'Criminal Minds' boss on team's reunion in season 7 premiere, 'emotional aftermath' to come

criminal-minds

Image Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS

Before we talk about the season 7 premiere, I offer my advance apologies. The headline you see above is a tease until 1 a.m. ET. That is when I will post my full chat with Criminal Minds executive producer and showrunner Erica Messer. (We have to give EW’s west coast readers a chance to watch!)

In the meantime, however, I wanted to give you a place to chat about the season premiere, which found Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) returning to work with the team — and baddie Ian Doyle (Timothy V. Murphy)! — on a case involving Doyle’s son, who’d been kidnapped.

Star Thomas Gibson, who held a premiere party last night for the cast and crew, says of the episode and season, “It felt like a big family reunion. We’re really counting our lucky stars,” he said. “To quote Kirsten [Vangsness], ‘Erica wrote the s–t out of it, and Glenn [Kershaw] directed the s–t out of it.’ It’s really a new beginning to the show.”

In our chat with Messer, conducted while she was attending said bash at Gibson’s house (pause here to recognize how incredibly adorable that is), she breaks down the very special episode and chats about what’s to come.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, to start off, we saw the effects of Emily’s (Brewster) return in both emotional and tangible ways in the premiere. I especially loved how you used the hearing as a storytelling device. Are we going to see more of the tangible lasting effects of the Doyle case/Emily’s special situation this season or will they be mostly emotional?
ERICA MESSER: That’s a great question, actually, because that was the struggle with that episode when we were all in the writer’s room breaking it. I like to base things in reality as much as possible and it certainly felt like that was the way to do it. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. So the tangible [effects] of it are pretty much wrapped up in the premiere, but the emotional aftermath of it is what will linger with the team a lot in episode two and some more in three and throughout the season. Basically, having Prentiss’ death be faked and J.J. (A.J. Cook) and Hotch having to keep that a secret, it changes everyone. It changes those who had to keep the secret, and it changes those who feel betrayed by that secret. And I want to play to that for the rest of the series, to be honest. It’s another layer to every character. I feel like it would be false not to recognize that. So the real-world, Senate Committee of it all is done, but the team hasn’t forgotten, they haven’t forgiven, and they haven’t completely moved on.

How much of Emily’s time away are we going to see this season, if at all?
Right now we’re talking about it a lot, but we’re not seeing it. It was really difficult for her to do as well. She will definitely be talking about the struggles she had while she was separated from the team. She understands it was hard on them, but it was also hard on her. And I feel like diving into what happened to her in the last seven months will be an episode, certainly, down the line.

This was, clearly, a very special episode. What’s episode two look like?
A lot of it is just having our team back together again. [They] solve the crimes, catch the bad guys and do all the things they’re so good at doing. They get back in the saddle in episode two. They just do it — but not without the fallout. The plan is you’ll get to see a personal side to each character throughout this season and there will be some things you didn’t know about people and some things that will haunt them again. And I think that is a goal we all have on the writing staff — to dive into what makes our heroes behave the way they behave.

What do you mean “things we didn’t know about people”? Does that apply to a specific character or are there many?
Hotch, for example, has been going through the motions of raising a child as a single working parent and mourning the loss of a great love. And even though he and Haley were divorced, she was his first love, his only life and all that. We’d really like him to smile again and let go of that. It’s going to be new and exciting for all of us and the audience.

So is he the one who’s getting the new romance you teased on Twitter today? You can tell me.
[Laughs] I can’t say! If someone had asked [during the chat], I could have been more specific.

They missed their chance!
There’s gotta be some mystery and fun stuff you all have to wait for.

One thing that was also exciting was seeing Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) more into the action. I think they even mentioned on the show he had been going to the shooting range more. Are we going to see him more in the action this season?
One thing we’re trying to do is have everyone get their hands a little dirty this year. In the premiere, we set it up with the mention that Reid had been going to the gun range more since Emily died and then having him be the one who put the bullet in Chloe in the end. It was certainly by design. He’s not afraid to use that gun. So is there a specific episode that’s action-packed for Reid? No. But we’re certainly not afraid to get him out in the field. I think it works best when we get our team out there together, like we saw at the end of the premiere.

