With the announcement that CBS’ Criminal Minds has been renewed for a 15th and final season, one question that came to many viewers’ minds was: Might Thomas Gibson‘s Aaron Hotchner be even a tiny part of the crime drama’s swan song?
The question of Shemar Moore, also a former/original cast member, returning during Season 15 isn’t nearly as complicated. Since leaving the series in early 2017, and while now fronting CBS’ own S.W.A.T., Moore has thus far reprised his role as Derek Morgan twice. Another encore during the show’s final, 10-episode run can easily be presumed (though is not confirmed).
Gibson, however, was suspended and ultimately fired from the series in August 2016, following an on-set altercation in which he allegedly kicked Virgil Williams, a longtime writer/co-executive producer. (Gibson has countered that Williams, in the midst of the men having a verbal dispute, was contentiously brushing past the actor when “my foot came up and tapped him on the leg.”)
On-screen, Gibson’s sudden and extended absence was explained by Hotch and his son Jack going into WITSEC, when the ruthless “Mr. Scratch” was at large. In last season’s premiere, after Scratch died, it was noted that Hotch would not be rejoining the team but continuing to enjoy the life of a full-time dad. After all, Prentiss noted, there will always be “another Scratch,” and the Hotchners have “lost enough.” And how.
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On the day that Criminal Minds‘ end date was announced, showrunner Erica Messer was non-committal at this early point about Gibson even putting in a cameo.
“What I’d love to do is honor the history of the series in some way that is satisfying for all of us, and I don’t know exactly what that will be,” she told TVLine. “As we’re closing a chapter on the series, I want to be sure that we’re honoring all of those people who were here and the lives that we’ve all been invested in for so long.”
Criminal Minds‘ farewell run will be filmed this spring, immediately after production has wrapped on the current, 15-episode season. “That way we get to keep our cast and crew lined up, and everyone keeps working until May,” Messer said.