Warning: spoilers ahead for the series finale of Major Crimes.

Major Crimes has officially come to an end after six seasons on TNT, and the final batch of episodes was filled with very high highs and very low lows. In an unexpected twist, the show killed off protagonist Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) a full four episodes before the big series finale. It was a perplexing move for many fans. Now, in the wake of the series finale, series creator James Duff has come out and explained why exactly killing Sharon was the right move in the long run:

Mary and I looked at each other and said, 'This is obviously dead. How do we want to manage that?' And we also wanted to give viewers a chance to mourn with us as we fade to black -- a chance to grieve the show and to accept that the show is over, that the show has ceased. This was the way we thought we could accomplish a lot of different goals, with this one action. And we did. I feel like we made the right choice. Also I would point out that the character archetype who leads their heroes to the final battle, but does not get to participate in that final battle, is as old as Western thought. We wanted to give the show a mythic structure for its last four episodes, five episodes, and that's what we did. I feel like I did the right thing -- not just for now. I didn't do the right thing just for the people who are watching now. Series don't go away anymore. They run and they run and they run; people come to them and they arrive at them. This is how the story ends. This is how we put a period on it. I've felt an obligation to write from my soul to my heart this ending. And as we got to the very end, you saw, it could not have ended this way if Sharon had been around.

The death of Sharon Raydor was obviously quite sad for viewers who have been watching her for six years on Major Crimes as well as during her earlier years on The Closer, but James Duff's comments to EW indicate that the death had to happen in order to bring the series to an end that would stand the test of time and provide closure for viewers. While killing off Sharon was indeed a tragedy, it was one that finished the story of a complex character who had more than earned a proper sendoff.

The final four episodes without Sharon also allowed the show to try some new things before coming to a permanent end. The rest of the team was reeling in various ways -- some more noticeable than others -- that made for a finale unlike anything the show had done before. The series finale undoubtedly would have gone very differently if she was still in the mix as leader; we obviously can't say if things would have ended better or worse for all the characters in the finale if she had been around. Still, it was a compelling change of pace to watch the final adventure with the specter of Sharon's death still looming.

Of course, given that James Duff seemed quite convinced that Major Crimes would be ending after Season 6, there was arguably little risk in giving Sharon a sendoff via death. The character was going to be gone from the airwaves after the Season 6 finale anyway; the early death gave Mary McDonnell the chance to act her heart out. McDonnell has already revealed that Duff included her in the creative process of figuring out how Major Crimes would end Sharon's story, so we can be confident that she's not bitter at how she was written out of the show ahead of its very last episode.

Major Crimes may be over, but there are still plenty of great options for the small screen. Check out our midseason TV premiere guide and our 2018 Netflix premiere schedule for when you can watch the biggest and best remaining series in the new year. For the other shows that have come to an end, take a look at our rundown of 2017 TV cancellations.

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