Criminal Minds promised a Season 13 finale cliffhanger, and boy did it deliver.
The season closer ended with Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) figuring out who the mole inside the FBI from a serial killer cult was and holding her at gun point. Unfortunately, he couldn't take her out because at the last second she revealed that the group had Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) held hostage. She offered Reid an ultimatum to come with her and join the cult, or Garcia would be next on their victim list.
The team's most valuable players are now both in grave danger and the rest of the BAU is still minutes away from Quantico so help won't be arriving any time soon. TV Guide talked to executive producer Erica Messer about the decision to end the season in such a jaw-dropping way, especially as Criminal Minds still waits for an official renewal from CBS.
How worried should we be, Erica? Two of our agents are in very serious danger at the end of these two episodes.
Erica Messer: I know, I know. It's crazy. We are certainly in love with both Garcia and Dr. Reid. They feel like two incredibly important pieces to our team, who won't be available if they're held captive. They won't be available to help us solve the case, which is crazy. The challenges we're coming up with now are, "Gosh, if we have two of our MVPs sitting on the sidelines here, what can we do? What clues do they possibly leave behind for us to help find where they're being held or how we help to solve this case without them?" It's one of the first times, I think, we've ever been without, truly, truly without the help of both of them.
We do these things just to challenge ourselves, to surprise the audience, to challenge the actors who are, I think, really excited that that's how the season ended, and to keep us all waiting all summer to figure out what happens. It's hopefully filling the definition of what a cliffhanger should be.
Reid came off of his required sabbatical to solve this crime. What sort of long-term effects will he feel after being pulled into something this stressful? How will his own teammate being in danger affect him when he was supposed to be resting for these exact reasons?
Messer: Exactly, I know. Well, that's one of the amazing things with Reid is he had this season last year where he had to come up with new survival skills because he was in an environment he never should have been in and that has changed him over the season and moving forward. I feel like we have a much more sure Dr. Reid at the beginning of that episode, having been lured to that storage unit. And then, by the end, having a very tricky predicament there at the end of the episode.
I feel like there will be some effect to that stress, but he also is such a strong character, who tends to compartmentalize and to allow him to keep helping the team and figure things out. Ideally, he does not collapse or anything like that, that he can still be our Dr. Reid that we lean on.
Garcia is yelling for him to just shoot at the end of the episode. Is that something he's actually considering, or would he never do that, considering where Garcia is at that particular moment?
Messer: I think it's something he would really consider because we've seen him do what he has to do to survive when he was on his own in prison. I feel like that is a very real threat. Is he going to kill this woman? If he does that, does that put a bullet in Garcia's head, which would be ... Obviously, he's weighing all of that out in that moment because he would never do anything to jeopardize Garcia. He will only make the move that he knows would be the safest thing for her.
This is the second season you wrote that you guys have decided to end the season with a huge cliffhanger like this. What is the exciting part of leaving fans wanting more, rather than perhaps tying things up in a neat bow just in case you guys don't come back next season?Messer: I feel very hopeful, and that's all I can say is hopeful, that we would have the opportunity to tie this up, if not given a full season, which is what we're all hoping for because of the fact that it is our 300th episode. But I would say there were a few years where I really was opposed to this kind of cliffhanger, where I enjoyed wrapping up a season and letting the team just be happy and smiling. I certainly did at the end of Season 7, when J.J. and Will got married, and Prentiss announced to the team, sort of individually, that she wasn't gonna come back, and everybody had a final dance with her. It was just really lovely. I was happy to end the season that way because the team had been through so much that year, that it just felt like they deserved to have a night off.
This year just felt like we hit the ground running, post-car accident, catching Mr. Scratch, Prentiss being held captive. We just didn't come up for air. We're doing it all the way up until the very end. I felt like that almost made sense given this season, that oh my gosh, we've been up against it this year, and there's no signs of it stopping. There was something that felt sort of organic about that storytelling.
Is there a contingency plan, if you don't get picked up for a full season, how you would wrap this up? Maybe like a special Criminal Minds movie event or anything.
Messer: There's been no discussion about that. Again, I'm just incredibly hopeful that we get a chance to have a season to explore all of it.
The introduction of the cult is actually a very interesting premise. Do you want to wrap it all up in one episode? Or could we see this cult be a continued threat for the BAU?
Messer: There's two trains of thought on that right now, as far as the writers go. But there is something sort of natural in that could be an opportunity that you shut down one part of the cult, but there's another part that's still going. There's another part, and holy cow, this is bigger than we thought it was. We're gonna be in the room deciding that really soon hopefully. I think there's something pretty cool about the idea of this launches into a season 14. It gives us a drive for the first part of the season, at the very least.
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