MAJOR SPOILERS below for the season premiere of Criminal Minds. You have been warned.
In the long gap of time between Criminal Minds' Season 14 finale and its final season's premiere, fans have spent a lot of time wondering how the CBS drama would resolve the underlying semi-romantic feelings happening between Matthew Gray Gubler's Reid and A.J. Cook's JJ. But I can't imagine many people predicted that it would all get deflated so quickly before his new love interest's arrival.
During the two-hour long season premiere, the season's main villain, Edward "The Chameleon" Lynch, broke his daughter Grace out of prison, but not before she'd put a (thankfully non-fatal) bullet in JJ. Her subsequent hospital stay led to some interactions with Reid that made it firmly clear that she has compartmentalized her more-than-friendly feelings for him, and is now dedicated once more to her husband Will. Though Reid may be a bit of an emotional wreck at the moment, some relief is on the way in the form of a new romantic suitor.
Rachel Leigh Cook joined Criminal Minds in 2019 to factor into a potential romance with Reid, and now showrunner Erica Messer has revealed exactly how the two characters will come together. Warning: Messer's quotes may be triggering for anyone holding out last-minute hopes for JJ and Reid to run away together in the finale.
But we'll see that play out for Reid a little bit more when, in 'Saturday,' he is in therapy. . . . The assignment from the therapist is to go have a normal day, and he doesn't really know what that looks like because he's just been fighting bad guys for so long. In that normal day, he meets someone who makes him smile and makes him happy and JJ sees that in him and tells him to go chase it. By the time we get to that episode, it really feels like he's going to move on, she's moved on. Everything's okay, and they are back to normal by the time the series ends.
After more than a decade of casual flirting and sub-layers of romantic chemistry between AJ Cook and Matthew Gray Gubler's BAU agents, Criminal Minds apparently only inched that door open just so it could slam it back shut again before wrapping things up completely. Which, to be fair, is probably better than just ending the series without ever fully addressing the concept of "What might have been," but it's still a gut-punch to see everything dissolve so quickly after the events of the Season 14 finale.
Within the show's timeline, six months have passed since JJ's confession at Rossi's wedding, with Reid apparently having trouble processing those conversations. So it does make sense why JJ didn't keep those Reid-centered emotions at the forefront of her consciousness during that entire span. Plus, her confession was made partially under duress, so it hasn't ever been 100% clear how fully invested JJ was in following through with anything.
Besides, Erica Messer told TV Insider that the creative team didn't want the final season of Criminal Minds to fixate on complications within JJ and Reid's friendship, and that it was best to play things out in natural ways. In her words:
We really didn't want to leave our series with them being awkward together. That just felt false for all of us, and so while things weren't great offscreen for them for the past six months, we don't want to play 'what if?' At the end of that second episode, when JJ's able to say, 'I'm sorry I did that to you and to us and I love my life and I love my husband, I love my kids,' Reid, although heartbroken, always knew that about her. He didn't really want to give it much thought that there's a parallel universe where they're together.
For anyone who's fully on the side of Josh Stewart's Will, JJ's actions were likely quite justified and championable. And by all means, everyone should be rooting for that somewhat healthy marriage to continue, if only for JJ's happiness to shine through in the final episodes. Though it's possible I'm saying that only because Reid's next tryst has already been confirmed.
For what it's worth, Erica Messer revealed that not even the Criminal Minds cast and crew are in full agreement about JJ's confession to Reid. Half of them believe that JJ was only telling Reid things because she was trying to get out of a crazy situation, while the other half believe that her words were honest. And, in the end, it doesn't really matter, since their fates aren't meant to be co-aligned in such ways. But there's always fan-fiction!
In heading to a conclusion that likely won't upend the crime drama's status quo, Criminal Minds airs Wednesday nights on CBS at 9:00 p.m. ET.