Also, how great was that scene where Reid was front of the senator and gave him attitude — when he said, “It’s ‘Dr.'”? I was, like, “You go, Reid!”
[Laughs] I know! I loved that the character you’d expect to be a little bit meek was pissed off the whole time. He had this edge about him. There was actually a longer speech written for him when Kramer says, “You’re the only one who hasn’t asked for reinstatement.” And [in the initial draft] he said, “I don’t believe I should have to ask for something that I already have,” or something like that. And Matthew said, “I actually just want to say, ‘That’s right.'” And it made sense. Given how that character was in the moment, it really worked. Less was more in that scene. And we did a similar thing with Morgan when he hugs Prentiss. There were words there. And when we rehearsed it, Shemar [Moore] said, he didn’t think Morgan should say, “As long as you’re back I’m ok.” And the more we talked about it, we said, “Let’s just take all the words out of your mouth. You can sell it in looks.” And I think he really, really did.

Last, let’s talk baddies. Are there any new Doyle-type mega villains in store?
You know, it’s hard to top Ian Doyle. It was hard to top The Reaper, so we never really tried. But Ian Doyle, thanks to Timothy Murphy was probably the best bad guy we’ve ever had. So much so, we were all sad to see him go, but we knew the only way to have Prentiss return was to have Doyle dead. He was brilliant. We were even joking, “Maybe Doyle has this evil twin brother and you can come back!” So we haven’t thought about unsub arcs. We’re really concentrating on our hero arcs right now.


Comments (132 total) Add your comment
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  • neptune

    I thought they did a great job at bringing them all back together. Looking forward to this season.

    • Suncatcher

      I totally agree, Neptune! Megakudos to the writers who took a complex arc, brought it to a magnificent conclusion and elegantly wove JJ and Prentiss back onto the team. Great start to this “born again” CM season!

      PS – The party Chez Gibson speaks volumes of how tight this cast really is – and their celebrating having everyone back together. Wish their long time, loyal fans could have been there to share in it!

    • brandy

      SO GLAD PRENTIS AND JJ ARE BACK!!! i hope they keep the cast together . this show is my last hope. all of our friends as well as myself quit watching csi lasvegas when they started changing people. PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT IN criminal minds.

  • Iris

    Kind of a boring episode, but I know they had to wrap up the loose ends of last season and explain how the group got back together, so I’ll give it a pass.

    However, what was going on with Reid’s hair? It was…interesting? Or something? Discuss….

    • Andy

      Here is the problem…Pretty much one of the better network dramas and people want to discuss haircuts?

      • Iris

        I agree with you that it is one of my favorite shows; however, what is there to talk about so much? I knew that Prentiss and J.J. were both coming back (YEAH!), so that happened, and they wrapped up the storyline from last year. Not my favorite episode, so maybe Reid’s hair stood out more?
        What else is there to discuss? While I love the show, it isn’t exactly “Lost”…

    • Marianna

      Isn’t Reid’s hair like one of those production inside jokes? It changes at the start of each new season? You know, something for the fans to look forward to, soooo, what’s Reid’s hair going to look like this season? kind of thing. But yes, interesting it most certainly was, though you know, I think I could probably grow to love it. Just like I absolutely loved, “This IS calm and it’s Doctor”. HA! So there, Senator, take that!

    • Hi! I’m 12!

      I think Reid’s hair has been discussed on the show (“Did you join a rock band?”) so it’s not like we’re violating some High Art to discuss it here. And it was bad and distracting, much like Paget/Prentiss’s nails!

