Criminal Minds Producer Previews Season 8 Finale, Death by Replicator

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Criminal Minds had been in the news a lot lately for reasons that go beyond mere storytelling, as a Season 9 renewal was delayed due to contract negotiations.

But the entire cast – including Kirsten Vangsness and A.J. Cook – is now on board for 2013-2014.

And following our exclusive chat with Joe Mantegna, TV Fanatic jumped on the phone with showrunner Erica Messer to talk about how these delayed deals could impact next season, along with what we’ll see when The Replicator makes a return in tonight's two-hour episode...


TV Fanatic: Do contract negotiations with the cast get in the way of your thinking about next season?
Erica Messer: It definitely affects it... the good news in not doing a cliffhanger finale is that I’m not tied to any particular storyline. We can do what we did at the beginning of this season, which is just pick up and go. The whole summer had gone by and that gives us a lot of freedom in storytelling and sort of figuring out where our heroes’ journey has been all summer while we’ve been away from them.

TVF: I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing to bring up the fact that you had the Replicator story coming back up at the time of contract negotiations…
EM: I know! That was not the intention but, oh my gosh, it’s been on everybody’s mind. Like ‘wait, is he going to…’ [and] ‘oh geez, what’s going to happen here?’ We’ve never done a season long bad guy. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do it again just because nobody’s ever going to have this story that this bad guy has. It’ll still just feel way too familiar if we ever went there again. Yeah, everybody was definitely worried about that like wait a minute. What’s this going to mean?

Criminal Minds Season Finale Photo

TVF: You just said that you don’t have a cliffhanger so does that mean the Replicator story is going to get an ending in the finale?
EM: Well, I mean you’ll have to decide for yourself if you think he’s gone. We wrapped up the Replicator story. He does a lot of damage before we’re able to catch him. We didn’t want that threat going into next year…but we do have a 200th episode next year so you never know. You never know if the bad guy is going to come back and haunt us or not. I think it was described not as a freight train but as a bullet train for a finale. It just doesn’t stop.

TVF: How do we get back into the Replicator story in that second hour of the two-hour finale?
EM: That’s a great way to describe it because it’s not a two-hour finale. It was never crafted the way last year’s finale was crafted, which is the bank robbery in part one and then the chase in part two essentially. This was never developed as that. It’s a story. The first hour is a story about Hotch (Thomas Gibson) and his brother (Eric Johnson) who got caught up in something bad and ends up calling in the BAU to help in New York. The end of that episode, the intention was always the last beat of that episode would be a Replicator beat.

TVF: Backing up to the Hotch story, I love it when you guys bring family stuff in and you’ve done it a lot this season. Safe to assume, then, that this will have a nice emotional arc.
EM: Yeah. It’s a character we have not physically seen since season one. So, that alone is kind of interesting. Then we hear how estranged he and Hutch have been for the last seven years. I think it’ll be a familiar family dynamic that people have, whether it’s with an actual sibling or just a family member who you love so much and want so many good things to happen for them. It’s small in that but it’s also a huge defining moment for these brothers. The little brother calls on the big brother for help and the big brother is disappointed this is even in their world right now but needs to do the bigger thing of not judging and helping instead. It’s a good story.

TVF: You also had a story recently where Morgan (Shemar Moore) went back to a past case and, of course, past cases also feed into the Replicator story. Did you build these stories as a way to honor the long-running viewer?
EM: Yeah. That’s exactly why we did it. It also comes from the loyal fans that we have who have been with us from day one [and] the new fans that we’re getting because we repeat all the time. Then also for the actors who’ve been here from day one. I’m the only staff writer who’s been here from day one, but there’s other people on the staff who were here in different capacities way back then.

So, it is absolutely a reward to all of those who have been with our show for eight years. ‘Here’s the things that make our heroes tick, let’s examine those again.’ It felt like a natural summary to that journey for Morgan. Now he can put that behind. It’s defined who he is in so many ways but so do other things. Maybe good things can come his way now that he’s done with that.

