CBS’ Criminal Minds concluded its 15-season run on Wednesday night with a double-episode series finale that featured the pursuit of one last UnSub, followed by a small time jump and then some teases about the BAU’s future.
In the opening hour, a Young Gideon led Rossi to realize that Everett Lynch aka the Chameleon’s endgame involved his father, Delvin, who is a salty ol’ something-something. Everett’s mother Roberta, however, sweet-talked her way to a parole and got to Delvin first, gunning him down… a lot… to rob her son of the glory. Rossi arranged to meet up with Lynch, “alone” (though with sniper cover), to discuss their current standoff, seeing as Lynch has an old flame’s daughter hidden away at his latest digs, and at risk of diabetic shock. Upon reaching an impasse, Lynch slipped away into the woods and disappeared — but resurfaced not long after at his current home. FBI and SWAT soon had the place surrounded, as Lynch found himself in a new standoff, with his gun-waving mother.
Roberta negotiated the diabetic teen’s safe release, after which the team realized — too late — that she might have murder-suicide tendencies. And sure enough, just then, the entire house went blammo, knocking Reid to the ground, hard. Reid came to with his head ringing, but seemed OK later upon arriving home… until, that is, his brain got to crunching the likelihood that Lunch in fact escaped the explosion, after setting it off himself and fleeing via a tunnel. Coupled with his injury, that brain activity triggered inter-cranial hemorrhaging, and Reid passed out on the floor, with the rest of the BAU unaware.
The series finale itself opened with Reid reporting to work, business as usual, where he got caught up in a Season 1 exchange between his younger self, Derek, Elle, Hotch and Gideon. Reid went chasing after Gideon and wound up in Garcia’s office, except the blonde woman minding the computer was dearly departed section chief Erin Strauss. She shared Reid’s diagnosis and assured him he is not schizophrenic like his mother. Rather, his unconscious self is on a “journey,” one which will present temptations. First and foremost, Reid next ran into George Foyet aka the Reaper, who fancied himself “the beginning of the BAU’s end” and taunted the agent about the six colleagues felled by the explosion at Lynch’s hideout.
Meanwhile in the “real” world, Krystal picks up on the fact that husband Dave is mulling retirement, now that the Chameleon threat has been neutralized. Over at the BAU, the ladies are recovering from a late night of “vision boarding,” assuming that Spence is sleeping in after the Lynch ordeal. Garcia then reports that of the eight total casualties at Lynch’s hideout, six were agents, one was Roberta and the other was… skeevy P.I. Orlando Gaines! The Chameleon is still loose!
Inside Reid’s noggin, Foyet notes the irony of the genius dying from a slow brain bleed, before handing him off to Maeve. Reid’s ill-fated ex likens their tragically truncated time together to a rom-com about an angel who falls in love with a human, then only has one day with them. Maeve explains to Reid that (as with most every near-death plot device like this), he is at a “crossroads.” And to help him through it, she tells him “something you don’t hear enough of — that the world is a good place,” but it’s “even better” with him in it. Maeve then leads them to the grave of Gideon, whom Reid last spoke to “12 years, seven months and 23 days ago.” (I leave any of you reading to vet that math!) When Reid worries that if he dies, he will let down his mother, Maeve notes, “You seek and gain approval by anyone,” and now it is time to stop,” because “the world needs you to do what you love,” be it magic, telling ghost stories, Jell-O, kumquats or… teaching. Making a difference. She also expresses her wish that he finds a passion like they shared, with someone new. But that topic is cut short by Diana’s voice, nudging Reid awake back in his hospital room.
Back at the BAU, a fresh profile of Lynch surmises that he will now come after the team directly, on their own turf. And though they immediately beef up security for themselves and loved ones, a suit-and-tied Lynch nonetheless gets the drop on the detail outside Rossi’s home, and then flashes a badge to get Krystal to let him in. Krystal, bless her soul, recalls David showing her photos of the Chameleon’s assorted disguises, and deduces that she is now in his presence. But it’s too late. He’s got her in his mitts. And now it’s time to make a trade.
Lynch with Krystal meets up with Rossi and the BAU at an airstrip, where the team’s jet is fueled up for his use. (It turns out that among his many personae over the years, Lynch trained to be a pilot.) Rossi though pleads to take Krystal’s place as hostage, and he succeeds in convincing his adversary. And though Rossi gets patted down for weapons, as he boards the jet with Lynch, Prentiss tells the team that he learned a trick many years ago with Gideon. And as Lynch readies for takeoff, Rossi picks open his handcuffs then retrieves a gun hidden inside a compartment inside the jet. What follows is a bit of a plot-driven mess — Rossi clumsily sneaks up on the pilot, gets shot, and tumbles out the plane door onto the tarmac. But that frees up JJ to make like John McClane in Die Hard 2 and set fire to a trail of leaked fuel and blow the jet up.
One month later….
Rossi has healed, and hosts a party in his backyard. Except this isn’t for his retirement — he flaked on that idea — but for Garcia’s departure from the team, to accept one of myriad job offers and work for a non-profit not too far from her friends at the FBI. (Even better, now that they are no longer coworkers, she receives and giddily accepts a dinner invite from Luke!) As for Prentiss, she kinda tanked the FBI director promotion by missing signs of Roberta Lynch’s suicidal inclinations, but she and Mendoza are househunting in Denver. Similarly, JJ does not appear headed for New Orleans.
Prentiss is among those who toast Garcia (while touting her own plans for a major haircut), as is JJ (who insists that Penelope has been the team’s “glue” all this time). The guest of honor then stands before the crowd to thank them “for reminding me that there is an infinite amount of heroism and kindness in the world, not matter how bleak it seems.” (Rewatch her speech below the poll.)
The next morning, Emily & Co. catch Garcia trying to give the BAU an Irish goodbye, by slipping away days early. That gives heer an excuse to bequeath assorted tea mugs to team members, before Prentiss announces “Wheels up” for the shiny new jet. Penelope then powers down her PCs one final time, before turning out the lights.