Thanks to an assist from an unexpected ally, Criminal Minds‘ Reid dodged what was sure to be a brutal prison initiation, shortly into his stint for the alleged murder of a doctor in Mexico. But the brilliant BAU agent isn’t out of the woods yet. By any stretch.
When asked if viewers have witnessed the worst that is yet to come for imprisoned Reid (played by Matthew Gray Gubler), showrunner Erica Messer answered, quietly and almost apologetically, “No…. You haven’t. You have not.
“There are a lot of internal and external factors that are yet to come in that storyline (resuming Wednesday at 9/8c),” she added, “so hang on tight.”
Though the murder rap has Reid’s most protective fans virtually cowering behind their sofas with every development, Messer relishes the opportunity to explore such an ongoing storyline, and with a fan favorite. “It’s such a fun thing for us to do on this show, because as you know we’ve never done anything this big of an arc for this long,” she says. “And to take our most vulnerable hero and put him in the last place you’d ever want him to be has I think got people talking, which is great. We want that.”
Some longtime fans, however, also are talking about a downward ratings trend for the CBS drama, which on Feb. 8 briefly visited a series low in the demo (with a 1.2 rating) and on March 1 drew its smallest audience ever, 6.5 million viewers (all per Live+Same Day numbers).
Have the perils of Spencer Reid perhaps made viewers too anxious? Could the ongoing absence of Hotch (played by terminated original cast member Thomas Gibson) be a factor? Or maybe it is some mix of the above? “I think it’s a combination of factors across the board, for every show that’s down,” Messer says.
(Re: “every show that’s down,” TVLine independently crunched the numbers, and just as Criminal Minds Season 12 has slipped 22 percent in total audience versus one year ago, sister series NCIS‘ Season 13 is down the same amount. Among TV’s other long-running dramas, time slot rival SVU (now in Season 18), Supernatural Season 12 and the farewell run of Bones also are down double digits, while Grey’s Anatomy on the flip side remains stalwart in its 13th season. In the demo, Criminal Minds‘ year-over-year performance is again on par with NCIS‘, though dropping much steeper than SVU. Relative to other CBS dramas, Minds has held steady at No. 3 in the demo while slipping from No. 7 to No. 9 in viewers.)
“I think [the trend was happening] before the Reid arc even got kicked off, so I don’t think it has anything to do with that,” Messer says, standing by the soft-spoken genius’ prison ordeal. “In fact, the hope was that people will have to tune in, because it’s something serialized, and it’s with one of the fan favorites. So if anything, we’re certainly hoping this sort of puts that [decline] to rest and gets people back watching.”