Why Criminal Minds Season 13 Ended On That Crazy Cliffhanger

criminal minds season 13 finale cbs
(Image credit: Image courtesy of CBS)

Warning: major spoilers ahead for the Season 13 finale of Criminal Minds.

Season finales on TV are notorious for ending on distinctly unsatisfying notes designed to keep fans on the edges of their seats during hiatuses, and Criminal Minds is no stranger to a bold cliffhanger. The Season 12 finale ended with most of the characters' lives in jeopardy! Longtime viewers probably went into the Season 13 finale with the expectation of a cliffhanger, but the fact that the show has not yet been renewed for Season 14 does raise the question of why that cliffhanger that leaves Garcia and Reid's lives in danger had to happen. Here's how it all went down.

In the finale, the BAU team spent most of the episode trying to figure out how missing FBI Agent (and wannabe profiler) Owen Quinn fit into a serial killer cult. Whether he was an innocent victim of cult brainwashing or an agent for the cult leader known as the Messiah was the question almost to the very end. In a shocking twist, the bad guy turned out not to be a guy at all. No, the mole within the Bureau was an FBI agent who concealed her connection to the cult and who nobody suspected in the least until the final few moments. She managed to shoot Quinn and take Garcia hostage before Reid caught up to her. When faced with the opportunity to shoot her, however, a car drove up, revealing cult members holding Garcia at gunpoint. Despite her pleas to Reid to just go ahead and shoot the FBI traitor regardless of what would happen to her, Reid couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger... yet.

Then the episode ended, and fans everywhere are stuck wondering what will happen next and how Garcia and Reid can possibly get out of this one. Criminal Minds showrunner Erica Messer explained why the show went with that crazy cliffhanger despite the lack of any guarantee of Season 14, saying this:

It's crazy-town. We knew we wanted to take it to an unexpected place. The idea of a cult is something that's been done before, but the idea of a specific cult of people who are not only willing to kill but might actually have joy in doing it felt very unique to Criminal Minds, especially in terms of a 300th episode, which we are heading into. We got excited and decided that would be a tease at the end of episode 299, so in 300 we could really run with the why now of it all.

It was no accident that Criminal Minds went as extreme for a cliffhanger as endangering two of their own after spending the episode unraveling the mystery of a serial killer cult, and it wasn't an instance of a showrunner wanting to go out with a bang because of a likely cancellation. Erica Messer's comments indicate that the gigantic season finale cliffhanger was in service of a gigantic season premiere resolution in a milestone episode. Given that the Season 13 finale just so happened to be Episode 299, the prospect of raising the stakes as high as ever must have been incredibly appealing. Surely a show can't go into Episode 300 without going big with Episode 299!

That said, there is no guarantee of Episode 300 at this point. CBS just renewed a whole bunch of its biggest shows, including long-running series like Blue Bloods and NCIS: Los Angeles, not to mention the NCIS mothership, which scored a renewal for Season 16. Criminal Minds fans must be more anxious about the show's future than ever thanks to the finale cliffhanger. Erica Messer went on in her chat with EW to say this about why it's not a disaster that Criminal Minds hasn't been renewed at this point:

It's been years and years of that, actually. The last time we got the early order was going into season 8. It's been for different reasons over the years. Sometimes there are a lot of actors who are up for renegotiation. Sometimes there are issues between ABC and CBS studios as partners in the production of the show. This time we have our actors ready to go and our producers and writers are all lined up. I'm sure CBS has many reasons why they are holding back on a pickup. It's business.

Criminal Minds fans may remember the suspense surrounding the show at the end of Season 12. Although the show did score the renewal, there were big questions that had nothing to do with Mr. Scratch. The contracts of two fan-favorite actresses were up as of the end of the twelfth season, and it looked for a while like their characters might end up dead or written out. There was also the lingering question of whether or not Hotch could return.

According to Erica Messer, there are no issues with contracts or negotiations with the cast and producers, so everybody behind the scenes is good to go. Whatever is holding up the order for Season 14, it's not the production team or cast. Messer doesn't come across as too panicked about the show's future still being up in the air, although she'll probably sleep easier once CBS hands down an official decision.

Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest news on Criminal Minds' renewal or cancellation. There are still more season finales to air in the coming weeks, and you can discover when to watch them on our rundown of the big 2017-2018 TV finales. For more of what you can watch now and in the coming months, swing by our midseason TV premiere guide and our summer TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).