Fall TV Preview: As a Tweaked Criminal Minds Team Hunts Killers, a Killer Will Hunt Them

Whereas CBS’ Criminal Minds has ended previous seasons by detonating SUVs, depositing killers in agents’ living rooms or treating us to blasts from the past, Season 7 wrapped up on a comparatively modulated note, as JJ tied the knot and Prentiss (played by exiting series vet Paget Brewster) prepared to say a proper goodbye.

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“That was a choice made early on,” says showrunner Erica Messer. “I think by Christmastime [2011], I said to the writers and producers, ‘Guys, we’re not doing a finale where we wonder who’s coming back. And I’m not killing Prentiss, so I’m not going to blow anything up and have that be the cliffhanger.’ Then it was just the challenge of writing a bittersweet finale where there was something to celebrate, and the flip side would be Paget leaving.”

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Of course, by not closing the season with an OMG moment, Messer set her team up to launch Season 8 on its own merits. As the action picks back up on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 9/8c, three months have passed on screen. Morgan and Garcia, who worked the Ian Doyle case the previous summer, this time around got to enjoy some “time off” — and in fact both landed across the pond in London.

“Morgan took a temporary duty assignment with the Olympics, and Garcia tagged along, and they helped Emily settle into her flat,” Messer explains. That bit of backstory “is a way to keep Prentiss alive, because right off the bat they’re talking about her with the team. She’ll be mentioned as you would mention a friend who doesn’t work with you anymore. We’re playing that.”

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The team itself looks slightly different, with Agent Alex Blake, a forensic linguistics expert, already embedded in the BAU. As played by new series regular Jeanne Tripplehorn (Big Love), Blake has been with the FBI since she was 24 years old, and worked her way up. That quality makes her somewhat distinct among her BAU brethren.

“Rossi probably comes close [to such a trajectory], but Hotch had a career before he was an agent, Morgan had a career… Reid was a boy genius, and JJ worked her way up in a completely different division,” Messer notes. Blake’s history also includes a tumultuous time with Section Chief Strauss “that sort of ended in a backstabbing incident,” Messer reveals, “so when these two are face to face, Alex can talk to Strauss like no one else can. There’s this, ‘I know where the hatchet’s buried’ thing.”

Understandably, Garcia, who was away when Blake got settled in, thoroughly vets her bestie’s replacement before embracing her. “It’s a little awkward, but by the end of the episode, Garcia says, “Can we start over?'” Messer previews. “And from then on, you know who these people are going to be together.” (Get more scoop on Alex Blake and her tie to Reid.)

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A unified, formidable front is something the BAU will certainly need as Season 8 unspools, because as they will eventually surmise, a very big very bad has them in his crosshairs.

“At the end of the season premiere, the audience is going to realize that somebody is hunting the team” by replicating killing patterns they thought they had previously brought to an end. So though Hotch’s team opens the season by tracking and killing an unsub who’d been sewing victims’ mouths shut, that signature move will resurface in Episode 4.

“That’s when they’re like, ‘What’s going on?'” Messer says. “And a couple episodes later, he [mimics] something else that they’ve solved. So throughout the year, we realize he’s taunting us but also hunting us. And that will be the villain they come head-to-head with in the finale.”

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34 Comments
  1. Teresa says:

    I cannot wait! I have never been a fan of Ms. Tripplehorn but keeping an open mind.

  2. Lisa. says:

    Roll on September 26th!! I love Criminal Minds!!

  3. Bri Brit says:

    Cannot wait! I like the idea of that new unsub and hopefully the new character will be an interesting one! Also, please more Hotch and Reid!

  4. Stormy says:

    OMG Garcia looks like a dwarf planet. Those stripes aren’t doing her any favors.

  5. HannahC says:

    LITERALLY CAN’T WAIT!!! Absolutely love the idea of a season long unsub, but not sure my nerves can take it!! Seriously, need to know when it starts in the UK!! :D

  6. pecola says:

    In my mind, Prentiss and Morgan finally got together in London.

