Criminal Minds returns Wednesday, Oct. 3 to not only answer the huge cliffhanger from last April's season finale, but also to celebrate reaching 300 episodes. The Season 14 premiere will double as the milestone episode, and the cast and producers have cooked up something special for the fans.
At the end of last season, both Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) were taken hostage by a serial killer cult. The episode cut off as Reid had to decide between killing the FBI traitor member of the cult or giving himself up in order to save Garcia. We can probably safely guess that Reid would never risk Garcia being harmed, but what will the rest of the BAU do without their tech genius and team savant if they're both taken?
TV Guide talked to Criminal Minds showrunner Erica Messer about the episode, how the team will cope and what she wanted to bring to the premiere to showcase the amount of work the show has done over 13 seasons and 300 episodes.
Knowing that it was the 300th episode, what did you want to do to really celebrate this milestone?
Erica Messer: I wanted to be able to honor the length of the series by showing how we started. There's clips in the very, very beginning that are from the pilot. That was important to me, to remind everyone of how long we've been doing this, fighting crime, if you will. Then within the body of the story I really wanted a past case to affect our current case because, once again, not many shows get to go back a decade in their storytelling and say, "Yeah, remember this case? What if these two things are connected? Something from 10 years ago is connected to today." Both of those things were important to me because it honors just how long we've all been a part of this, whether we've been producing it, writing it, acting in it or fans have been cheering us on — everyone plays a part in it.
Did this episode feel any different from other episodes that you've filmed simply because of the number that you guys were doing?
Messer: I think some of it felt a little bigger. At its core, it was still an eight-day shoot and a 54-page script and all of the things that are a normal episode. I think it was just the — even the energy on set it was like, "My gosh, 300 episodes!" There's a couple of dozen people who have been here for all of them. There was a lot of reminiscing in those eight days while we were shooting, just about how long we've all been together. Did we ever see this coming? I think the answer is no, because I don't know if anyone does. I think the only time you talk about an Episode 300 is when you're joking, when you're on Episode 50 and you're like, "Well that crazy thing can happen in Episode 300!" You don't think you're actually going to get to that number.
How soon are we picking up in the premiere after the finale cliffhanger?
Messer: It's just within a few minutes. We're not doing a direct pick up because we thought there was more fun in the mystery of exactly what happened after that standoff that we left the season on.
What is the biggest challenge to the team since Reid and Garcia were both kidnapped at the same time?
Messer: I think because they both have a unique skill set, it was hard to be down both of those skill sets while looking for them. We would count on Garcia's computer hacking and everything else to try to help and we would count on Reid looking at things differently. Also, the belief was that Reid recognized Meadows and knew [he was] going to go along with this. It's only a matter of time before the team catches onto what this is as well. ... If we had had Reid sooner we would've been getting the information sooner because he had been with Meadows a little bit longer and had recognized her. It didn't take us long to catch up to that moment, but you know, when you're looking for people, your teammates who have been abducted, every minute counts.
You described Season 13 as your lucky season. How would you describe Season 14?
Messer: It's kind of a season of reflection in a lot of ways because we're not just in 300 where we're looking back at where we started, but all the characters are definitely going to have episodes this year where they're challenged in a way, either at home or at work, that is going to change their characters a bit and add more layers to them. I think at the end of the season we can probably look back and say it was a character study of our team.
Criminal Minds Season 14 premieres Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 10/9c on CBS.
(Full Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)