Season 12 was one of change for the BAU on Criminal Minds. Sure, the team has had members leave before, but not to this extent. Morgan left last season, Hotch left at the beginning of this season and not only did we get two new agents, but a new Unit Chief (though fortunately someone very familiar) as well.
Prentiss returned to the team and took over leading it. Luke Alvez was brought in from the Fugitive Task Force as the hunt for the escaped convicts continued. When Emily found room in the budget, she brought in someone she knew from the Behavioral Analysis Program, Stephen Walker. Sure, it all worked when it came to getting the job done, but the team dynamic wasn’t the same. And while change can be a good thing, there can be too much of it. That was the case here.
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A Change in Leadership
With Hotch gone, the team needed a new Unit Chief, and fortunately, it wasn’t someone new. It’s hard enough to adjust to new team members (which had to be done twice this season), and the biggest mistake they could have made would have been to put one of them in charge. Instead, they brought back someone the others (and fans) know and love in Emily Prentiss, making the transition much easier.
Emily couldn’t and wouldn’t be another Hotch in this position, but she got the job done, brought in another agent and, perhaps most importantly for this team, did what she had to in order to help Reid. Sure, she let her emotions influence some of her actions, such as meeting with the judge in “Green Light” when they were still waiting for concrete evidence and putting out an Amber Alert for Lindsey Vaughan in “Red Light,” but she also made sure to be the one to take responsibility for those actions.
Just because she became their boss didn’t mean that her prior relationships with the others had to change, which we saw in how she talked to Reid from his arrest to when he was in prison and with Garcia when she handed in a resignation letter in the case of something happening to Spencer.
Here’s a Tip: Don’t Take Away an Original Team Member
One aspect of the changing team dynamic that didn’t work that well was Reid’s separation from the others when he ended up in prison. It may have been a good arc for him and may be good for his character, but the best thing they could have done during this season of change was keep the original team members together.
Sure, we got to see a few prison visits and see the team working tirelessly to prove his innocence and get him out (and it’s not like his brain wasn’t working while he was inside), but his absence was felt during cases. How many times did it feel like Reid should have been there with them, coming up with something to help solve the case or rattle off some statistic that only he would know?
Introduce the New, but Remember the Old
Season 12 introduced new team members Luke Alvez and Stephen Walker, with the latter fitting in more seamlessly from his first scene, likely because of his prior work and relationships with Prentiss and Rossi. We got to know each of them through cases (“The Crimson King” and “Unforgettable”) and glimpses into their home lives (Luke’s dog and Stephen’s family.) We heard a bit about their pasts (such as in the aforementioned “The Crimson King” for Luke and “Profiling 202” and “Unforgettable” for Stephen.) And other than that, it was just business as usual.
But are Luke and Stephen going to stick with the BAU? Both have been tied to the capture of Mr. Scratch. Peter Lewis made it personal for Luke in his first episode. Stephen said they brought him in to catch him. Luke bounced around before joining the BAU, but could his time with the team lead to him deciding to settle in and not move on to another division after Scratch has been caught? Stephen told his wife he wasn’t thinking about returning to the Bap when Scratch was frustrating him, but he also brought up wanting to catch him in the same thought. Still, his wife likes having him home, which being part of the BAU allows him to be, so that could be a selling point for him sticking around.
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Sadly, while we did get scenes that made it clear Criminal Minds hasn’t forgotten about the relationships developed over the past seasons, the focus wasn’t on them nearly as much as it should have been following the losses of Morgan and Hotch.
Instead, there was too much time spent on Garcia’s inability to warm up to Luke, to the point that Morgan remarked on it in the finale. It made sense that she’d have trouble adjusting in the beginning of the season, but the more that dragged on, the more frustrating it became.
Will the BAU Look the Same in Season 13 — And Should It?
True, we don’t know if everyone will survive that cliffhanger. Garcia and Reid are safe, but the rest of the team just drove into what they can only assume was Mr. Scratch’s trap on their way to what they figured would be one of his traps. Rossi’s car (with Prentiss and Tara as his passengers) took the worst of the hits from the 18-wheeler, but that doesn’t mean that JJ, Luke and Stephen are necessarily safer and that Scratch (if it was him) couldn’t have something else up his sleeve.
While it might be a bit of a disappointing conclusion to such a cliffhanger if everyone emerges unscathed or only with injuries that take as long as a time jump to heal, it is probably a good idea to give the BAU a break from any more changes, at least for the first half of season 13. If someone else is going to leave, either don’t bring anyone new in — the team did fine without Reid while he was in prison, so they’ll be fine if they’re down a member following the cliffhanger since he should be back — or wait until at least the midway point of the season.
If Luke is going to continue to be with the BAU, something that has to change is his relationship with Garcia. He’ll have been with the team for a year then, which is long enough for her to adjust to having him around and giving him a break. If they must, let her give him a hard time every once in a while, but don’t let it happen in the middle of a meeting about a case like it did in the finale, which was obviously just so she could make that comment to Morgan and he could later tell her to give Alvez a break.
Something that should help is having Reid back on the team, which will be a significant improvement over the second half of season 12. Yes, he’s probably still going to have to balance work and taking care of his mother, but he should be reinstated as quickly as possible (in on-screen time) rather than continue to keep him isolated form the others, as his prison arc did.
Hopefully season 13 also sees more of a focus on the relationships between characters who have been around since the earlier seasons — Reid, JJ, Prentiss, Rossi and Garcia — as well as perhaps a bit more from Tara. We did see her family in “Mirror Image,” but it feels like we haven’t seen quite enough of her with the rest of the team. And if everyone is sticking around, Criminal Minds needs to develop different relationships that make us want to see them stick around.
What did you think of the BAU in season 12? What are you hoping to see in season 13?
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(Image courtesy of CBS)