‘S.W.A.T.’ Boss Breaks Down Season 7 Finale, Plus Who’s Joining 20 Squad?

Shemar Moore as Daniel
Spoiler Alert
Bill Inoshita / Sony Pictures Television / CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the S.W.A.T. Season 7 finale “Twenty Squad.”]

The future looks bright for Twenty Squad.

S.W.A.T. ended its seventh (and nearly final) season with a bang, with Hondo (Shemar Moore) putting himself at great risk to keep Los Angeles safe—and the city took notice. Meanwhile, Deacon (Jay Harrington), though retired, once again helped out, and by the end of the episode, he was back with S.W.A.T. Also sticking around on 20 Squad? Tan (David Lim), Powell (Anna Enger Ritch), and Alfaro (Niko Pepaj). And Hicks (Patrick St. Esprit) is letting Hondo pick whoever he wants to fill the sixth spot.

Below, executive producer Andrew Dettmann breaks down the finale and teases what’s ahead. (For scoop on whether Season 8 could include Alex Russell, Kenny Johnson, or Lina Esco in any capacity, read here.)

Shemar told me that nothing was changed about the finale, but if you had known you were getting a Season 8 before writing it, do you think there’s anything you would’ve done differently?

Andrew Dettmann: We sort of strategically had planned the finale that it might tip into a Season 8. That’s why even the whole season was engineered that way, where Hondo and the 20 squad were put under all these additional pressures and stresses, the team falling apart like Tan and Alfaro not getting along. Luca and Street gone, the community turning on Hondo in the penultimate episode. So it was all sort of geared toward, we’ll end with a big upswing at the end of the finale just in case there’s a Season 8. And so it worked either way. It either worked to lead us into Season 8, or it left us in a great position, if we were really saying goodbye, to go out on an up notion, then tell the audience that 20 squad will always be there, S.W.A.T. will always be there to fight crime for L.A.. So I would say no, we wouldn’t have done it differently. Only we were kind of cheating in that direction anyway.

Talk about the journey you wanted to take Hondo on in these last two episodes, especially when it comes to leading S.W.A.T. and the bridge between him being a cop and the community, given how the series in general started.

Right, yeah. That’s always been the sort of backbone to this show, Black versus blue—How much is he part of the community and how much is he the cop?—and his desire to use both those things to bring them together. He wanted to change the way policing was done for the benefit of his community. So in [Episode] 712, there’s the shooting incident at the beginning of the episode, which is a justified shooting, but for Hondo, it’s painful. It was also obviously reminiscent of the pilot, seeing a young Black man get killed controversially.

Shemar Moore as Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson and Patrick St. Esprit as Commander Robert Hicks in the 'S.W.A.T.' Season 7 Finale "Twenty Squad"

Bill Inoshita / Sony Pictures Television / CBS

So we really wanted to take Hondo on that journey where he spent 25 years—or 140 episodes—working to try to better his community. And at the end of [Episode] 12, he’s got the graffiti on his sidewalk and there’s no thanks for all the work he’s done for all these years. So it was, how do we take that and turn it around? And that was for this week’s episode, to present a threat to the city that’s greater than anything that S.W.A.T. has faced until now. And Hondo, despite the feedback he’s getting from the community, is not going to give up because he knows now he really has to save this community that he loves.

And we see that in the finale because everyone sees it. And then the great moment with Hondo and his dad (Obba Babatundé) at the end…

If that was the end, we wanted to just mend that because the father-son [relationship] has always been at the heart of a lot of Hondo stuff. So one of the writers, Kent Rotherham, who wrote 712, had that idea that dad has always carried a newspaper clipping in his wallet of the very first time that his son Hondo was a police hero. So that made for that nice moment to just illustrate that instead of having to just say, “I’ve always been proud of you,” to have that little piece of proof that’s like, “I’ve always carried this.” Yeah, it was a nice moment.

Deacon is back. Did you know from the beginning of having him think about retirement that he would return? Or did you consider maybe having him stay retired and working with the security firm and consulting in some way?