      • goodess of all knowing

        HEY ANYBODY NOTICE HOW HIS CLOTHES ARE SLIGHTLY CHANGING FROM GEEK SHEIK TO ADORKABLY HOT .I MEAN COME ON YOU KNOW A GUY IS SUPER HOT WHEN THEY CAN PULL OFF A SWEATER VEST ,CARDIGAN ,DRESS SHIRTS CUTE TIES AND CONVERSE . ITS LIKE I DIED AND WENT TO HEAVEN (WELL ACTUALLY IM NOT ALLOWED BACK THERE BECAUSE APPARANTLY IT IS HIGHLY FROWNED UPON FOR HAVING MORE THAN ONE BODY ROTTING UNDERNEATH YOUR FLOORBOARDS)(JUST KIDDING) (OR AM I) FUN FACT TIME DID YOU KNOW DID YOU KNOW BANGING YOUR HEAD AGAINST THE WALL BURNS 150 CALORIES AN HOUR OR THAT TURTLES CAN BREATH THROUGH THEIR BUTS (GROSS BUT TRUE) SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT. HEY DID YOU KNOW HEAVEN DOESNT WANT ME AND HELL KNOWS I’LL TAKE OVER. (CORNY JOKE ) THAT JOKE WAS CORNIER THAN CORN (SHUT UP) YOU SHUT UP (NO YOU SHUT UP ) DONT MAKE ME GO OVER THEIR (I WISH YOU WOULD) LETS GO.settle down .O.K. IF YOU HAVE READ AL OF THIS IM SORRY FOR WASTING PRECIOUS MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE (WAIT WHO AM I KIDDING YOUR LIFE’S NOT PRECIOUS!!!! TOTALLY CRAZY … : )

    • RAL8

      I agree with you, Iris: boring and unconvincing. I’m disappointed.

      • goodess of all knowing

        how are you dissapointed .are you allergic to a good episode of criminal minds .it was totally convincing .it was so interesting i had to lock my door turn off the lights , close the blinds snuggle in bed to watch the premier that i had been dying to watch for monthe .RAL8 are you a d.a or what is wrong with you

    • shortybangbang

      Aloha oe. I thought the Jordan Todd character would make a re-appearance. She did leave the BAU to return to the Anti-Terrorism Unit, right? Or they would have CM AND CM:SB team up or CM BAU AND The two CIA agents (the lady that said she knows where Morgan lives) from when Gideon was on CM, team up to track down Prentiss’ psychopathic ex-lover. Elated to know A J Cook and Paget Brewster are back. But if SHEMAR MOORE and Thomas Gibson weren’t re-signed to return, i might as well have started WATCHING TV ON RADIO….silence….fade to black….or should i say frequency static. :D :D I really enjoy the show! Much love, prayer, and many continued blessings in everything you all do for the Lord, each other, others, your passions, viewers, and this world. love shortybangbang

  • Jennifer

    I agree, Iris, it ‘s very hard to watch adorable Reid with that hair. I liked it when he finally cut it last year but now it looks, well….odd.
    I liked the way they became a team again in 2nd half. So nice not to have to see that girl who replaced JJ. I loved that JJ and Reid are more forceful “and it’s Doctor”, had to cheer on that one. Clearly Reid has been to shooting range! Also, is there ANY way Hotch can keep the scruff for a while? Damn he looked GOOD!

    • Tinker Bell

      Agreed! Feisty Reid (whilst still being Adorable Reid) and Scruffy Hotch! I’m already loving this season!

