Blue Bloods season 8 had a happy ending, but fans are still angry over the show's treatment of Linda Reagan, who was killed off-screen before the season began. Showrunner Kevin Wade defended the decision Friday in an interview.
In the season 8 premiere, it was explained that Linda died in a helicopter crash. In reality, the character was killed off because actress Amy Carlson chose not to renew her contract.
"We were in a tough position there. I was between a rock and a hard place, because the simple fact of the matter was that the actress decided not to renew her contract," Wade told TVLine. "And because [Carlson's decision] happened after we'd wrapped the previous season, we really had very little wiggle room there, but we did the best we could with a tough situation."
Wade thinks he and the writers came up with a compelling stories to follow-up on Linda's death. It forced the show's writers to craft a season-long story where her husband, Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) dealt with the grief and becoming a single parent. Since Carlson chose to not come back at all, they could not show her death on screen.
"A lot of the Reagan family thing that people seem to be attracted to and want to relate to is the hard, cold fact of people who live with a lot of loss, people who soldier on in a lonely job," Wade said. "They're together at that dinner table every Sunday because that's who they go to. These people really need each other."
Fans hoped there would be some way for Blue Bloods to bring Carlson back, either because her character's death was faked or for flashbacks. But Blue Bloods has never used flashbacks in its eight years, and Wade said he sees little reason to do that now.
"I think we did revisit [Linda's death], I hope successfully, with what Donnie Wahlberg played throughout the season, which was loss and regret, some loneliness, and some sense of duty just to carry on for his sons," Wade said.
Blue Bloods season 8 ended back on May 11, and included Danny finally visiting Linda's grave in an emotional opening scene where he admitted he was still "having a really hard time." However, the episode ended with a happy note with Jamie Reagan (Will Estes) and Eddie Janko (Vanessa Ray) announcing their sudden engagement. Coincidentally, the proposal, like Linda's death, happened offscreen!
Carlson had nothing but good words for the Blue Bloods family after the season premiere aired.
"My heart is full of gratitude to each of you for your generous support of me and my character for the last seven years of Blue Bloods – Linda Reagan. I have been touched by your compassion and enthusiasm. I loved playing Linda: wife to Danny, mother to Jack and Sean, nurse and working mom. I'm proud of my contribution to building this series," Carlson told fans on Instagram. "I'm so grateful to CBS and the Blue Bloods cast and crew. Mostly, I am grateful to the fans who have supported me and the show. Peace, blessings and many 'love you mores' to all of you."
Blue Bloods' ninth season will air on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET in the fall.
Photo credit: CBS