Criminal Minds has been through plenty of team losses and changes over the years, and it has just kicked off a storyline that could end with another — but it shouldn’t. While Barnes acted like it was just a standard review for the one year anniversary of Reid’s arrest in Mexico that took Prentiss out of the field and put J.J. temporarily in charge, the Assistant Director revealed to Prentiss that they were really there to discuss the state of the BAU under her leadership.
But with Prentiss refusing to do anything but stand by her team and their actions and Barnes with her own motives and the power to do something, this wasn’t going to go away so quickly, not even with Emily easily defending every “problem” Barnes brought up. Season 13 episode 14 ended with Prentiss suspended indefinitely.
But rather than something coming from Barnes’ “fishing expedition,” the team should come out stronger and a more cohesive unit, no one should leave and, most importantly, Barnes should not win. Any other outcome would likely mean another shakeup and another change that results in yet something new for the BAU and for viewers to have to get used to, as they have with the new team members especially in recent seasons.
Make It the Team Against the World (or, in This Case, Barnes)
We’ve already had some pretty great scenes between Prentiss and Barnes, two powerful women who are not backing down, and while I’d love to see more of that — Paget Brewster and Kim Rhodes were excellent battling one another with their characters’ intellect — there’s now the chance to see how the rest of the team reacts with Barnes now overseeing the unit.
In the next episode, “Annihilator,” she’ll be joining the team on their investigation, and we should see how everyone, especially Simmons, whose former unit she disbanded, reacts to her presence, especially since she has suspended their unit chief. The BAU has been through more changes in more recent seasons than in earlier ones — last season saw the addition of two new team members, Luke and Stephen, and after Stephen died and the IRT disbanded, Prentiss brought Simmons over — and they’re just not clicking entirely like they used to when we saw the same people season to season.
Barnes gives them all someone to stand against — but not in a way that encourages her even further to want to break up the team. Instead, we have the opportunity to see the team be a united front, much like they are in the season 13 episode 15 promo:
The BAU Works Well — Don’t Change That (Yet)
By the end of this arc, Prentiss should be reinstated as unit chief, but that’s not to say that J.J. isn’t the right person for the job. We’ve probably seen her grow the most out of all the characters, and she did a good job as acting unit chief in “Miasma,” so she should be the leader of her own team one day, just not yet. Depending on how long the series goes, that could be how it ends: with J.J. stepping into that role and the audience knowing she’ll excel because she already has on-screen.
But right now, Prentiss is doing exactly what someone in her position should: standing by her team and their actions and refusing to cater to the whims of someone like Barnes. Viewers were used to seeing Hotch in charge for years, but Prentiss has shown since she’s taken on the role that she’s more than capable and definitely the right person for the job. She has the experience, she has the “respect, support and capital,” as she told Barnes, and she refuses to play the assistant director’s game.
In their conversations, Barnes singled out Rossi and Reid, suggesting the former was too busy with his books and family and the latter a more natural fit for academia, but Prentiss refused to name a “fall guy” so the FBI would avoid some bad PR. And while that did suggest that one of those two could be on the way out (if Barnes had her wish), it’s just as likely that every team member’s name and a “problem” will come out of Barnes’ mouth before the end of this arc.
But it’s the agents that make this team what it is, and that is a team that gets the job done. Sure, they’ve continued to do that even as agents have come and gone, but it’s the team dynamic that has people tuning in each week. Keep messing with that and the show isn’t the same. There needs to be some stability, like there was in earlier seasons. It’s time to get back to that, and here’s the perfect time to show they can: by not having the BAU change in any way this season.
Barnes Shouldn’t Win (Again)
“Your specialty is remaking units and divisions in your image, slimming them down, dividing their resources, so you can maximize their efficiency,” Prentiss told Barnes. Now, that’s not all bad. No one can argue against maximizing a unit’s efficiency. What is a problem is what Prentiss said next: Barnes wants power, and for her, that means she wants to be the director one day. But given how she’s butting heads with the BAU and specifically Prentiss right now, that’s not something that will benefit them and therefore the series.
Barnes already won when it came to the IRT from Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, as we’ve heard from Matt Simmons about his former unit. And with her putting J.J. in charge and questioning her about the decision to promote Prentiss over her, it seems like Barnes has already started to try to remake the BAU into her image, suggesting she knows she can’t just disband their team like she did the IRT. What she should see instead is that the BAU can remain loyal to one another while following bureau policy and doing their jobs in such a way that makes it impossible for her to even attempt to do what she did to the IRT with the BAU.
How do you think Barnes’ investigation should end for the BAU?
Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.
(Image/video courtesy of CBS)