Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched Major Crimes' episode "Conspiracy Theory: Part 4."
For some fans, Major Crimes Season 6 began with some melancholy vibes, since TNT cancelled the hit spinoff before it started. And for anyone hoping that the series would bow out with a happy and healthy Sharon Raydor, the "Conspiracy Theory" arc's conclusion was as tragic as TV could get on that Tuesday night, as it ended on the somber reveal that Sharon had died. It was quite a shock, especially since Major Crimes still has four episodes to go, and star Mary McDonnell offered some insight into her character's demise, saying the presumed cancellation played a role in the creative process.
It's interesting to think that, had James Duff and the Major Crimes team not felt as if the show was going to get cancelled, Season 6 might have ended up going in completely different directions. Had no one suspected this would be the last batch of episodes, Sharon Raydor might still be among the (fictional) living. Or, conversely, maybe the unexpected cancellation would have caused Duff to arbitrarily shoehorn Sharon's death into an already-planned finale. At least that latter choice was avoided.
Just prior to her death, Sharon suffered a coronary while in the middle of trying to get a confession from a killer, and it was after a double-episode airing in which she steadily refused to stop working, despite the adverse affects it might have had on her health. The fact that she died doing what she felt was her calling, well, that made it all slightly easier to accept. Plus, she even had a priest go through the Last Rites, which gave her added peace during a mostly stressful period in her life. (Somehow, the Last Rites didn't convince me she would actually die in the episode, since it came across as a red herring of sorts.)
But it wasn't just stressful for Sharon, as Mary McDonnell was really being put on the spot, having to act out the final moments for a role she'd played for eight years (with two of them on The Closer). Saying that she and James Duff had talked about the possibility of Sharon's death since the beginning of the season, McDonnell didn't know until it was going down that the big shock was coming in Episode 9. That choice was made so there would be enough episodes for other characters to deal with the aftermath of Sharon's death, such as her oh-so-recent husband Andy.
As far as acting in her final episode goes, here's what Mary McDonnell told Variety during their interview:
Shocking, indeed. Major Crimes fans have a month left of shows to mentally deal with Sharon's death, and the series airs Tuesday nights on TNT at 10:00 p.m. ET. To see what new and returning shows will be around when Major Crimes is done, head to our fall premiere schedule and our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.