      • Mrs.B

        Hotch was hot with scruffy

      • goodess of all knowing

        REID IS TOTALLY ADORKABLE HE IS SO CUTE DONT YOU JUST WANT TO GIVE HIM A HUG HOTCH WAS HOT, STEAMING.BUT NO WHERE NEAR AS HOT AS REID AND HIS EDGY ATTITUDE SMART ALLEC REMARKS AND HIS “THIS IS CALM AND ITS DOCTER” COMMENT .REID GREW SOME BACKBONE GO REID WHOOO HOOO HE JUST GETS HOTTER BY THE MINUTE AND DARE I SAY IT EVEN HOTTER THAN MORGAN (GASP) A-BOMB BUT TOTALLY TRUE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ; P SILLY FACE HA HA HA IM EVIL ARENT I OR JUST PLAIN RANDOM HEY GUYS IS IT WEIRD TO ARGUE WITH YOURSELF (GUESS NOT ITS ONLY WEIRD IF YOU ARGUE WITH YOURSELF AND LOSE) WHAT DID I TELL YOU TOTALLY RANDOM

    • Marianne

      I agree that last year when he got his hair cut, I squealed with delight. I hated that scraggly do. But I do like Hotch with a beard though.

      • jlreed

        I agree I like Feisty Reed and bearded Hotch

      • elizabeth

        Hotch with a beard all the way. I thought he looked younger!!! Guess he can’t have it in the day to day operations though. Maybe we can at least get a five o’clock shadow!! Otherwise great show, so glad the girls are back!!! Can’t wait for the rest of the season. This is one of my favorite shows.

      • goodess of all knowing

        love reids season 6 hairstyle he should have kept that up. hotch’s scruffy look is so hot, sexy, young, masculine ,aahhhhhh help im running out of adjectives to describe his look all in all a good episode 2thumbs up and a smiley face: )

  • Ele

    I enjoyed the episode! So glad they are all together, loved how Hotch told them about Emily and how stunned they were! My favorite line was from Reid….and it’s doctor…cool. Great acting by all but really could feel Morgan’s anger at being lied to.
    Loved Action JJ. But I must confess that I am a fan of Hotch’s scruffy look!
    Love CM and the cast and crew rock!!!

  • Jenelle

    I’ll admit I teared up a bit when Emily first came back. I loved the episode and i’m looking forward to the season.

    • Katie

      I teared up a little bit too!

    • Lo

      Me too! And when she was reciting the FBI oath? That felt really touching to me.

      • Barbara Mallien

        How could anyone be bored by such a fast moving premier . I have waited for it and was not disappointed,I mean really discussing hair when you have such excellent writers , And I agree with Lo , it was so was appropriate to have her recite the FBI oath and especially not taking out the word God out of the oath.

  • Katie

    I absolutely loved this episode! It’s so great to have the team back together again. The way Morgan looked at Prentiss when he first saw her almost killed me! He looked so sad and betrayed! I hope they can all get over the betrayal soon so they can go back to being the family they were. I agree that Reid’s hair did look a little funny…But all in all, it was a great episode! :-)

  • Alrisha6

    Love CM, love the team is back together again. Great episode, great way to put everything right. Love Reid: and It’s Doctor. Love to see him more confidents. Great acting, I could feel the shock in everyone of them, the anger on Morgan, the happiness in Garcia, the relive in JJ…awesome.
    One thing: please cut Reid’s hair, is awful!

  • chattypatra

    Loved to see Reid shut the Senator up, not only with the ‘and it’s Doctor’ line, but by calling him on the lie about how prisoners had never been exchanged before. He totally freaked out the suit. Ha! Also, yes, Hotch looked yummy but may I say that Morgan looks mighty fine in a suit? Oh, yeah! I smiled when he called Penelope ‘baby girl’. So glad the show is back with “our” team together again. We won the fight! Let’s pat ourselves in the back, fans.

    • Christi

      Too funny… I think you were sitting in my living room. I said loved the exact same moments. Baby girl is my favorite line between Morgan and Penelope. And I think my husband and I rewatched “and it’s Doctor” 3 times!

  • allie571

    This was the one season premiere I was really looking forward to and they did not disappoint. The way they brought the team back together was very well done. The only quibble I have that in the finale last season the boy, Declan, was about 4 or 5 and they aged him to about 10 or 11 in tonight’s episode with only 6 months passing as they stated tonight. The best part of tonight is that they got rid of that other agent who was horrible, don’t even remember her name. All in all, very well worth waiting for.

