In a couple of weeks, what appears to be a very solid Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) coming to “Criminal Minds” 12th year, albeit the departure of Shemar Moore’s Derek Morgan last season, now seems to be in an identity crisis. Series veteran and long time BAU chief Aaron Hotchner has been written out of the series following Thomas Gibson’s firing last month.
Had the firing of Gibson happened before Moore amicably left the series, it seems to be a no-brainer that Morgan assumes the vacant position. After all, the Chicago native even held the position for a couple of episodes back in season 5 when Hotch’s capabilities to run the team was questioned after his run-in with the Boston Reaper. But with both characters now out of the photo, the question is a toss-up among all the other remaining agents.
Looking at the cast members, only Matthew Gray Gubler who plays Dr. Spencer Reid has been a regular on the show since day one. This is despite the fact that AJ Cook’s JJ Jareau is also part of the original cast member as she was absent for the majority of season 6 when the procedure underwent budget problems that resulted to downscaling. Masking it as a forced promotion that led her to Pentagon, she eventually returned by the end of the season and has been a mainstay since then.
There still remains the founding father of the FBI special unit who is David Rossi played by Joe Mantegna. Being the most veteran in terms of the job, it is very well possible that he takes over the unit despite only being with the show since 2007. But while his experience is totally an asset, it seems like he really is not keen in leading the team after following his retirement and retirement from the Bureau.
Season 13 also marks the return of the former member, turned regular guest, turned returning member, Emily Prentiss. After formally leaving by the end of season 7 to run Interpol in London, Paget Brewster, who plays the multi-lingual agent, is now back in Quantico as a series regular.
In hindsight, JJ has somewhat become Hotch’s right-hand person, especially when they ran the ruse to cover up for Emily’s death so that it will not be that much of a surprise if she somehow takes the lead. Prentiss is also a good choice given her varied stint and will have Paget’s return make more sense. The introduction of newbie Luke Alvez, played by Adam Rodriguez, will also presumably shake the dynamics in the group. The fugitive specialists will help the BAU in tracking back the convicts who were able to escape prison last season. Needless to say, “Criminal Minds” can also choose to keep the top spot open and have flexible roles for everybody.
Regardless of what happened behind the camera, it is safe to say that Gibson’s Hotch was a fit unit chief for a team who hunts serial killers for a living. His calm demeanor, to the point of presumed indifference, made him able to tackle the cases with a clear concession on how they should be approached. Nonetheless, that does not mean that the BAU can no longer operate without him. The change might even be a good thing to keep things fresh. What is unknown, however, is how “Criminal Minds” will effectively explain Hotch’s absence moving forward especially when no farewell episode will be rolled out for Gibson.
“Criminal Minds” returns on Sept. 28, 9 p.m. ET on CBS.