Doug Hyun
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April 18, 2013 at 06:00 AM EDT

Southland‘s heart-pounding and ultimately heart-breaking final hour centered around the hunt for the two meth heads who killed one of the LAPD’s own in last week’s captivating episode. For Lydia, it meant leading the chase. And for John, it meant trying to be “fine” in a world filled with desk jobs and overwhelming guilt.

Apart from the hunt, we witnessed the dissolution of Sammy and Ben’s partnership and the formation of a new kind of partnership between Lydia and Russell. So what’s next for the show? TNT hasn’t yet renewed it for a sixth season, but whether we see it or not, these characters have a future. Stars Michael Cudlitz, Regina King, Shawn Hatosy and Ben McKenzie gave EW their take on the season 5 finale.

Lydia and Russell’s future: According to Regina King, the dynamic between Lydia and Russell is a lot like “young love,” and it’s something she would love to explore in a potential sixth season. “I would think that they would [be together] or that they should. I would hope that they would explore how blended families work and how Christopher’s father, where he falls into that, and what’s that dynamic?”

As to why Russell is such a good fit for the tough-as-nails cop, King stresses, “He knows her. He knows what she’s exposed to. That alone, and then they were partners for such a long time, they got to see each other grow and grow up.”

But could King ever seen Lydia living a normal family life, ending her day with dinner around the table? “I think it could go either way. [Maybe] that is what she would like but can’t really do it. Or it could be the one thing that was missing that she didn’t realize was missing, and it falls right into place.”

John’s breaking point: Michael Cudlitz previously told us that John wasn’t at his breaking point when the episode began, but after listening to his ex-partner’s end of watch ceremony, being told his ex-wife doesn’t want to have a baby with him, and then getting shot by the LAPD, Cudlitz “would have to think” that this was the moment that John Cooper finally broke.

So what really happened in those final moments? Was John a threat to the cops on the scene? “It’s wonderfully ambiguous as to what happens in that heated moment: Is John not complying? Does he not really understand what’s going on? Does he just do all of the wrong things in the exact right order? From the other side, it’s a completely in-policy shooting,” Cudlitz says. “It’s another way that we tell stories that make you remember that the world is larger than what you’re seeing. We always try to imply that the force is bigger and there are things that are out of our control.”

The good news is that Cudlitz does think that John could find happiness in the future and that he could figure out how to maintain a relationship and remain a dedicated cop. In fact, happiness is what Cudlitz would love to explore if the show were given another year. “I would love to see him be truly happy…. for a while. I think the audience would be extremely satisfied to have John just be a cop for a while: Kick some ass, be happy and figure it out — whatever that means for him — and to live there for a little while,” Cudlitz said. “But not too long, because that would be boring.”

NEXT PAGE: Could Southland continue without John Cooper?

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