    • Katie

      when declan was first introduced in “Lauren”, they told us that the whole thing took place eight years ago… therefore, if he was four or five eight years ago, he would be twelve or thirteen now, which fits with tonights episode

    • kristin

      Declan was 4 or 5 back when Emily was undercover as a spy, infiltrating Doyle’s operation, which was about 7 years ago. They didn’t age him, he’d be about 11 or so now.

  • v

    very rushed episode, bored, could hardly watch.
    hope it gets better, this season/.

    • Marianna

      Well, you see, this is where you and I differ. I could spend the entire hour utterly enthralled merely by the sight of Hoch and his scruff standing around with his hands in his pockets looking broodily off into the distance.

    • Lucas

      You were bored by that? wtf? That was awesome and I thought the writing was really terrific. Can’t wait to see how the rest of them continue to react towards Prentiss being back from the dead.

    • RAL8

      I agree; I had to quit watching, and I really do love the series. It’s one of the only shows I watch.

    • goodess of all knowing

      wtf is wrong with you .that was a great premier .reid had attitude, hotch was scruffy, prentiss and jj were back, doyle died, and reid killed 2 people what not to like .reids hair is not my favorite a little weird but can get used to it (favorite hairstyle was season 6) ; )

    • goodess of all knowing

      wtf is wrong with you . everyone is entitled to their own opinion but come on how can you not at least like it .are you mentally retarded , or are you just a moron ooooooo you just got schooled by a 13 year old .ha ha ha ha.lol IN YOUR FACE : P !!!!!!!!

  • Hilary

    I am ecstatic about the return of our wayward agents!! Our ladies are finally home where they belong. I definitely teared up at the return of Emily. I know there will be repurcussions with Morgan especially, and look forward to the season unfolding.

    • Allie

      Morgan’s facial expressions were so well done! He looked so heartbroken and betrayed by the whole thing.

  • Angela

    Since I don’t consider Criminal Minds an action adventure show, I was glad that there wasn’t as much focus on running and shooting as I had feared in the premiere. I know they’re capable of using guns and sometimes it’s necessary, but their real weapons are their brains. I’d rather see more scenes of interrogating live unsubs and cracking them that way, than just shooting them down.

    Also, when Erica says she wants to explore how the secret changed everyone for the rest of the series, she doesn’t mean she plans to keep team members on the outs for the rest of the series. I want the family back, completely. I don’t just mean coincidentally working together, but really being a family. If it has to be rebuilt and changed, but still strong, I’m fine with that. But, I don’t want any relationships to be irrevocably broken.

  • JR

    I was expecting more. Paget Brewster is just an OK actress. If she didn’t come back, the show would not have been hurt.

    • Susie

      Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but your comment makes me think you haven’t actually seen her act in anything other than this show. Ever seen Huff? And anyway, the episodes revolving around Prentiss always seem really well done (Demonology, anyone?)

      • LoriCMfan

        I totally agree! She’s the best!

    • Liz

      I’m sorry the only person I’ve missed is Gideon….Don’t understand why they get rid of characters just to bring them back….

      • Dadesh

        No one got rid of Gideon. Mandy P left on his own accord as he has done in all of his other series.

      • GS

        I thought I’d miss him but watching the old episodes, I see that character as pompous and don’t really like him. Don’t miss him at all. Love Rossi and think he fits this group better. Glad the gang is back together!

      • Hi! I’m 12!

        I agree that if you’re going to kill someone off, follow through, but I guess there was such fan outcry to the decision to write out the two women last year, that CBS discovered it really was an ensemble thing. I don’t think any one character is irreplaceable, except maybe Reid. I’m glad Garcia won’t be center stage anymore, and while I’m sorry for the actress, there was no sense in letting the Replacement Blond (don’t remember her name) go through the doors first with Morgan, while the more experienced Hotch AND Rossi stood outside, as happened a few times last season. So I’m glad if Prentiss and Morgan will go through the doors first again, but I’m really hoping that Morgan’s disgust at Prentiss’s undercover past and his sense of betrayal now run through a bit of this season.
        Also, Reid shot the LDSK in the first season dead-center in the forehead (though he said “I was aiming for his shoulder”) so I have no doubt of his shooting skills.

