The Rookie Showrunner Explains Why Main Character's 'Heartbreaking' Exit Was Handled So Strangely

Spoilers ahead for The Rookie's Season 4 premiere, "Life and Death."

ABC's Nathan Fillion-led cop procedural The Rookie finally delivered its Season 4 premiere, and it was a roller coaster of emotions. Immediately coming off of the Season 3 cliffhanger in which Detective Lopez was kidnapped by La Fiera and her goons just before she was set to walk down the aisle, fans found out the fate of Titus Makin Jr's Officer Jackson West pretty early on in the Season 4 opener. Through security footage obtained by the LAPD, The Rookie revealed with little fanfare that Jackson was shot to death, and showrunner Alexi Hawley explained why it happened the way it did.

Titus Makin Jr., who has played Jackson since the show's earliest days, had been absent from Season 4 promos and posters, which definitely worried fans. His fate, along with that of Alyssa Diaz’s Angela Lopez, was up in the air during the final minutes of the Season 3 finale. And while it was something of a relief to immediately learn what happened to the both of them — Lopez was rushed into a van while Jackson was murdered after refusing to get shoved into a trunk — the lack of involvement from Makin was odd to say the least, since it wasn’t even the actor who was “shot” in the scene, but rather a stand-in. Alexi Hawley told TVLine the reasoning for the strange exit, saying:

It’s heartbreaking, but I didn’t really have a choice. He wasn’t coming back, and because of the way we set things up with the [Season 3] finale, there was just no way to tell that story without Jackson…. But we lean really hard into honoring how he was the heart of the show, and it was definitely impactful for us to have to deal with that.

Not only did the fans have to see Jackson’s death, but so did Chen, Nolan, Harper, Bradford and Gray, and it was definitely a heartbreaking scene for all involved. Although the episode brought us a major death that will be felt throughout the whole season, the team managed to save Lopez and her unborn baby. By the episode’s end, three months had passed and Lopez and Wes welcomed baby Jackson to the world, with Lopez even bringing her son to Jackson’s grave and updating him on everything. Just in case anyone suspected he might have secretly survived.

Titus Makin Jr. as Officer Jackson West in The Rookie.

Even though Jackson's departure was handled in a strange way, and without the actor taking part in an official sendoff, it still ended up being a beautiful and heartbreaking sendoff for the O.G. character. It’s still not known exactly why Titus Makin Jr. decided to exit the series, and fans will no doubt continue to wonder about those details as the season continues. Whatever the cause, The Rookie will definitely not be the same without him. It will be interesting to see how the characters move forward, especially Chen. Not only were they partners when they moved up to P2, but also friends and roommates. At least Chen and Gray were able to find and arrest his killer, so he can rest in peace with justice served.

New episodes of The Rookie air Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC!

Megan Behnke
Freelance TV News Writer

Passionate writer. Obsessed with anything and everything entertainment, specifically movies and television. Can get easily attached to fictional characters.