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When Criminal Minds kicks off its 15th and final season, it will have been over eleven months since the events of the Season 14 finale, which set up complications for Reid and J.J. and also brought up possible retirement plans for Rossi. Showrunner Erica Messer assures that answers are coming in the final ten episodes, but she also sounds like she's setting fans up to not expect any universe-altering changes by the time the finale is complete. Does that mean no big characters deaths or anything of that nature?
Fans should judge for themselves, really, in deciding what showrunner Erica Messer is hinting at with her latest Criminal Minds teases. Saying the goal was not to give the CBS crime drama a definitive ending, Messer said this:
There are still bad guys to catch, and I want to believe somewhere in this country these good guys we've been cheering on for 15 seasons are going to be out there fighting crime. I didn't want to close the door on that.
While Erica Messer's explanation to TV Insider does obviously leave room for a potential show-rocking death to occur, it sounds a lot more like she and the rest of the show's creative teamed aimed to stick as close as possible to Criminal Minds' status quo. It's not so much because there aren't any exciting or original ideas to move forward on with characters like Paget Brewster's Emily Prentiss or Aisha Tyler's Tara Lewis, but rather because Messer wants to respect the fanbase that has been with the show and its characters for 15 years.
Which isn't to say that there aren't respectful ways in which Criminal Minds could kill off Joe Mantegna's Rossi and/or Matthew Gray Gubler's Reid, but this isn't Breaking Bad or another closed-ended crime drama concluding one overall narrative cycle. As a CBS series that has already spawned two spinoffs – as short-lived as they may have been – Criminal Minds is a series meant to keep its world revolving well beyond the finale's last scene, which would be harder to do by killing off the important leads.
Granted, Criminal Minds is apparently going all out with its final-season villain, Michael Mosley's identity-shifting monster dubbed The Chameleon, who was first introduced in Season 14. The deadly big bad will apparently give Rossi the biggest challenge of his career, which certainly doesn't come equipped with the best implications. But it's not like Erica Messer is going to let Chameleon win, right?
All that said, it's slightly more possible that Criminal Minds would give one or more characters a positive-minded sendoff, such as Rossi retiring with honors, or if J.J. decided to move away from Reid and the rest of the BAU to work on her relationship with her husband, while presumably still catching criminals. (Assuming she makes it out of that premiere episode okay.) However it goes, Erica Messer is optimistic that the final act will be appreciated. In her words:
By the end of our series. I think the fans will be happy with those choices that were made.
With new cast member Rachel Leigh Cook joining the fray as a potential love interest for Reid in the midst of his J.J. drama, Criminal Minds is set to debut its final season on Wednesday, January 8, at 9:00 p.m. CT. Be sure to watch, and to keep track of all the other big premieres on the way by bookmarking our Winter and Spring TV schedule.