Let’s not kid around. We all watched Criminal Minds just to hear Derrick Morgan call Penelope “Baby Girl” with a hint of jealousy.
Now for a few facts: Criminal Minds is one of the longest-running scripted series currently on television. The network has renewed the crime drama for a 10-episode 15th season. The series, which is currently filming the finale of its 15-episode 14th season, will remain in continuous production, shooting the 10 additional episodes right after to air during the 2019-20 broadcast season.
The decision to pick up a final installment was made in late fall when Criminal Minds longtime executive producer/showrunner Erica Messer was breaking the stories for the final episodes of Season 14 and sought guidance on whether to make the ending a season finale with a cliffhanger(s) or a series finale. (The series spent last spring on the bubble, clinching a last-minute Season 14 renewal in May.)
We wanted to make sure Erica had the time and ability to write a season (14) finale that honors the characters and the fans,” said Reisenbach. “We discussed wanting to keep the show in continuous production so 10 felt like the right number for us to roll straight into and give Erica enough episodes to end the series the way she wanted to.”
That Season 14 finale will feature SPOILER ALERT a wedding, as David Rossi (Mantegna) and his third ex-wife, Krystall (Gail O’Grady), who reconnected last season, are headed to the altar, though the rain forecast for next week has put the outdoor location picked for the ceremony in doubt.
As for the 10-episode 15th season, it will be more serialized than the procedural drama is known for, including a two-part season opener, and will feature a major confession and a BAU member in jeopardy.
The biggest through-line of the final 10 will revolve around “a very worthy adversary for the team, especially for David Rossi,” Messer said of the “unsub”, who will be introduced later this season. “Will be up against another formidable villain and will be concluding the 10 episodes with a showdown with that person,” she added.
Since it’s the final season, there will likely be memorable bad guys from the past 14 seasons making an appearance. “We have one in the works right now who’s a very memorable villain, but I don’t want to say too much if it doesn’t work out with casting,” Messer teased.
There is also the hope of bringing back fan-favorite characters, including former cast members. Criminal Minds has seen several stars depart over the years, including original lead Mandy Patinkin, who opted not to return for Season 3, Thomas Gibson, who was fired in 2016 for an on-set altercation, and Shemar Moore, who now headlines another CBS drama, S.W.A.T. (Moore has since returned to Criminal Minds for a guest stint). Another popular cast member, Paget Brewster, rejoined the show after being away for a few seasons.
“I am very hopeful that we can honor all of those characters who have been beloved and with this team, with the audience for years, but I don’t know what that’s going to look like; I don’t know the logistics of anything or the story. That won’t be shooting until the spring, so I have some time to think about it, but the hope is to be able to honor all of that history, all of those heroes who have come and gone.”
“That journey has changed a lot from the early days on the show because I wouldn’t have anticipated all the changes that have happened. I also don’t know if I would’ve anticipated that we’d have 325 episodes by the time it’s all said and done. It’s such an honor to be part of a series for that long,” Messer said.
She indicated that there may be no plans to kill off beloved characters in the final stretch.
“These people are family and friends to us at this point,” she said. “I know it’s a drama, but I’m less likely to injure or write someone off in a way that says they’re not breathing anymore. I know a lot of shows. When they find out it’s going to be over, then characters are killed off or something like that. That’s not my instinct, mainly because I’ve been here for so long with all of these voices. I just don’t want that to be how it ends for them. So the jet won’t crash, I can tell you that.”
“My gut is tearjerker probably because that’s how I’ll be feeling,” she said. “I think in honoring the series and saying goodbye, it’s probably going to feel like a little bit of a eulogy. So my guess is tearjerker more than anything else. That’s how I’d describe it.”
Looking to making the last 10 episodes, “I think everyone will be really sad, and I know this cast especially is so fond of one another, they are truly a family,” Messer said. “Anytime anything comes to an end, there’s sadness, but this is an end of an era. Since 2005, that’s a long time in anyone’s life and career and everything else. So I think we’re all going to be sad about it for a while. We’re sad that it’s over but also thankful that it happened.”