Credit: Doug Hyun
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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?

Is John alive?! When asked this question, Cudlitz poses another in return, asking, “Do you think Southland can continue without John Cooper?” Fair enough. But if the show comes back and Cooper’s alive, could he (or would he) return to the force? “I don’t know if he would choose to be in a different job-specific place so far as maybe not on patrol, or maybe we jump time and he is on patrol, and this is the thing that really reset him completely, and we meet a John that is very right in the head. Now he’s physically okay, now he’s right in the head — we’ve never met that cop before.”

The end of Sammy and Ben: When Sammy discovered Ben’s secret, the result was an electric scene that Shawn Hatosy will always remember. During filming, the director intended to cut between the dialogue and the physical altercation, but the actors were swept up in the moment and ended up completing it all in one take. “We just both let it out. We literally fought. It’s not like we hit each other, but it was as real as it gets. It was just raw and emotional and physical and dirty,” Hatosy says.

So could Sammy and Ben ever get over what happened? Hatosy says that “lines have been crossed,” and he doesn’t “see any chance in hell” of Ben and Sammy remaining partners. For Hatosy, Sammy, at his core, is defined by the speech that fans saw in the last moments of the finale. And for Hatosy, that guy would remain a patrol officer moving forward, but this time with a new partner.

In terms of what else he sees for Sammy’s future, Hatosy would love the chance to have a few moments with John. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with just about everybody but Cooper. We haven’t really had a chance to perform together. And that’s a shame to me, because one thing that stands out to me in Southland is this cast is incredible. So if there is a season 6, it would be nice to have that opportunity.”

Have we lost Ben Sherman to the dark side? According to Ben McKenzie, the hope for Ben Sherman’s moral center is ” pretty bleak.” “We could either have him come completely unglued or have him find some sort of perspective from someone else. I’m happy doing either way,” McKenzie says. So could this fight be the thing that opens Ben’s eyes to the seemingly bad guy that he’s become? “Maybe. Although it seems like most of the time you have to actually hit rock bottom. It is a little bit akin to having an addiction to a substance or something — there’s a lot of false bottoms before you actually hit the bottom. And I’m not sure that this is it. It might switch him, but I doubt it, in a way. I feel like he’d have to actually suffer not just personal repercussions but professional ones.”

That being said, Ben feels the consequences of his actions after the fight. “He’s finally being confronted with the cold reality of the fact that his partner feels betrayed,” McKenzie says. “And Ben is not a robot. He feels that. I think that breaks him a bit. When you get called out like that, I think a lot of people’s response, particularly men, is to be both angry and ashamed or anger to cover the shame and the guilt and the frustration. I think there’s a lot of emotions, and then he’s also physically exhausted.”

And while McKenzie agrees that Sammy and Ben won’t be partners next year, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a completely new path for Ben Sherman. McKenzie teases that they’ve discussed the possibility of Ben joining SWAT. Another thing McKenzie doesn’t rule out? A little more John Cooper-Ben Sherman time in the future, which leads us to our final burning question …

Could Southland continue without John Cooper? According to the stars, they don’t want it to, and they don’t think it will. “One thing that I think is common for fans of the show is how much they love John Cooper. He’s the favorite,” King says.

But in order to have Coop return, the show has to return, so for now, let’s all join King is crossing our fingers, our toes and our eyeballs for another year with our favorite oh-so-damaged cops.

Samantha on Twitter: @samhighfill

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