Going into tonight’s milestone 150th episode of Criminal Minds, executive producer Erica Messer was in a difficult position.
To mark their 100th episode, the show brought back one of its most terrifying villains to date, C. Thomas Howell as the Reaper, and concluded with the death of Hotch’s (Thomas Gibson) wife. A big episode to say the least. Fifty episodes later, Messer was tasked with marking the occasion in another big way. But how? “We knew nothing was going to be as big as the 100th was for us, with Hotch and the Reaper and Haley being killed. We also knew nothing was going to be bigger for Prentiss (Paget Brewster) than what we’ve already done,” she tells EW. “It felt false to revisit [Emily’s story] in a traditional sense and more about just touching base on what she’s been going through off screen.”
And that’s exactly what the episode does, while also tying it into the crime of the week, in which a woman seeks revenge on a man who is re-victimizing women he’s attacked before. “The journey within the episode is: Is this woman who was raped years ago so damaged from the trauma that she’s remembering it wrong? Is the man that she’s holding captive really innocent? Because if that’s the case, then this is a horrible crime and she’s becoming just as bad as a monster herself,” explains Messer. The headscratcher of an episode, she says, drew an important parallel to Emily’s story. “In the theme of a women being re-victimized by her offender, that is absolutely what happened to Emily. We really wanted to write to that and that she could identify with those other women like no one else on the team could,” she says.
Speaking of the reunited team — who were back together this season after off-screen issues led to the ultimately temporary departures of Brewster and A.J. Cook — can fans plan on on seeing everyone back for another season? Messer certainly hopes so — even as Brewster and fellow BAUer Matthew Gray Gubler prepare to head into contract negotiations. “This year I’m doing a lot of hopeful thinking,” Messer says of planning the two-hour finale. “The studios and network have stood behind us and said how much we mean to them and how much they love our show. I feel really strongly that we’ll be able to have this team back together again because it’s obvious they work well together. We’ve had one of the strongest seasons we’ve ever had this year and a huge, huge part of that is because all of our actors are here.”
The rest of the season will certainly put their skills to use. One upcoming episode will find Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) and Morgan (Shemar Moore) getting closer than ever before (“I will tease that she sees him in only a towel,” Messer says coyly) and J.J. (Cook) getting a chance to show her hand-to-hand combat skills. And of the finale, Messer jokes, “We’ll let the rumors fly for now because there’s no harm in that.”
(April Daley contributed to this report.)