[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the two-part Blue Bloods Season 11 finale, “The End” and “Justifies the Means.”]
Joe Hill (Will Hochman), the son of the late Joe Reagan — and grandson of Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) and nephew of Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), Erin (Bridget Moynahan), and Jamie (Will Estes) — returns in the Season 11 finale, and he needs help from his family.
Joe’s been undercover with ATF since we last saw him at the beginning of the season (Frank and Jamie knew, leading to a bit of tension). And as the case unfolds, the Reagans worry they’re going to lose him like they lost his father, killed while undercover. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen, and Joe joins the family for the dinner to close out the season.
Showrunner Kevin Wade looks back on Season 11 and teases what could be next.
Is Joe Hill going to be around full-time or at least more often?
Kevin Wade: Not full-time, more than likely, but we’d like to be able to weave him in and out of stories. He obviously has a great chemistry and connection to our cast, and my anecdotal evidence is that the audience really liked what he brought to the show. He has a fresh relationship with the characters that they’ve been with for 11 years.
We’re going to, in the next couple of weeks, start formulating the next season. We were supposed to wrap him out at the end of Season 10, and that was cut off. Right when we introduced him, we had to shut down for COVID. We brought it back at the beginning of this season and then it was hanging there. We put our heads together and thought if we could do a season finale that also involved him, his return in a surprising way, and a surprising integration into the show that would take care of all of that.
After this undercover op and the parallels to what happened to his dad, is Joe ready to embrace being a Reagan more than ever now?
His initial step away was what formed the character for the writers — he’s got one foot in the world and one foot out. He recognizes it for what it is and for the value of it but also wants to be his own person, which seemed to me to be a very useful wrinkle to use however we’re going to grow this character and however often we get to do that.
Did you consider a tragic turn and history repeating itself?
Considered it, but shut it down. It does echo the season finale of our very first season where all the Reagans band together to find their brother and son Joe Reagan’s killers and bring them to justice. We circled back with that obviously with his son, but wanted it to be a satisfying ending and really like Will Hochman and certainly didn’t want to kill off that particular golden goose. We considered it for a second and then came to our senses and thought, let’s just tell a great story and have them be able to pull him out.
There was quite a bit of tension in the family.
It was a funny mix of our fictional world and our real world, in that we were told early on, I think in November, that it would be a two-part, back-to-back season finale, but we didn’t know if it was in fact the series finale. It was really just a matter of finding an overarching story that we could put all of our characters to work with each other, with friction with each other, and hopefully achieve something worth taking two hours to tell.
It’s nothing new for Frank to have to balance being a police commissioner and a relative to one of his own, but this time it felt very different.
It was almost like, forget the police commissioner stuff. What does a grandfather do with his grandson when in his life and under his command, the boy’s father and his own son was lost in the line of duty? What we tried to write, and certainly what Tom played, was 99% a family man faced with his worst nightmare. He has a little speech somewhere in the second part of it, where he talks about tempting the fates. It’s a very deep-seated fear of what life can hand you because he was handed at once already.
Erin brought Jack [Peter Hermann] to family dinner. What is going on with those two? Because there is that history, but there’s also something that’s just so entertaining about watching them together.
Yes, there certainly is. And I tip my hat to Siobhan Byrne O’Connor who is always the one who writes those episodes that bring the ex back into Erin’s life. Peter Hermann’s a fantastic actor. He’s been on Younger for seven years, so we don’t have the availability in the real world, but the chemistry there is fantastic. And I think the idea of two people getting into their 40s with a significant ex-spouse and never having found the replacement for it is a delightful almost romantic comedy string to play out. That [family dinner] was a lot of fun to shoot.
We saw a bit of tension at times with members of Frank’s inner circle, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s going anywhere anytime soon. Is that the plan?
That is the plan. We love those guys. Greg Jbara [DCPI Garrett Moore], Bob Clohessy [Lt. Gormley], and Abby Hawk [Abigail Baker] have taken what we’ve written for them and turned them into three dimensions over the years. At this point, it’s a great pleasure to write for, and in terms of logistics, we just get to take a lot of what would have to be exposition and play it with those guys, either arguing or giving each other a hard time or whatever it is. It’s very useful in being able to push the stories forward as well, and we love having them with Tom.
I love how much Abigail can say with just a look.
Yes, I know. [Laughs] Those shots of the door opening or closing and her sitting at her desk, they’re just priceless.
Is there anything you can tease about next season?
No big things other than that we’re gonna see is Will Hochman available to us? Is Dylan Walsh? Is Whoopi Goldberg? Is whoever it is we can find that, OK, we can have this person for this episode or these episodes and construct some stuff around them coming back that we haven’t seen before? The main thing that we try to do every season is take our characters a year older, a year wiser, in some cases a year less cautious, and let them loose, write to those actors. We have to give them new dimensions every year because they need something to play that they haven’t played before.
Any plans to bring back Gloria Reuben? Her and Tom Selleck’s back-and-forth was so good.
Yes, they were terrific. We would love to bring her back. We’ll see where that goes, and if it’s something that happens in conjunction with Will Hochman’s character. If he were to stay as kind of a lend-lease detective with the ATF, there would certainly be an avenue for that.
Blue Bloods, Season 12, TBA, CBS