Law & Order: What happened to Jack McCoy as Sam Waterston exited show after 30 years?

Sam Waterston on Law & Order.
Jack McCoy is done with Law & Order. Pic credit: NBC

Saying goodbye to Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy after 30 years on Law & Order was never going to be easy.

He’s been with the show and its various spin-offs through some pivotal storylines – not bad for a role he almost passed on!

He’s been one of the few constants throughout the original series, and after Thursday’s episode, Jack is well and truly done with his career as the District Attorney.

The good news? It was an emotional last chapter that put things into perspective for Jack as he said one final goodbye to the job he’d done for years.

But where did it all go wrong?

Well, it’s a long story. Let’s dive in!

Jack was effectively forced to resign

The case of the week involved tech billionaire Scott Kelton (played by Rob Benedict), who was accused of murdering a woman in Central Park.

As the case intensified, Mayor Payne (Bruce Altman) became heavily involved when his son was about to be subpoenaed as a key witness.

Because appearances are everything, he threatened to destroy Bruce’s (Hugh Dancy) career and turn the tide on Jack’s reelection as DA.

Throughout his time as a DA, Jack has always been cautious about following justice, no matter who it upsets.

That’s who he is, and that’s why he’s secured so many fans over three decades. He doesn’t stray from the facts, and the blowback is irrelevant to him.

A short-term win for the team

Ultimately, Jack proceeded with the case, and Kelton was found guilty.

While it was seen as a big win, it was only short-term because Jack knew Mayor Payne would be back to cause upheaval in his life, so instead of allowing those around him to feel the brunt of his actions, Jack resigned.

While many would think he’d have been upset about turning his back on his career, he admitted that he’d been “thinking about this for a while.”

“It’s time. It just is,” he added before conceding that his leaving now would allow the governor to “appoint someone with integrity.”

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Jack said, and we agree.

While it sounds like Waterston’s time on the show is over, this franchise habitually brings people back, even if it’s just for a guest appearance.

The chances are, a case will bring Jack out of retirement at some point down the line, and we’ll be here waiting for it.

Who will replace Sam Waterston on Law & Order?

Law & Order has already confirmed who will be playing the new DA.

Scandal alum Tony Goldwyn will join the show’s cast next month in the series regular role of Nicholas Baxter.

Little is known about the character, but we’re sure there will be some teething problems as people get acclimated to a new person who may go about things differently from Jack.

As for Waterston, his Law & Order colleagues shared a goodbye message to him in which they called him a “legend.”

Law & Order airs on Thursday at 8/7c on NBC.

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