Why Matthew Gray Gubler’s Dr Spencer Reid Isn’t Back For Criminal Minds: Evolution

After a two and a half year absence, Criminal Minds finally made its return yesterday for a reformatted sixteenth season on Paramount Plus titled Evolution. The popular show about hunting serial killers has been attracting good reviews, lots of press and positive buzz from fans who are excited to see a ton of the most popular cast members return including Paget Brewster, Joe Mantegna, AJ Cook, Kirsten Vangsness, Aisha Tyler and Adam Rodriguez. Most prominently absent, however, is Matthew Gray Gubler, who played Dr. Spencer Reid for 323 episodes. 

The actor himself hasn’t spoken out about why he decided not to return, but the show addressed where he’s at in the first two episodes that dropped, and his co-star Paget Brewster previously offered some insight into what’s going on. Before I continue, however, I should make clear that this article contains very light spoilers. As spoilers go, these aren’t exactly it was all a dream level, but if you want to go into the first episode of Criminal Minds: Evolution fresh, you may want to bail. 

How Criminal Minds Addressed Dr. Spencer Reid Being Gone

In the new season of Criminal Minds, there are issues between BAU Chief Emily Prentis, who is running the team, and Deputy Director Bailey. The show mentions Dr. Spencer Reid, as well as Matt Simmons (played by Daniel Henney, who didn’t return to shoot Wheel Of Time), are off on other assignments. Prior to the show’s premiere, showrunner Erica Messer told TV Line the two would still have desks with all their stuff on it in the office and said they’re “not forgotten.”

In fact, there are already some conspiracy theories floating around online that perhaps Bailey keeping the two away from the larger team will wind up being a key plot point in the show’s narrative arc. Some more optimistic fans even think there’s a chance we could see one or both in a dramatic moment later in the season, but at this point, there’s no evidence that’s going to happen, especially given comments from Paget Brewster that make a lot of sense.

What Paget Brewster Said About Matthew Gray Gubler’s Absence

The cast has mostly been tight-lipped about Matthew Gray Gubler not returning, but Paget Brewster did give an extensive quote during an interview with Looper back in July. The popular actress said Criminal Minds was Gubler’s first real job after graduating from film school. He apparently wanted to be a director but took an audition and landed the role, which he then played for 15 consecutive years without breaks. 

Most of the cast members took time off or left for periods of time including her, but he stayed, at the sacrifice of a lot of other things he wanted to do. As such, he apparently wanted to keep pursuing other opportunities, while others had time to do their own thing and were more excited about returning. Here’s a portion of her quote…

Matthew was the only person in the last two seasons that had been in every single episode. He did 15 years straight through. From 25 to 40, the guy was on one show, and that's when we shot 22, 24 episodes a year. He was never able to go do other stuff, so I understand. He wants to direct. He graduated from NYU to direct, and his first audition was Criminal Minds. Imagine you never expected to be an actor and then suddenly it's 15 years of your life. I understand why. I'm hoping he changes his mind, but I understand why he wants to do other things. I was gone from Criminal Minds for four years. I got to do a ton of other things that enriched my life and my resume, and my education, so I understand how he feels.

It’s uncertain what the future of Criminal Minds might be. Repeats of the show have proven to be incredibly popular on streaming, and there is certainly hope the show will continue beyond its current sixteenth season. That’ll ultimately be up to Paramount Plus, however, which I’m sure has an idea of how many viewers or subscribers or some other metric it wants in order to justify the cost. If the show does wind up returning, there is certainly hope both Gubler and Henney will make returns at some point. We’ll just have to see.

Criminal Minds: Evolution dropped its first two episodes yesterday and is available to watch with a Paramount Plus subscription. From this point forward, it will drop one episode a week until the season concludes in early February.

Editor In Chief

Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.