As promotional material for The Rookie started to come out in the weeks leading up to the series’ Season 4 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. But why did Titus Makin Jr. leave The Rookie in the first place?
In unceremonious fashion, Jackson was shot in the back in the Season 4 premiere, “Life and Death.”
There was much speculation of the fate of Jackson following the Season 3 finale, but it didn’t come as much of a surprise that Makin Jr. chose to leave in the first place.
The actor was open about how he debated returning for Season 3 following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (per Entertainment Weekly), but still returned for the third season after having a heart-to-heart conversation with showrunner Alexi Hawley. Nevertheless, it would still be his last full season on the series. Here’s what we know about why Jackson died in The Rookie‘s Season 4 premiere.
Why Did Jackson West Leave The Rookie?
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.
The reason behind Jackson’s death on The Rookie was actually very simple. In a TVLine interview, Hawley said that Jackson’s death wasn’t because of his, or any writer’s, decision: “What I can say is that Titus [Makin Jr.] 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. never gave exit interviews or commented anything on social media in regard to his exit from The Rookie, so the real reason isn’t known.
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The Strange Nature Behind Jackson’s Death on The Rookie
How Jackson was killed was also kind of odd. 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.
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.”
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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 him actually being there, so they used a stand-in and only filmed from the back.
That’s why Makin Jr.’s exit felt weird and out of nowhere, even more so than the romance between John Nolan and Lucy Chen.