Why The Rookie Killed Off Jackson West – and Why the Episode Was So Strange

AbraxasOctober 6, 2021

Officer Jackson West was unceremoniously killed off in the Season 4 premiere of The Rookie; here’s why.

Warning: The Following contains spoilers for The Rookie: Season 4, Episode 1, “Life and Death,” which aired September 26 on ABC.

As promotional material for Season 4 of The Rookie started to come out in the weeks leading up the series’ September 26 premiere, fans noticed that something was very wrong. Without an explanation, Officer Jackson West (Titus Makin Jr.) was mysteriously missing. Fans were naturally concerned and hypothesized that Jackson was going to be killed off in the premiere, and sure enough, they were right. In unceremonious fashion, Jackson was shot in the back. Here’s what he know about why it happened.

Jackson West Was Killed Off Because His Actor Wouldn’t Return

The Rookie Jackson West 2

As an original cast member, Titus Makin Jr. played Jackson since The Rookie’s first season and was an integral part of the series. In Season 3 his training officer, Angela Lopez, was promoted to detective, so he was assigned a new TO, named Doug Stanton. Unfortunately, Stanton was blatantly racist and made Jackson’s life miserable for the final month of his rookie training. So, partnering with Sargent Grey, Jackson worked to get Stanton fired. Although it took Jackson getting beat up for it to happen, he succeeded and Stanton’s true colors were revealed. The social justice part of Jackson’s character was an important aspect of the series and one reason that fans were so disappointed when he was killed off.

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The reason Jackson was killed off was actually very simple. In a TVLine interview, showrunner Alexi Hawley said that Jackson’s death wasn’t because of his, or any writer’s, decision: “What I can say is that Titus [Makin] was not coming back to the show, so we needed to do the best that we could to honor the character who’s been so primally a part of the show.” Basically, Makin Jr. didn’t want to return, so he had to be written off somehow. Makin Jr. isn’t giving exit interviews or commenting on social media, so the real reason for his exit isn’t known.

Jackson’s Death Was Strang Because He Left Mid-Story Arc

The Rookie Jackson West killed

How Jackson was killed was also kind of strange. The closing scenes of the Season 3 finale were at Lopez and Wesley’s wedding. It was there that La Fiera sprung a trap and captured the bride-to-be. Fans knew that, but when Season 4 opened, fans found out that Jackson was also taken by La Fiera’s goons. Minutes later, the LAPD found security footage that showed Lopez was taken while Jackson was shot in the back and shoved into a trunk.

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The whole thing felt weird and forced, and the reason for that was that it was, in fact, weird and forced. Talking about how Jackson was killed, Hawley said, “It’s heartbreaking, but I didn’t really have a choice. [Makin Jr.] wasn’t coming back, and because of the way we set things up with the finale, there was just no way to tell that story without Jackson.”

In other words, it would have been better to have him leave the LAPD without being killed, but because Makin Jr. left during the middle of a story arc, he couldn’t just disappear. The bottom line was that the writers had a tough job to do. They had to find a way to show Jackson without Jackson being there, so they used a stand-in and only filmed from the back. That’s why everything felt weird.

To see what’s next for the LAPD after Jackson’s death, tune into the Rookie. New episodes premiere Sundays at 10pm ET, on ABC.

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