  7. I know Jeanne Tripplehorn is good and I respect her but without Paget my heart is gone.
    And Erica is once again contradicting herself when it comes to Paget’s exit. #Sigh

  8. Saint Alicia says:

    Messer’s revisionist history lesson is quite entertaining. I guess news of Paget’s departure just *happened* to come out (2 months after the time Messer gives) right in the midst of the actors’ contract negotiations… though based on Messer’s timeline/assertion why would Paget even have been involved in re-negotiations in the first place (as reported by several outlets) if she had in fact given notice at the end of 2011…
    but okay!
    Anywho, the premiere better pack some punch because from the promos Blake comes across rather bland and monotone (nothing against Ms. Tripplehorn). And no offense, but her presence probably wont be boosting ratings; hopefully that hastens a Paget/Prentiss return!
    And awwww, Garcia & Morgan on a romantic getaway <3

    • Mac Breck says:

      It’d be interesting to know the ***TRUTH*** behind Paget’s second departure. I can’t believe that just as soon as we get her back, she’s leaving AGAIN. Initially, I thought that Paget wanted to be the one to tell Messer & Co. to take a hike, but maybe they’re forcing Paget out again.

      Criminal Minds producers MONUMENTALLY screwed up when they let Paget and AJ go the FIRST time. IMHO, the show never recovered from having to write something to make sense of that utterly bonehead ed mistake.

      • Alan says:

        they didnt let them go the first time, that was the higher ups in the network cost cutting. so if you want to blame someone for that at least blame the right people

      • Maddy says:

        Paget didn’t want to come back the first time. CBS made her b/c she was still under contract with them. This time she chose to leave. If you want to blame anyone, then blame CBS, not Paget and the writers.

        • ebau1 says:

          Maddy: That’s the story I read, too. Paget was glad to be out and not at all happy to be “forced” to return. But it was under the proviso that last season would, in fact, be her last.

          • Exactly, Paget never wanted to return in the first place. She herself said that mora than once. She asked to be let go as soon as her contract as done. She said felt disrespected when she was let go for the first time, and she ddn’t want to work for the show anymore. It’s not on Messer, though. It’s on CBS, and they have come around on their mistake first time around. This time, it IS on Paget, she is the one who doesn’t want this anymore. I wish people would understand and respect that, and stop blaming the *writers*. They’re the ones who are less to blame: it was first a corporation decision, and then a personal decision, it was never a creative decision. I’m sure Messer would never have let her go for story purposes. But what was she supposed to do? Force her to stay?

    • Blue Sunflower says:

      Sheesh. The righteous indignation of people who think they know more about the intricacies of an actor’s contract negotiations better than the people who are actually in charge of the show and work one-on-one with said actors nearly everyday is amazing IMO. Because apparently it’s impossible that Paget may have given indications she was thinking of leaving long before the official announcement was made. /eyeroll

  9. I LOVE Erica Messer! Love her! She always comes across real and says it as it is! She’s one of the best show runners for me!

    And I’m so psyched Jeanne Tripplehorn’s character is a forensic linguist! I mean, I’d been saying this for a long time to my family, it’s exactly the expertise that’d been missing on the show (and on tv!) — I study linguistics, I’ve been wishing to see a forensics linguist for a while. So, I’m really excited :)

  10. Colleen says:

    I love it that Messer and CM are keeping Prentiss’ name in the dialogue and in the minds of fans with hopes she’ll make a triumphant return as the true love in Hotch’s life.

    Paget will get meatier dialogue and juicer screen time as a recurring character than she’d ever get as a regular chasing the unsub.

    I am indifferent to Jeanne’s character; maybe she’ll impress me. Either way, I’m hoping for a Paget return.

  11. DL says:

    I’m really stoked there’s a new, truly psychopathic big bad to contend with. Ian Doyle was an okay antagonist, but I didn’t feel like he was anywhere close to the likes of Frank or The Reaper. Doyle’s motives were understandable and very human, and I find the show to be a lot more intense and frightening when the bad guy is more inhuman, more monstrous.
    It’s too bad there’s no more Prentiss, but I’ll keep an open mind about Tripplehorn’s character.