Jay directed Episode 12. So usually when an actor’s going to direct, I give them the preceding episode off because prep is so important to directing. So it was always a plan for him to sit out Episode 11, and the room pitched, “Hey, why don’t we play a little thing where it looks like he’s retiring and then we’ll bring him back?” which I was nervous about because having lost Street and having lost Luca for real, I was a little bit worried that telling the audience that now you’re going to lose Deacon as well. That might break some hearts, obviously, as it would, but I relied on the fact that as long as they stick with us just one episode, you’ll see his face again. And now he’s back for real and he’s back for Season 8 because it really wouldn’t be 20 squad if we didn’t have Deacon alongside Hondo.

Speaking of 20 Squad, Hicks tells Hondo he has carte blanche for the sixth spot. So who’s joining Hondo, Deacon, Tan, Powell, and Alfaro?

That’s a good question. The writers’ room—we’ll start up next week already for Season 8—that’s on our boards. We have some thoughts, we have things we’re excited about, and when we land on one, then we’ll go deeper in that direction.

Jessica Camacho as Vasquez and Jay Harrington as David "Deacon" Kay in the 'S.W.A.T.' Season 7 Finale "Twenty Squad"

Bill Inoshita / Sony Pictures Television / CBS

It kind of felt like Hondo had an idea…

Yeah, I think so. I think Hondo has somebody in mind. I think because he got the carte blanche and because he’s kind of thinking of somebody, I don’t know exactly who yet, but I think it allows us to bring in somebody that might not be an obvious choice, that might be, even from Hicks perspective, a little bit controversial, but Hicks isn’t going to go back on his word. So whoever Hondo brings in, we all know Hondo wouldn’t do that for the wrong reasons. So we’re going to trust Hondo. Whoever he brings in as a sixth member of 20 squad’s going to be somebody that Hondo is invested in and wants to see succeed.

Is it someone we know or have you not decided yet?

I don’t know. It could be. It isn’t decided. It could be somebody we know. Then again, it might not be.

Talk about playing that tension between Tan and Alfaro while having Tan step into a leadership role.

We’re excited about that, particularly even with Episode 11, where Tan got to be the star of the rescue. In the past, anytime Hondo has pulled him aside, whatever the correction was, whatever the critique was, Tan has always immediately said, “Yes, sir,” and this was the first time—the scene in [Episode] 12 right before they question Josh, the kid they thought they just rescued, where Hondo tells Tan, I need this from you, you’ve got to get in line. And Tan didn’t immediately say, yes, sir. Instead he said, it’s not for me. So I like that. I think it’s always nice when the characters can give Hondo some pushback. Tan and Alfaro not getting along, that break between the two of them, that’s just another stressor on Hondo in a season where he’s lost Street and Luca and Deacon retired and now to have his team not getting along, just something else that has to be fixed before 20 squad can be 20 squad again.

You also set up Hicks to have another tragedy in his life though…

I know, right? Poor Hicks, right? Yeah. All his stories about his wife and now Maggie. I don’t know. Patrick plays those moments so well and it’s nice to see this guy who otherwise is just our stoic commander get to play the personal sides of his life. Yeah, it’s heartbreak. I think there are bittersweet, uplifting ways to tell those types of stories, and that’s what I would want to do. I don’t think the audience or the writers want to sort be drawn down with that kind of story. So we’ll find a way to play that as grounded as we can, but in an uplifting kind of way as whatever this new relationship for Hicks turns into.

Is there anything you can tease about Season 8?

I wish I could. Because the pickup was a little bit unexpected… I mean, we were hoping for it. We hadn’t really leaned forward in the writers’ room. The writers will begin next week and everybody, we’re talking a lot, everybody’s bringing ideas. We will want to continue to explore Hondo as the guy with the foot in two worlds, the Black versus blue, his community and the LAPD, and find new angles that are interesting to explore in that.

S.W.A.T., Season 8, Fall 2024, CBS