Just when the Criminal Minds BAU team seems its most comfortable and cohesive in a long time, things are about to come become quite chaotic.
We had the opportunity to chat with Kirsten Vangsness about the exciting upcoming story arc that begins on Criminal Minds Season 13 Episode 15 and continues as long as it does shake viewers into a frenzy.
Find out what to expect now that the Assistant Director of National Security Linda Barnes (Kim Rhodes) is assigning their cases, as well as what Vangsness thinks of the latest edition of the BAU.
Aside from the mess with Barnes, Vangness has nothing but good feelings toward the latest BAU team and its members. "I love it. I love it so much," she shared enthusiastically.
"I've loved every inception. It's really impossible when you really like your job to be ... You're in the moment. I think if we're all doing life right, you're in the moment that you're in and you approach the moment like you chose it yourself.
So, every time we've been in whatever situation it's always felt like, 'Oh this is what it's supposed to be now. Oh, this is what we are now. Okay, now we have this. Now we have Jennifer Love Hewitt. ...' And then Damon was there it's like, 'Oh God we love Damon.' And then Damon left, and it was so horrible. Right now, it truly, truly, truly feels like it's like Avengers Assemble."
Vangsness believes she works with the coolest people, and when they act together, it's the best.
But she's not the only one of that opinion. Showrunner Erica Messer was texting Vangsness and seven other cast members shortly before the interview about her happiness with recent episodes leading all eight of them into an immediate stream of appreciation for each other. Vangsness says it's like that all the time, "nothing but appreciation."
After a season of fan grumbling and probably more change than they ever wanted, the result of Criminal Minds Season 13 is cohesive, comfortable, and functional. It's almost perfect. Vangsness agrees.
"Oh, yeah, and it's so much fun. Just on Sunday, I was with all the girls. We do this thing; we call it 'hot tub wine machine' where we sit in the hot tub and drink wine and just sort of talk and download.
"So it's me and Aisha, Paget, and A.J. we plan these out about once a month, and it is just this ongoing stream of appreciation of like 'Oh my God, we get to do this!' How appreciative we are that we get people to watch this show that we love to do.
"And what's really great is the episodes that we're about to do right now are gonna be ... They were so much fun to shoot; they were so much fun. Because we didn't know what was going on, and the episode that we ended with is the one that's about to pick up.
"We were at the table read, and all of our jaws were on the floor, and our boss had to sit us down and basically break it to us, 'Okay, this is what's happening, and then this, and then this. ...' And just to listen to the arc of what's happening in the next three, four episodes it put me through a rollercoaster sort of experience.
"And that Linda Barnes is no joke, she is like the Dolores Umbridge of the BAU."
Vangsness offers an insiders view, without being too spoilery, into what's coming on "Annihilator."
"Since [Barnes is] also now in charge of picking the cases, and she's not the most... She's trying to go up the ladder and doing the best she can, but she's got a hardened kind of worldview, so the way she's picking cases, and the way she's handling the cases is not the way we usually do it.
"In addition, she's now there with us; she's going with the team, and she's put Prentiss on leave.
Beginning with "Annihilator," many of the team members will be outside of their natural habitat, and Vangsness explains the challenges as an actor to be tossed into this new scenario with Barnes looking over their shoulders. "I'm used to playing this character Garcia, who delivers this information this certain way and gets to talk to her people. But she can't because Barnes is there, and the stakes are higher; it's different.
"It's just like anybody would feel if you were working around a boss who was hypercritical. Then you have to deliver on a job that requires your instincts. She's so judgy and all of that, so everyone has to negotiate through that."
While Paget Brewster (Prentiss) will still be in the episode, you'll get to see her in a different light. And it continues in upcoming episodes, Vangsness says, "It's scary but wonderful, and crazy, very well handled.
"Adam Rodriguez is directing [Criminal Minds Season 13 Episode 16], and then Matthew [Gray Gubler] directed the one after that. Joe Mantegna directed the one after that. It's like you're watching this whole really complicated house of cards or Rubix cube, go kind of crashing down, kind of rearranging itself, kind of being set on fire, kind of a whole new deck of cards, kind of the same deck of cards, I don't know. It's cool though!"
Vangsness says while the story goes for a good long while, it's so well resolved, it's very satisfying, at least she found it incredibly satisfying and assured me every episode builds on the one before it. And there is something coming that is always a treat.
According to Vangsness, "Then we go deeper into other origin stories of characters. I'm not sharing anything that's not strange, but later in the season, you're gonna get some more Garcia origin stories. It's cool.
"The one next week is infuriating and terrible, in that like, I kind of relate everything to Harry Potter, but it's like the parts in Harry Potter like, 'This can't happen! This can't happen!' And then you're like 'But it happened, and there's nothing we can do about it. It happened.'
"And now you have to see what happens next, but it's so satisfying, what happens next. And that couldn't have happened if the other stuff that you didn't want to have happen, happened. If that makes sense."
It probably only makes sense to a bunch of TV Fanatics like us, but it makes perfect sense to me.
Hopefully, after watching the latest team bond as they fight to keep the team together, those of you who have been feeling lost after losing some much-loved characters in recent years will feel the love of the new BAU family.
"Yeah! And families alter," Vangness said. "I just read this beautiful book called 'Logical Family.' Things change and shift, and there's always gonna be people that are gonna be unhappy and want it to be the way that something was, and I mean, trust me, I wish. ... I've got a pair of shoes upstairs that I will not let go, and I should've, like 10 years ago.
"But we all do that about things, about television shows, about all kinds of things. But, if it brings somebody joy to be like 'Nope, it's not the same, it's never gonna be the same,' then that's okay.
"But I for one, who's been there since the get-go, I'm really into things getting up-leveled and being the most concentrated, beautiful form that it could be. We're there right now, and I'm really proud of it.
"And all of that stuff beforehand led up to right now. Couldn't be what it was, because you need all that history, all that backstory, each one of those people that have been behind the scenes and behind the camera and in front of the camera. All are necessary to make what we have now what it is.
"So it's all super valuable, it's just this is what it is now, and I love it!"
Tune in to new episodes of Criminal Minds Wednesdays at 10/9c only on CBS!!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.