Warning: The following article may contain spoilers from previous seasons of Criminal Minds.
The cast of CBS’ Criminal Minds seems to be dropping more quickly than the show’s many, gory victims. The first veteran actor to say goodbye to the bureau this year was Shemar Moore, who played FBI Special Agent Derek Morgan since the series premiered in 2005. Moore’s last episode aired on March 23rd, prior to the end of the eleventh season. Shemar said he wanted to try new things in his career, and his departure was explained on the show by Morgan leaving so he can spend more time with his family.
The next main character to take a hike, Supervisory Special Agent Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner, played by Thomas Gibson, is another one who’d been there since episode one. His reason for leaving, however, wasn’t nearly as respectable; earlier this summer, Gibson was suspended from his job after getting into an on-set altercation with a writer/producer.
They had a disagreement over the drama’s creative direction, which somehow led Gibson to kick his co-worker in the shin. The suspension soon took a sour turn, as Gibson’s since been fired permanently. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the star caused a disruptive incident on the show’s set.
‘Hotch’, I knew you were a very serious guy and you loved your job, but come on. Isn’t that extremely childish behavior on your part? Looks like your team needs to deliver a profile on you.
While I certainly feel that he got the repercussion he deserved, I can’t help but wonder if this is the final rusty nail in the Criminal Minds coffin, considering the quality of writing has been generally slipping in the last several seasons. Hotch is to his FBI Behavior Analysis Unit (BAU) family what Rupert Giles was to Buffy and her Scooby gang.
Can the long-running show survive losing two beloved characters in the same year?
But wait, no need to fear! Emily Prentiss is here! The episode following Derek Morgan’s departure saw the long-awaited return of Paget Brewster, who played the Supervisory Special Agent from season two through seven.
She was already slated to return for several more episodes during this upcoming twelfth season, much to many fans’ delight, but giving Gibson the boot turned into an opportunity for Brewster to be promoted to series regular. In addition, Aisha Tyler, who joined the show as recurring character Dr. Tara Lewis last season, has also moved up to a full-time cast member status. That was coupled with the announced that CSI: Miami alum Adam Rodriguez would be taking Shemar Moore’s place as Agent Luke Alvez, a new BAU team member drafted from the FBI’s Fugitive Task Force.
For any show, lasting twelve seasons is mighty impressive, but especially a scripted drama that usually revolves around a “baddy of the week.” Few TV series truly stay interesting past five seasons, so Criminal Minds certainly deserves credit for staying relevant and high in the ratings this late in the game. It’s survived numerous cast changes throughout the years and has remained fresh and creative, with the quality decline only becoming noticeable within the last two or three seasons.
This latest switcheroo, however, could be a sign that the BAU team ought to catch their last psychopath and pack it in at the conclusion of this upcoming season. I’d rather see the show end when it’s still respectable than witness it becoming painfully unwatchable. Brewster, Tyler, and Rodriguez have the potential to help make for an epic final season, if they decided to end on a high note.
It’ll be interesting to see what the writers and producers come up with as a reason for Hotch’s absence. Will they have him simply leave like Morgan did, or will they give him the Charlie Sheen treatment and violently kill him off? Only two weeks’ time will tell. My main concern is thus: Who’s going to monotonously utter the phrase, “Wheels up in 30”?
Criminal Minds returns for its 12th (and in my opinion, possibly final) season on Wednesday, September 28th at 9pm EST on CBS.