Post Mortems
Criminal Minds Shemar Moore Leaving

Criminal Minds Boss on [Spoiler]'s Exit, Who's Hit Hardest and Filling the Void

In the wake of this week’s monumental episode of CBS’ Criminal Minds, you’ve got questions (that perhaps were not already answered here), and TVLine has rounded up answers.

Just hours after Derek Morgan bid a heartfelt adieu to his fellow BAU team members, I spoke with series boss Erica Messer about orchestrating original cast member Shemar Moore‘s exit, which character will be hit hardest by Derek’s absence and who might ultimately fill that vacancy on the team (and when).

WANTED DEAD… OR ALIVE? | Messer echoes Moore’s own telling of the story, about how from the moment he gave notice, she was “pretty adamant” about not killing off Derek. At that early stage, though, “We didn’t even have [the episode] ‘Derek’ on our radar yet,” let alone a three-episode arc. At first blush, Derek was to be written out in this season’s 11th episode (versus the 18th), but Matthew Gray Gubler’s several-week absence from the show dictated that that episode be Reid-centric. Soon after, it was decided to wrap the farewell arc around the series’ 250th episode — and again, Derek’s mortality was never in doubt.

“Because we killed Gideon [off-screen] last year, I feel like at a certain point these heroes who have been doing this for 11 years might be like, ‘You know what? I don’t wanna die next. I’m gonna hang it up.’ Hotch lost Hayley and he’s still walking strong, and Gideon had walked away from the job a long time ago. But if Derek Morgan died in the line of duty, you start questioning, ‘Is this how I want to go?'” Plus, of course, “It’d be great to have him guest star” in a future episode a la former series regular Paget Brewster, whose Emily Prentiss resurfaces next week to, in small part, offer her very unique perspective on Derek’s decision.

WHO WILL BE HIT HARDEST? | While Penelope “Baby Girl” Garcia will of course be a bit lost without Derek at the office, Messer says that Reid will be equally discombobulated, as indicated during Wednesday night’s round of farewells. “There’s that shot of when JJ and Morgan are saying goodbye, and when you see Reid having witnessed that, you make a sad face,” the showrunner notes. “Losses effect Reid in a different way than everybody else, because those connections are so strong with him.” Here, barely a year after Gideon’s death, “Reid is probably rationalizing in his brain that Derek’s not gone forever in the way that Gideon is, but, ‘He’s still a person in my day-to-day life that wont be here anymore.’ When he said, ‘I dont know what this room looks like without you,’ theres something really real about that.”

WILL DEREK BE REPLACED? | Messer says the decision was made “a while ago” to not add a new BAU agent during this season’s final four episodes, but “let the team actually move on and sort of find their new groove without Derek, instead of, ‘OK, you had two episodes. Now here’s somebody else.’ It didn’t feel like the fans would fall in love with anybody new who came in under those circumstances.” Rather, any new face — likely a similar, “physical” type — will not be introduced until the fall, assuming CBS orders Season 12. “It feels like something that would be natural to do in a premiere,” Messer says, “just as we did for most everybody else who has ever come in.”

Coming soon to TVLine, Erica Messer previews next week’s episode, which had returning favorite Paget Brewster wondering, “Is there too much Prentiss in this?”

Want more scoop on Criminal Minds, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.