Spoilers below for the season finale of CBS' Criminal Minds, so be sure to watch before reading on.
If any fans thought that Criminal Minds' Season 13 finale might easy up on the character danger after ending Season 12 on that deadly car accident, the episode "Believer" reshaped that assumption right quick. By the episode's end, Reid was facing an impossible dilemma: catch the bad guy or save Garcia from her deadly captors. Star Kirsten Vangsness spoke with CinemaBlend about that episode and more, and when I asked for her thoughts specifically about those final Season 13 moments, and here's what she told me.
It's fun. I've never been -- both in real life and imaginarily -- trapped in a car with a gun to my head. If I had to pick, I would say I want to have it only happen imaginarily. So now that I've done that and checked it off my bucket list, it doesn't have to happen in real life. And it's fun, because who knows what's going to happen? I don't know. But it's exciting. I always need to do a weird, new thing, especially with the people I work with.
13 seasons and 299 episodes might imply Criminal Minds has done it all, so to speak, but never have things ended with Garcia's life hanging in the balance like this. Plus, she and Reid were two of the only safe characters in the aftermath of the Season 12 finale. But now it's happened, thanks to the devious machinations of the Messiah, Michael Hogan's leader of the a mysterious serial killer cult; the cult that had also indoctrinated VICAP Agent Mary Meadow, and NOT James Urbaniak's resurfaced FBI Agent Owen Quinn, as it was suspected. It was quite a packed episode.
All had seemingly ended well until the last-minute twist gave Reid the choice of saving Garcia's life by allowing the Messiah to go free, or to deny Meadow and risk Garcia getting killed. And Kirsten Vangsness thinks a cliffhanger like this is "a nice way to slingshot back into the show" when it returns for Season 14. Which still isn't officially happening yet, but optimism is high.
To credit showrunner Erica Messer, Garcia wasn't put through the wringer during her capture, since that might have caused some riots. But the experience still wasn't a complete treat for Kirsten Vangsness to go through. When I asked if those heightened final moments were stressful to put together, she said this:
It was very hot, and I get car sick easily, so that part was not enjoyable. But stressful, yeah, because at some point after you do like six takes of screaming, your nervous system takes over and it thinks you're actually in danger. But I have health insurance, and everyone's nice, and they give us free tea while we're there, so it's all good.
Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna was also on the call with Kirsten Vangsness, and he said he also likes the cliffhanger element, because he likes getting emails from flabbergasted fans, since that shows how affection people are for these characters. And he's also fine with his character David Rossi not being directly involved with the finale's cliffhanger, bemusedly saying this:
I look forward to showing up later and tuning up whoever is being cruel to Kirsten. I'll take care of that. I'll fix that up.