  12. Mary says:

    Way to spoil the ending of the season premiere Matt!

    I’m so glad they didn’t do another BS “cadet finishing her training in the field” again. That kind of character might appeal to teens who think that everyone else on the team are “old”, but for the adults who love the show, that character and storyline were terrible. Elle worked her way up the FBI ranks to the BAU and Emily was in the CIA. I’m sure there will be those who would rather have a younger, hotter actress but Tripplehorn is attractive. Besides, Hotch and Rossi are always looking at the others like parents. It might be good to have an older female to stand with them.

    • Eva says:

      Very well said. I completely agree. It will be nice to have a believable character played by a believable actress.

    • Messer said right when Paget said she was leaving, that she wasn’t sure they’d be replacing her, but if they did, it would be with an older, experienced agent. Surely, she didn’t want to repeat the Seaver Fiasco.

  13. LDSK says:

    I can’t believe as popular as this show it that nobody else ever post anything about it except this website. Thanks for the great info Matt

  14. ultimate troll says:

    Hotch!
    That is all.

  15. Ella says:

    I’m really going to miss Emily but I’ll tune in, I guess. Still want Morgan and Garcia to finally get together. It’s been 7 seasons!

  16. GGH says:

    Reid is the linguistics expert and in the first four years there were several episodes that dealt with it. They just haven’t written one for years. I will be a little miffed if all of a sudden they drop one in now because of the new character. I don’t mind the fact there is a new character but they should have worked to find a specialty for her that isn’t already covered.

    • Blue Sunflower says:

      Uh…Gideon and Rossi are/were linguistics experts too. Besides, Reid’s an expert in everything, so it’s pretty much impossible to create a new characters whose skills won’t overlap a bit. It’s alson not inconceivable that y’know, Reid actually learned from someone else, particularly one 15 years older. So…your point? Oh yeah, to complain about nothing.

  17. Dixie says:

    As long as we say farewell FOREVER to Beth/Bellamy, I’m open to anything the uber talented writers of CM my have in store for the fans. With Jeanne Tripplehorn as the new regular and Ray Wise making guest appearances, the writers have finally raised the bar for CM. The casting crew has redeemed itself after subjecting us to that dullard Beth/Bellamy last season.

  18. vigilbert68@my.sanjuancollege.edu says:

    Brewster (Emily) is gone, ok fine we can deal with that. A terrible replacement? If this was the real world our job where we had no choice, we would deal with that too. However this is a TV show, where as much as I love the show, a square replacement in won’t fit in a diamond shape hole. Send Tripplehorn packing, and don’t write the newbie as a boss when there is alreay a boss & mentor. Tripplehorn is not personable at all, she won’t work. Keep her and I’d say being a tv show where viewers have choices, like tonight between SVU or Criminal Minds, it may not be Criminal Minds! Get a better, personalable relateable replacement! Brooke Shields, Lori Laughlin, Stephanie March, Lindsay Price. Someone with a personality, maybe secrets but not a cold as ice I am better than all you disrespecting, tension causing plastic looking ice queen, Strauss is enough to deal with!

  19. Lynda says:

    The scripts this year are just getting too gruesome to watch. I have followed this show for years and always loved it. Not sure i can continue this season much longer. I hope the scripts will improve, i love all the characters and the plots before this year were awesome!!!

    • Dixie says:

      The scripts have always been gruesome. But this season (so far) seems very redundant and laboring to me. On top of that, the personal aspects of the characters to which the writers are subjecting us are really lame. They made such a big deal about Hotch finding love again. Well, we all love Hotch and want that for him, but JEEZE, what a horrible hook-up with Bellamy Young. This actress (who I happen to love on Scandal) has zero chemistry with Thomas Gibson. It’s actually painful to watch them together. I literally flip channels when BY comes on the screen. That’s something I’ve never done since Season One of CM. It’s not even mid-season yet. Couldn’t the writers find someone else for Hotch and let BY become a New York statistic when she’s jogging through Central Park?

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