With fifteen years behind it, it’s only natural that Criminal Minds ended up dropping some of its storylines in order to advance the plot.
After fifteen years, Criminal Minds ended its long tenure with a ten-episode final season. Few television shows have had such lengthy and successful runs as Criminal Minds. The show was the fifth longest-running American procedural TV show and the third longest-running procedural show on CBS.
With so many seasons, one would hope that there would be few loose ends to tie up, but Criminal Minds had a habit of introducing dangling storylines and unexpectedly writing out characters. It is bound to be frustrating for fans who have been dedicated watchers of the show not to get closure on some plots. Now that the show has ended and viewers can binge it in its entirety, it is easier to spot the storylines that never quite panned out.
Elle Greenaway was an original member of the BAU cast, but she never quite clicked with the team or the show’s audience. Her character was ultimately replaced with Emily Prentiss, who would go on to lead the BAU in the show’s later seasons. After murdering an unarmed suspect and planting evidence, Elle is forced to walk away from the team and, seemingly, any legal repercussions.
Elle is mentioned several times by the team in reference to her killing the suspect and she appears to Spencer when he is dreaming of “ghosts” after an injury, but viewers never find out exactly what happened to her after she left the BAU. It might have been interesting if the character was revisited as one of the team’s “unsubs” in a later season to give some closure to her storyline.
Garcia’s Place On The Team
Kirsten Vangsness was originally only supposed to play Penelope Garcia for the first episode of the series. Due to her undeniable on-screen and off-screen connection with the cast, particularly Shemar Moore, the character was made a recurring feature for the first season and was promoted to a series regular in the second.
It’s a good thing, too, because Garcia offers much-needed light to the otherwise intense content of the show and more serious personalities of the other characters. It is hard to imagine what the show would have been like without Vangsness as a witty and charming addition to the group.
In season six, fan-favorite character Spencer Reid started experiencing painful and debilitating headaches, an ailment that continued to be a problem for him for much of the second half of the season. For a while, it seemed like this would be a major issue for his character, maybe even being an early symptom of schizophrenia, but nothing ever comes of the condition.
The reason behind this was that the headaches were introduced as a subplot when Matthew Gray Gubler was thinking of leaving the show. Once contract negotiations were resolved, there was no need for the storyline.
Mandy Patinkin abruptly left Criminal Minds at the beginning of the third season. His character is rather unceremoniously written out and not heard from again, besides flashbacks of his younger self, until his off-screen death in season ten. Gideon’s position as head of the BAU is filled by Aaron Hotchner and his place on the team is filled by David Rossi, who had been partners with Gideon when they originally founded the BAU.
Though the character is mentioned over the course of the rest of the show, Mandy Patinkin never returned to play him. It was surprising and disappointing for the fans to lose Jason Gideon as the leader of the BAU, but the resulting dynamic of the show was nothing to be disappointed in.
Morgan & Garcia
From the very beginning, the dynamic of Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia entertained fans and drew them in. Many hoped that all the witty, flirtatious banter between these two would eventually pay off and they would get together. However, Morgan’s exit from the show featured him leaving to take care of his wife and baby while he and Garcia remained close friends.
It turns out, a romantic relationship was never the intention of their dynamic. The banter was introduced by the writers after seeing the way Moore and Vangsness, Morgan and Garcia’s actors, interacted at one of the first table reads. It was always the goal to portray a unique, male-female friendship between the two.
The Character’s Plans In The Finale
Despite most of the members of the BAU being offered positions outside of the team in the series finale, the only one who elects to leave is Penelope Garcia. All of the positions seemed uniquely suited to the individual team members, making it surprising that no one else takes their offers.
Even after Reid almost dies, he does not step back from the team to take on a larger teaching role. The showrunner cites the reason for this being that the writers wanted the team to stay together in everyone’s minds, so they decided to keep almost everyone at the BAU instead of having several characters leave.
Thomas Gibson left Criminal Minds at the beginning of season twelve after being fired for repeated disagreements and altercations with other crewmembers. On-screen, Aaron Hotchner and his son enter Witness Protection for the remainder of the twelfth season. The team officially says Hotch will not be coming back in season thirteen, even after the death of “Mr. Scratch,” the killer who had been threatening him and his son.
This is another example of an important character being written out with very little fanfare, but in this case, there was not the option of the actor returning to complete the character’s story arc.
Reid & JJ
After years of solid friendship and chemistry between these two characters, Jennifer “JJ” Jareau confirms her love for Spencer Reid in the final episode of season fourteen. The two had gone on a single date in the first season but had remained best friends for the majority of the show.
The confession puts them both in an awkward position as Spencer also loves JJ, but she is married with two children. Many fans hoped that their friendship would eventually blossom into a relationship, but the characters ultimately opt to stay friends, leaving the storyline feeling unfulfilled and unnecessary. One good thing to come out of the situation is that Reid got a sense of closure that allowed him to develop a relationship with his season fifteen love interest, Max.
JJ & Emily’s Replacement
Season seven of Criminal Minds saw the roster of the team shaken up with the departure of Jennifer Jareau and Emily Prentiss. This was due to the actresses’ contracts ending and other off-screen drama that has long been cause for speculation. New profiler Ashley Seaver was introduced as the replacement for the female characters, namely JJ. Her backstory involved being a recent FBI academy graduate and the daughter of a serial killer who was formerly caught by the BAU.
Seaver lasted for less than a season, being transferred in between seasons to another task force, and JJ ultimately comes back to the team in season eight. While JJ seemed like the better fit for the team, Seaver’s story arc might have been interesting to explore if she had stuck around longer.
Spencer’s Addiction To Dilaudid
In season two, Reid is kidnapped, tortured, and drugged by one of the unsubs the team is hunting. In the process of recovering from this ordeal, he starts using the prescription pain medication Dilaudid. He quickly becomes addicted to the medication, but only for a few episodes.
After his team encourages him to get help, he is seen attending a single “addiction in law enforcement” support group. Apparently being resolved, his addiction is rarely ever referenced again. There was no official reason for why the subplot was dropped, but some sources cite that Matthew Gray Gubler did not like the storyline and felt it didn’t fit with the character.
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