It’s been two episodes of Criminal Minds without Hotch, and what you’re seeing on-screen right now is the new normal. The team now consists of Rossi, Prentiss, Reid, JJ, Tara, Garcia and Luke.
This isn’t the first time the BAU has lost a member, and the team has managed to bounce back each time. (The show is, after all, in its 12th season.) But perhaps it stings a bit more this time because it came so soon after Morgan’s departure near the end of last season. Bringing Prentiss back right now has helped because it’s like she never left, but the team still feels like it’s in a state of flux, in great part due to Morgan and Hotch’s departures, Prentiss’ return and the additions of Luke and still-to-come Damon Gupton’s Special Agent Stephen Walker (debuting in episode 8) all happening practically at the same time.
Here’s what is and isn’t working when it comes to how Criminal Minds is handling Hotch’s absence.
The Team Is Still Solving Cases and Working Well Together
The BAU is two-for-two in its cases since Hotch went on “temporary assignment” and Prentiss returned to help out while he’s gone. Everyone’s doing their jobs, and with the addition of Luke Alvez and Aisha Tyler now a series regular (which I expect to mean more of Tara Lewis), it’s not like they’re going to have an empty spot on the team.
Now that’s not to say that anyone can replace Hotch, but I don’t suspect we’ll see them stretched thin trying to get everything done they need to with each case.
The Dynamic Isn’t the Same
Because Hotch has been part of the team since the very beginning and he was the team leader, it’s impossible not to notice when he’s not there, and there’s something different about the team’s chemistry when one of them is absent. It’s off, but that could also be due to the fact that, as an audience, we know that Hotch isn’t coming back, while on-screen, it’s playing out like he is, which leads to the next two points.
There’s No (Official) Team Leader Right Now
Right now, the show is written like Hotch is only on temporary duty and available to consult, so no one has really had to step up and take over as team leader. Rossi has been the one doling out assignments and sort of taking on that role, but it’s being done in a way that doesn’t feel official. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to be the new leader once it does become official, even though he has seniority.
It’s possible that Prentiss takes over, and what we’re seeing on-screen does suggest that. Reid mentions in her introduction to Luke in “Taboo” that she’s been working as the Unit Chief for Interpol, and Paget Brewster has taken Thomas Gibson’s spot in the cast shot at the end of the opening credits.
However this ends up playing out, it needs to be addressed on-screen sooner rather than later.
Hotch’s Absence Is Still Being Treated as a “Temporary” Assignment
They’re still acting like Hotch is going to come back. In “Taboo,” he was on a special assignment. In “Keeper,” he’s still on TDY and available to consult. It’s hard to move on — or to expect the team to do so — until the show addresses his permanent departure rather than operating like he could come back next week. That also plays into who will step in as team leader; there’s no reason to address that on-screen until the team is given a reason to do so.
What do you think of Criminal Minds without Hotch so far? What do you think of how the show is handling his absence?
Criminal Minds season 12 airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of CBS)