      • Angela

        They didn’t get rid of them just to bring them back. That kind of implies that they already planned to bring them back from the moment they let them go. They got rid of them to get rid of them. But, knowing that the fans (obviously not all of them but a good number) were upset, they brought them back.

        Sometimes a show makes a wrong decision. It’s a matter of opinion on whether getting rid of AJ and Paget was a wrong one. I’m of the opinion that it was. And, more importantly, they must have thought so. And, it makes more sense to go back and correct a bad choice (in this case, the choice of letting two actresses go) than stick stubbornly to it and not bring them back, just because they let them go in the first place.

      • goodess of all knowing

        gideon was awfull rossi is so much better by a long shot gideon was way over emotional sentimental proffessory kind of guy ughhh it made me sick to my stomache reid was great dont get me wrong but come on gideon reid mentor/student had me saying wtf your a 24 year old fbi agent nobody needs to hold your hand through it no offense reid not your fault its gideons for making it like that .all in all hurrrah gideon is gone

    • LoriCMfan

      Are you kidding me?! She’s the best actor on the show! Don’t get me wrong, they’re all great! That’s what makes the show so good! But she can make you laugh and in the next minute, make you cry! She’s awesome! I’m so glad that everyone is back together. I missed JJ. But the last 6 episodes of season 6 when Prentiss was gone and JJ, the show was missing so much! There was such a big void. Last night’s episode kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time! Criminal Minds is back!

  • Matthew

    YAY… I am so glad my show is back and all my favorite characters are together again. I can’t wait to see what the season brings… I also am excited that Chief Strouss seems to be on the teams side for a change. I really like her character and would love to see them develop it more. Great FIRST EPISODE!!

    Only problem is I deleted my DVR episode before my fiance got to watch.. I am in trouble!! haha

  • Terri

    Thoughts on JJ’s “it’s a long story” comment on her husband? Maybe the new romance is Hotch & JJ???

    • Cheery

      Ugh, yeah that sounded ominous, like she and Will are about to/have split. But if she and Hotch got together that would be awful. What, she leaves the father of her child for her boss? And they both work long hours already, while someone else raises their kid(s), but they’ll have time to get romantic with each other? Okay…

      • StoopidQpid

        LMAO Girl you act like women don’t leave their husbands for their bosses or men don’t leave their wives for their secretaries every day in the real world!! It’s a common occurrence and wouldn’t be too far-fetched on a TV show. Besides maybe Will left her? Maybe he’s tired of taking a back seat to her and the job. The Pentagon job was supposed to make her cut back her hours so she can spend more time with her family. But then she goes back and becomes a PROFILER, which is even more dangerous than the media job she had before??? I’d say Will is pissed and probably walked out on her. But I don’t think he’d be a jerk about Henry. He would still help her raise him. Wow, I just realized that Henry’s got a cop dad and an FBI Agent mom — that is pretty damn cool!!!!! LOL

      • Cheery

        Stupid, of course it happens in reality but that doesn’t mean I’d want it for the characters on a show I like. And condescension works better when it isn’t coming from a ret@rd “LMAO, LOL”

    • William

      No way it’s Hotch and JJ. They have kind of a mentor/student thing going on. I really hope her and Will don’t split up- I’d like to see one of the team have a happy home life.

      • StoopidQpid

        Mentor/student?? I think you’ve mistaken them for Gideon and Reid. Not that I want any romances to happen, but if any of them would, they’re the most logical ones to end up in the sack anyway, especially with sharing the burden of lying to the team. Hehehehehehe

    • Hi! I’m 12!

      I’m holding out for the subtext between Hotch and Rossi to become text!

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