Criminal Minds: Evolution: What To Know Before Watching The Paramount+ Revival

Penelope Garcia with flower in hair in Criminal Minds: Evolution
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Few fans would deny that Criminal Minds received the short end of the stick whenever the long-running drama was canceled by CBS ahead of its 15th season, though the situation certainly got brighter once Paramount+ officially stepped in and ordered up a revival season complete with a colon and subtitle. The ten-episode continuation Criminal Minds: Evolution marks the franchise’s debut as a streaming exclusive — though the flagship drama served as a wildly popular licensed entry for Netflix for many years — and that means changes.  

Whether you’re completely new to this crime drama universe, or you can spout off the 50 most deadly unsubs in alphabetical order, here’s what everyone should know before tuning in!

Where To Watch Criminal Minds: Evolution

No longer tethered by broadcast standards, Criminal Minds: Evolution is dropping its two-episode premiere (opens in new tab) on Thanksgiving Day (November 24) for those with a Paramount+ subscription. So don't forget to keep it going after those first credits roll.

Criminal Minds: Evolution Follows The OG Show’s Timeline, And Is Set In 2022 (With Flashbacks)

As Evolution suggests, the new series will pick back up in 2022, and isn’t a prequel or set in an alternate universe or anything of that variety. Everything from the CBS run is canon here, and the episodes will fill in the blanks for what went down for everyone between then and now. That said, flashbacks will be utilized as well. 

Evolution’s Ten Episodes Will Be More Serialized Than Past Seasons 

The first two-thirds or so of Criminal Minds’ broadcast run held strong to a procedural “UnSub of the week” format, with occasional exceptions, before later experimenting more and more with overarching character arcs, antagonists, and themes. The revival season will lean almost exclusively into a single, serialized storyline, with showrunner Erica Messer explaining that decision as being promoted by execs at the streaming service, as she spoke at the show’s TCA panel in September. In her words:

Paramount+ has been a wonderful partner and has encouraged us to lean into their premium streaming storytelling, so we focused on serialized cases and character arcs to build this new season.

Thankfully, there’s also a good narrative reason for Criminal Minds: Evolution to opt for a season-long case, which comes down to the newest big bad, with “newest” being a subjective term. 

The Haunting Of Bly Manor’s Zach Gilford Plays One Of The Series’ Deadliest UnSubs

As it's been teased for a while now, the "evolution" in the show's title is also in reference to the season's long-undiscovered UnSub, as portrayed by Bly Manor and The Midnight Club star Zach Gilford. The actor has come a long way since Friday Night Lights, and will be at the head of a network of serial killers, allowing the creative team to still play into procedural ideas within a grander and darker-than-ever tale

Criminal Minds: Evolution Is Rated TV-14, With Slightly More NSFW Language 

Anyone thinking that Zach Gilford’s UnSub would lead to some particularly gruesome deaths and gore, you are correct, which is part of what justifies the TV-14 rating that Criminal Minds earned at CBS. What’s slightly different, however, is the minor uptick in swear words that weren’t available for muttering on network TV, at least where Joe Mantegna’s Rossi is concerned.

Reid And Simmons Are Gone But Not Forgotten

Fans shouldn't expect to see Matthew Gray Gubler's Spender Reid or Daniel Henney's Matthew Simmons, at least barring any late-season twists. It was confirmed over the summer that the two actors would not be returning for Criminal Minds: Evolution, but showrunner Erica Messer told TV Line that "they're certainly not forgotten."

The BAU Itself Is Going Through Some Changes

Beyond the slight casting shake-ups, the revival season is giving the BAU itself a jolt of sorts behind the scenes, proverbially speaking. Without going into spoilers, let's just say the agents will deal with more workplace troubles than just killers running amok.

Criminal Minds: Evolution will premiere with its first two episodes on Paramount+ on Thursday, November 24, as alternative programming for NFL games and whatever conversations your family is having around the dinner table. Head to our 2023 TV premiere schedule to see what the small screen has to offer once the holiday season has concluded.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.