The following contains spoilers from Criminal Minds‘ two-hour final-season premiere.
“I was prepared to take that secret to the grave. But now it’s out, and I can’t lie to you and say I didn’t mean it. I do love you. You were my first love. And I’ll always love you.”
In Criminal Minds‘ final-season premiere, a tearful JJ (played by A.J. Cook) -— after cheating death, but having her life saved by Spence (Matthew Gray Gubler) — made clear that what she disclosed to the UnSub in the Season 14 finale was no fakeout. But as the longtime partners in crimesolving would proceed to concede, JJ also loves her husband Will. And as such, she and Reid will continue to be just “best friends.”
JJ’s hospital-bed declaration came in the second half of the two-hour premiere, after it had been hinted that she and Spence had been ignoring what she shared six months prior. (“I’ve always loved you,” she told him in that involuntary game of Truth or Dare. “I was just too scared to say it before.”)
As the premiere’s second hour continued to play out, Reid would have the unexpected opportunity to use his temporarily lucid mother, Diana (Jane Lynch), as a sounding board. “Honey, life is long and it’s hard,” Diana offered. “You deserve to have someone who will share all of it with you. All of it.”
TVLine spoke with showrunner Erica Messer about where Reid and JJ go from here — and how a beautiful stranger might fit into the mix.
TVLINE | In your ideal world, I imagine, there would have been a week between Episodes 1 and 2, after J.J. was shot.
Oh, yeah. It was like when we did that bomb explosion at the end of 723 or whatever it was, and it was like, “Just wait one commercial break and then we’re back!” I mean, you turn these things in and you never know how they’re going to air it. I “get” the value of a two-hour premiere and I’m excited that we’re on at nine o’clock, which is our original slot for all of those seasons, but storytelling-wise it’s like, “Oh, crap.”
TVLINE | For JJ and Reid, is that the end of that topic for them? Their feelings for one another?
It will never be discussed the way it was discussed in [the premiere], but there will still be sort of “knowing looks” and moments through the end.
TVLINE | Tell me about Maxine, the character Rachael Leigh Cook will be playing, and how she fits into Reid’s world.
This was our version of giving Reid a shot at some kind of romance, which has always been a big sticking point with the show. I think that creatively, people wanted to go down that path with him, but realistically introducing a new love interest for anyone can become difficult because you have to give it this “energy” that takes away from the crimesolving of the week. But again, it was one of those things on the wish list of, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we saw Reid meet somebody who’s worthy of him?” Our hearts are still with Maeve so much, because Reid’s heart is with Maeve, but when that love was taken from him it felt it would be nice to give that character a shot at love again.
TVLINE | And when does Maxine show up, in which episode?
She comes in in the “Saturday” episode (airing Wednesday, Jan. 22), and she will come back and play again in a later episode. So, she first appears not right after [Reid’s talk with his mother about JJ], but that, the talk with JJ, and a couple of other things — including a talk with a therapist in that “Saturday” episode — sort of leads to him being open to trying to have a normal relationship, not one that’s mired in work talk and all of that stuff.