Why Criminal Minds is Better Than Ever

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By Kristen Tracy (@kristenmichele)

 
When the current season of “Criminal Minds” debuted in September, many thought the show had become nothing more than a sinking ship. After all, Shemar Moore, arguably the most popular with fans, had just left the show after 11 seasons of playing Special Agent Derek Morgan and Thomas Gibson, the show’s leader and BAU director Aaron Hotchner had just been fired for an on-set altercation with a writer. Sure, we had seen the addition of Aisha Tyler’s Dr. Tara Lewis, but was that going to be enough to sustain the fan base of those who were upset about the departure of the other two? All signs originally pointed to no.
 
If you’ve been a big fan of the show since its debut in 2005 like I have, then you’re no stranger to the changing of the guard when it comes to cast members. Some have worked (i.e. Paget Brewster filling the void left by Lola Glaudini and Joe Mantegna replacing Mandy Patinkin) however others didn’t fare quite as well (sorry Rachel Nichols and Jennifer Love Hewitt). But heading into season 12, fans knew they were in for a rocky ride. Then came the news that Paget Brewster was coming back – full time – as Agent Emily Prentiss, a role she departed from several seasons ago. Not long after that Aisha Tyler was announced as a series regular, Adam Rodriguez (Luke Alvez) joined to fill the tall, dark, and handsome role left empty by Shemar Moore’s departure, and Damon Gupton became the final addition to a heavily fresh-faced cast.
 
As a fan, I know what it’s like to become emotionally involved with shows and their characters. Despite its gruesome and disturbing subject matter, “Criminal Minds” is no exception to this. This show is what peaked my interest in the field of Forensic Psychology. It motivated and drove me to eventually pursue a Master’s in Forensic Psychology, where I would spend an entire year studying the world’s most infamous serial killers as the topic for my thesis. I laughed at the comedic banter that went on between Garcia and Morgan, I worried about Reed when being captured by Tobias Hankel caused an addiction to drugs, I cried when Haley was killed by The Reaper (if you didn’t then you have no soul), and I cheered when JJ and Will finally got married. All these things, and many many more, make this show what it is. And as is to be expected, I too had trepidations going into this season. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I wasn’t ready to give up on my favorite show. So I buckled up and prepared myself for the inevitably bumpy road ahead.
 
But guess what? There was no bumpy road – not really anyway. Sure, Hotch’s exit could have been handled a little better but considering the advanced notice that was given about his departure (which was no notice), I thought it was done very well. And as much as I loved that character, I don’t miss him like I thought I would. In fact, there are times where I sometimes forget that the character even existed. The same can be said for Derek Morgan; I don’t feel his absence either. That may sound bad, but I don’t intend it to. The reason isn’t because I never connected with or cared for those characters. It’s because the fluidity between the characters this season is practically flawless and that helps us not to miss the ones we’ve lost. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that we’ve got a woman running the BAU which is totally awesome!
 
Showrunner Erica Messer and company have done this season what they haven’t been able to do when replacing cast members in the past. They’ve finally found a group of people that play well off each other. No one stands out too much, but everyone is given the chance to shine individually. I think that may have been my problem with the character of Derek Morgan. Don’t get me wrong, he was charming and totally kicked ass but he was almost too overpowering. I often found myself asking if I was watching “Criminal Minds” or the Shemar Moore show. But this current group of characters work. They are the perfect blend of old and new cast members, which gives us as an audience the chance to re-discover the show. And isn’t that what makes a show like this last as long as it has? Sure, they still seem to come up with insanely crazy storylines (which are actually inspired by real cases, by the way!) but the serial killer stories can only get you so far. At some point, those become mundane and monotonous. The only way to keep the viewers coming back every week is to make them invested in the characters they’ve come to know and love and bringing in new knights to join the roundtable. Storylines will form themselves if the audience cares about the characters. That’s what keeps them interested and that’s exactly what has kept “Criminal Minds” on the air for 12 seasons – a number that’s nearly unheard of with the turnover in television nowadays. This show only continues to get better and when that happens, there’s no telling how much longer the high will continue.


    One Comment

  1. JoAnne CostelloMarch 24th, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Exactly what l was thinking when l Googled “Criminal Minds better than ever”! I love that Penelope has more airtime and the banter between her & Alex Rodriguez is uniquely endearing. Prentiss wasn’t a favorite of mine first time around, but I love her now. Would love to see more of JJ and Will. I really liked his character. I was skeptical of this season as well, but finally binge watched 8 episodes stored on my DVR. l am anticipating the next one as much as l used to way back when.

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