Those seemingly inexplicable shrieks of joy you may have heard rising into the air around you about two hours ago? Those were the sounds of Criminal Minds fans learning that Paget Brewster is back as a Season 12 series regular.
After what can only be described as a truly bananas summer in the Criminal Minds casting universe — during which Aisha Tyler (Dr. Tara Lewis) and Adam Rodriguez (SSA Luke Alvez) signed on as series regulars and Thomas Gibson (SSA Aaron Hotchner) was fired after assaulting a writer — the show announced it would be adding two full-time cast members to replace Gibson. Brewster, whose character SSA Emily Prentiss was already scheduled to return for six episodes (probably to help the BAU catch some escaped serial killers) but now it looks like Prentiss could potentially replace Gibson's Hotchner as unit chief. Her return also means there are officially more women on the team than men, which is fantastic and super-rare on procedurals.
Some fans have not reacted particularly well to Gibson's dismissal, which came after he kicked one of the show's writers during a quarrel about "creative differences." Folks have threatened to boycott the show until Gibson is re-hired, and there's even a petition being circulated, demanding that the network offer him his job back. Gibson's leaving the show marks the second departure of a major character since Shemar Moore (SSA Derek Morgan) left during Season 11. In the comments section of the article announcing Brewster's return to full-time cast member, fans argued about whether or not her reprising her role could make up for the loss of Gibson and Moore. I don't think that's even a conversation worth having, frankly.
The structure of the show is changing, which is something that inevitably happens on long-running shows. Instead of thinking about it as compensating for the absence of men, which that conversation is essentially about, let's remember that there was a very similar conversation that happened when Brewster was fired in 2011. Who could possibly replace her? The answer: no one, because that's how memorable characters work. Prentiss' full-time return doesn't have to make up for the absence of Morgan and Hotch, it has to bring the show to a place where we're not constantly thinking about how they aren't there and being grateful and happy that she is.
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