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Criminal Minds has gone through some big changes in Season 12. The departure of Thomas Gibson as Hotch meant that the show had to shuffle the cast around and bring in some different characters to keep the plots moving forward. According to showrunner Erica Messer, we're in for some big changes in terms of the structure of the show as well. Messer said this about how the storytelling will shift in the rest of Season 12:
It feels like we've earned the right to tell some serialized stories, so we're running with that, telling a really big arc that will last all of the back 9 [episodes] of Season 12.
Serialized storytelling isn't entirely new to Criminal Minds. The show has explored serials multiple times over its twelve season so far, and often with great success. The murderer known as Mr. Scratch has been at large and vexing the BAU off and on for years now, and he's just one example. That said, Criminal Minds' serialized storytelling in years past didn't necessarily run for more than a handful of episodes at a time. Going by Erica Messer's tease about what's to come, it sounds like the second half of Season 12 will be one big story with no breaks for filler in between, which is a big difference.
All things considered, Criminal Minds has been difficult to predict this season thanks to all the shifts in the wake of Hotch's departure. The back 9 episodes of Season 12 may make for a pretty intense few months. Erica Messer went on in her chat with TVLine to say this about why serialized storytelling on a more regular basis is a good fit for Criminal Minds moving forward:
This big arc that we're doing has reenergized everybody, like, 'We can do [a serialized saga].' If we hadn't been on as long as we have, with such an amazing fan base who can't get enough of our character work, this wouldn't be possible. But we have people who want to be with our characters as much as possible, and they're going to have the opportunity to be with them on a journey they've never been on before.
We've already had a few other teases about what's in store for the second half of the season. Adam Rodriguez has promised a "super dark" case for the BAU this spring, and A.J. Cook has revealed that the show is going to feature "shock" and "mayhem" sooner rather than later. Throw in Harold Perrineau's upcoming debut as former FBI agent Calvin Shaw, and there should be plenty of action in the rest of Season 12.
Criminal Minds airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. Take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what else you can watch on the small screen in the coming weeks.