TVF: Talk about Jeanne Tripplehorn being a part of the show this year. From what I’ve seen online, it seems to be kind of thumbs up mixed with some people not loving it. What’s your perspective on how her character has been folded into the series this season?
EM: Well, I think she had gigantic shoes to fill and I wouldn’t want to have to fill those shoes. Paget was a fan favorite and loved and adored by everyone. The fact that she wanted to move on is something that all of us who love Paget, fans and coworkers alike, have to support that and be happy for her to go pursue other things. But coming in to replace that person, it just didn’t seem fair that that was sort of her journey.

We tried to make the character as different from Paget as we could…it is absolutely zero mystery why Alex Blake is joining the team. She’s been a government girl sine she graduated from college. She was a super star in different cases. I think I described it once as her halo became a noose during another high profile linguistics case. She really got publicly and professionally slighted for taking a fall that she would argue was not her call. But taking that fall during the big case. Automatically, her backstory and everything about her is the completely opposite of Paget’s character.

TVF: Last Criminal Minds Season 8 finale question, Shemar had teased that we may lose somebody in this finale. Is there a chance we could lose a character because of the Replicator story?

A firm yes?

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of Follow him on Twitter.


The season finale was such a LETDOWN! There was no cliff hanger, or making want to watch more. The plot has gotten soft ever since Prentiss left. Blake is a horrible team member, and doesn't fit well with the rest. Also, Strauss was not a team member. She was just there as a figure, and she isn't that important. If Blake died instead, the episode would have been a lot better. I hope the writers read this and bring Prentiss back.


At first I couldn't stand Erin bc she was rude and always trying to split the team up...But after Morgan caught her drinking and Hotch made her get treatment she turned herself around and was there more for the in that respect I will miss her and mourn her death...I am glad my original team is back...I love everyone of your characters(especially u Dr.Spencer Reid:)[love to hear you talk)and gaze upon your gorgeous face...ok getting off track lol...Each one of you bring something special..loving..funny..heart warming..real and whatnot to our show...I have never loved a show much as CM..I just.wish Emily will come home..I love you guys...and I anxiously awaits for my CM DVD in the mail...I ordered it so I can watch everyone from beginning to end bc of my work shedule I always miss the shows:(that's why I have every Thur seven...yes I support my favorite TV show and I love again all of you for returning


Such a letdown tonight. CM usually leaves us hanging, with a need to see what happens next. Ever since they let Emily go, the writers have gotten soft. Personally, I was hoping that Blake would be killed ( can't stand that woman ) and the last scene would have been Prentiss gettin on a plane to DC. Now THAT would have been a great finale.


What a major letdown. Joe Montagna went on Twitter and said that "one of the TEAM" would not survive the finale. Strauss was NOT a member of the team, she was the bitchy boss who wanted to bring the REAL Team down. No cliff hanger, no shocks, NOTHING. The writers of this show had best get their acts in gear.


I have heard it is Strauss. That way Hotch can be promoted.


Holy crap, Jim. That's one hell of a teaser! Joe Mantegna's tease on this was less firm - he only barely hinted at it. Can't wait to see the episode tonight.


I don't think the viewers would be affected as much if Strauss or Blake died than they would if Morgan or Reid died, however it would still be a sad loss. You never know how a season will end until you watch it.


@Marissa my gut is telling me that Erin Strauss will be gone too. For the same reasons you stated. The only other possibility would be Will and I do not see that happening.


I can't wait for this episode tonight it looks really good. Everything a read about it or any time I see the preview for it it just makes me want to see it even more. I wonder who we will loose in the finale since all 7 main characters are signed up for next year I wonder if it will be someone kind of random or someone that we've known for awhile. My bet is going on Strauss I don't know why I just think she might die. Can't wait for the episode.

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Criminal Minds Season 8 Episode 23 Quotes

Richard Bach wrote "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each others' life."


Last year, right here, we had a very different celebration, Of life, of love, and good people. This year it's the other side of that. Because, well, that's what families do. It's been a hard year. But tonight, we celebrate a life well-lived, well-loved. To a good woman. An even better mother. To our friend, who I will miss very much.