Tonight, Criminal Minds wraps season 8 with two back-to-back episodes. In the first hour — the season’s 23rd episode, “Brothers Hotchner” — Hotch gets pulled into a case while trying to help his brother. And in the second hour — the 24th and final episode of season 8, “The Replicator” — the team finally comes face-to-face with the man who has been hunting them for months. Read on to find out what the minds behind Criminal Minds have in-store for us this week.

Hotch and Sean

In the first of tonight’s episodes, Hotch is in New York visiting Beth when he gets a call from his brother, Sean. The two are not close so Hotch knows something must be wrong. Sean tells Hotch that two girls — one of whom was his girlfriend — have died from apparent overdoses at the club where he is a bartender, but Sean saw one of them die and it looked like much more than an overdose. The team launches an investigation and they learn that five people have died from MDMA overdoses in which their body temperatures rose so high, they boiled from the inside out.

The agents — plus Strauss — fly out to New York and soon learn that someone has been purposely tampering with the drugs to make them lethal. They trace some of the drugs to wine bottles from the club where Sean works and Sean goes undercover to help with the investigation. In the end, everyone involved in the drug deaths is arrested or killed but Hotch learns that Sean was also unintentionally involved and he is taken into custody. Luckily for Sean, Hotch gets him a good lawyer and we know that he will help Sean as much as he can.

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A lot of Hotch

“Brothers Hotchner” gives viewers an in-depth look at Hotch’s personal life. We see Hotch struggle with his brother’s involvement in the case and we note his concern that Sean keeps falling on hard times. We also see that Hotch’s relationship with Beth is still going strong, even with the two living in different cities. The depth of their connection is revealed when we learn that Hotch is comfortable enough to leave his son in Beth’s care when a major threat arises. After a season that felt rather light on Hotch-centric episodes, “Brothers Hotchner” is a welcome entry.

The Replicator Strikes Again

At the end of the first hour, we finally get a look at the Replicator and it is guest star Mark Hamill. The Replicator has stalked the team to New York and takes Strauss hostage. After taunting her in a way that seems too personal to ignore, the Replicator gives her an overdose and leaves her to die. By the time the agents find Strauss, they are too late and she dies in Hotch’s arms.

Strauss’ death hits everyone hard but none more-so than Rossi, as the two had been seeing one another for the past year. Rossi takes Strauss’ body back home and talks with her children, the only thing he can still do for her.

After the Replicator hacks into Garcia’s system and reveals information that only an insider could know, the agents realize that the Replicator is FBI. The agents also realize that Strauss knew the Replicator worked at the Bureau and she launched her own investigation. Thanks to a trap Strauss put in place prior to her death, the agents discover that the Unsub is authorized to read their case reports, information that narrows-down the search to a handful of suspects.

The Blake Connection

While Rossi is handling Strauss’ affairs, the Replicator walks right into his office at the BAU and leaves a report on Rossi’s death. The report has been laced with a drug and after a tense moment with Morgan, Rossi is given medical treatment. Since the dose was not strong, Rossi will be fine and the attack is merely another in a long string of taunts by the Replicator.

As the team digs deeper into the investigation, they realize that the Replicator did not spring into action until Blake joined the team. Eventually, they find the connection between Blake, Strauss and the Replicator. The Replicator is a man named John Curtis who worked on the Amerithrax case with Blake and Strauss years earlier. His career was destroyed after that case and he has been biding his time until he could strike back.

When the team leaves to track down Curtis, they take two helicopters and Curtis sabotages one of the choppers, forcing them to make a crash landing. Curtis uses the crash as a distraction and kidnaps Blake.

The Final Confrontation

Curtis uses Blake to lure the team into his home, which he has lined with C-4. The agents escape but not before Rossi traps Curtis inside, killing him in the blast he planned for them. After all the chaos and death, the agents attend Strauss’ funeral and Rossi holds a small memorial for her at his home. They pay tribute to Strauss, talk about the hard year they have survived and solidify their bond as a family in the episode’s closing moments. This final scene is the first time Blake has truly felt like part of the family, which I suppose is better late than never.

Final Thoughts

All signs pointed to Strauss as the big death in the finale and those signs proved true. While Strauss’ death opens up the possibility of the team getting a new boss next season, I think killing her was a mistake. She was not popular with many fans, but Strauss provided some much-needed tension whenever she appeared and her history with Blake and Rossi was still mostly unexplored.

As to the Replicator storyline, I enjoyed the resolution but I do not think this arc was on the same level as similar multiple-episode arcs from previous seasons. Ian Doyle and George Foyet were better foes than the Replicator and those investigations revealed much more about Prentiss and Hotch than the Replicator case revealed about Blake.

Criminal Minds Season 8 had its ups and downs but it ended stronger than it began and with the Replicator case now behind them, I hope season 9 will be a fresh start for the team and the show.  

What do you think? Did you enjoy the Replicator storyline? Were you shocked or saddened by Strauss’ death? Are you looking forward to the upcoming 9th season? Hit the comments section and let us know your thoughts.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Megan Cole

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV