. "It's got some nice elements that involves Jane going undercover to try to figure out an important part of the case. There's some good prison stuff. The nature of the case challenges Jane in a way that sets up some of the stuff at the end of the season. Hopefully people see that it's laid before already by then. Even the Alice Sands story plays into where she ultimately goes."
No more big bads: Speaking of Jane's former FBI academy foe, Alice Sands will go down as Rizzoli & Isles' final serialized villain and case. "We simply did not have the time to do [more] with [11 episodes] left while doing the other stuff we want to do and end the show," Nash says. "But there are arc-ing stories that go through the episodes. ... All of the episodes this season are very different. Some are more comedic, some are more thriller, some are about relationships between the characters. Others are about the cases. I think we have an interesting balance this year and some nice episodes."
No deaths: Nash has "zero interest" in playing grim reaper, so you can rest easy that nobody will bite it before the show is over besides, you know, the bad guys. "While this show has done some dark episodes, this is a happy show full of happy relationships. This has been a show that has had comedy very much at the forefront of what it's done. I think to have a sad episode where somebody is killed or dies would not be true to the organic chemistry of the series," Nash explains. "And I also don't think it would be very satisfying. There certainly have been series that have done very dramatic, very ambiguous endings, and they have been, for those series, exactly right. This series is not that. It would be a little bit weird."
So how will it end? Well, the series finale, currently, is only half-written. "The half I should be writing has not been written," Nash says, laughing. "It will be written next week." Nash says she had her own idea of how the show should end, but the finale went through "three or four" incarnations after discussions with the network, production studio Warner Bros. and executive producer Bill Haber.
"I think as we talked about the final season, I think we had a sense of what we wanted for these characters," she says. "We have aimed for that. Each of the characters, no just Jane and Maura, will in the final season have things that happen in their personal lives and professional lives that will get them to a place where you're like, 'Oh, that makes sense. I understand why Angela (Lorraine Bracco) is here and when this show goes off the air, I understand where Angela is in her life.'
"Hopefully people will have a sense that the characters are in really happy, satisfied places, the relationships that they have in their lives are good relationships and that the characters will go off into the sunset in a satisfying way."