Criminal Minds is going through some major changes, and the show’s Season 12 premiere “The Crimson King” introduced us to just some of them. Morgan officially left the BAU — and his baby girl Garcia — to care for his wife and actual baby, with newcomer Luke Alvez (Adam Rodriguez) taking his place on the squad. Alvez is more than capable of helping the team track down the convicts that busted out of prison — specifically the copycat killer of the Crimson King, who spent the episode slicing up his victims with threats against the BAU. That’s a great thing, because it won’t just be Morgan’s absence he’ll be filling in for. Thomas Gibson’s Hotch is officially leaving Criminal Minds in Season 12, and if Criminal Minds really wants to keep our attention, they should make Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner the first member of the BAU to die for real.
Hotch is leaving the series due to personal issues with Gibson, who allegedly got into a physical altercation with a writer on the series, but that doesn’t mean that his removal from the show can’t forward the story in some way. Despite the BAU constantly confronting serial killers, no one on the small team — of which there have been many different agents over the years — has died. Plenty of people close to the agents have died, yet no member of the BAU has faced a mortal consequence. Given the insane stakes of their job, how the members of the BAU have been able to escape their own death time and time again feels just a touch unrealistic.
If that’s about to change with Hotch, it’s about time. Criminal Minds has had so many cast shake-ups over the years, but the one thing it hasn’t done is shown what happens to the BAU when they are confronted with the death of one of their own. When people leave on Criminal Minds, it’s often because the characters want to spend more time with their family or move into a job that’s a little more low-risk. The closest that the series has come to having a death in the BAU family was with Emily Prentiss’ “death,” which lost its emotional punch when it was revealed that the whole thing was faked for her own protection. For that reason, the BAU has felt oddly invincible. The death of their leader, however, would raise the stakes in a way that the show hasn’t done in 12 seasons.
Alvez being welcomed to the team may make it possible for Hotch to die. During his introduction to the team, Hotch gives Alvez a very valuable lesson: Don’t hope for the UnSub’s death, hope that they’ll get to live out their lives in a five-by-eight foot cell. Could this be foreshadowing? Could Hotch be killed by an UnSub, leading Alvez and the rest of the team to engage in a revenge spiral? It might be the kick that Criminal Minds needs — after 11 seasons and counting, I’ll take a dark twist.