The characters are still there, but they derive in various & curious fashions; the murder of a rapist, the concealment of his body, theft and death threats from a drug pusher... 'Curious' is putting it mildly!
Upon inquiry, I learnt that the shooting was curtailed (15 episodes instead of the planned 22) and evidently severely influenced by the 2007 Writer's Guild strike.
That both sort of explained everything and encouraged me to bear with
On which I will get back to you as soon as we have finished.
Still a brilliant show to watch with your teenagers. Ample food for thought and discussion.