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Criminal Minds finale recap: 'The Hunt'

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Richard Cartwright/CBS

This post contains details from the Criminal Minds season finale that aired Wednesday.

And the one-season turnaround of female BAU agents continues. Criminal Minds’ season 10 finale concluded with Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Kate Callahan handing in her letter of resignation to Hotchner after spending several stressful, horrific hours desperately searching with the team for her kidnapped niece-turned-daughter, Meg, and her friend Markayla.

It was pretty obvious from the moment Meg and Markayla sent “Bobby” a photo of themselves and we caught a glimpse of the real UnSub that at some point in the season things would culminate in a violent way. And yet throughout the episode, I never really felt as though Meg would actually be killed. Perhaps that’s because I hoped Criminal Minds wouldn’t actually successfully sell off one of the BAU team members’ kids to a serial killer. But it’s also due to how meticulously Kate taught Meg tricks of her trade and how to stay as safe as possible in the most dangerous of situations. If only that lesson extended to talking to strange boys on the Internet. This week’s case focused heavily on a mixture of the plot from Taken, a worst-case scenario drawn from the fearful worry many parents have about their kids spending time on the Internet, and a healthy dose of serial killers that only Criminal Minds can produce. And it all started because the girls had to give into their teen hormones.  

As soon as “Bobby’s Mom,” picked Meg and Markayla up and drove away from the concert the girls were supposed to be attending, Meg knew something was wrong. She attempted to send Kate a text with their “panic” code: “Pepper.” However, all she could get out before being attacked from the backseat of the van was “Pep,” but that was enough for Kate to get worried. The BAU sprung into action much faster than I’ve seen them go in these scenarios before, again mostly thanks to Kate being appropriately paranoid by Meg’s cryptic text.

From attempting to piece together the UnSub’s profile to discovering there was more than one UnSubs involved in this kidnapping to realizing this case wasn’t just about human trafficking (it also involved a website where young women were being sold to the highest serial killer bidder), the BAU team’s evolution to the truth was basically the same as most other episodes. But everything moved more swiftly thanks to such high stakes involving not only Meg and Markayla’s safety but the sanity and health of the very pregnant Kate. The most unique and ultimately clever moments from the episode involved Meg and Markayla’s attempts to stay alive after the abduction. Markayla escaped from the UnSubs’ clutches early in the episode and explained to Kate and the team that Meg was keeping it together for the both of them so they could keep breathing until the BAU found them. Meg told Markayla to escape during their transfer, she tried to reason with the most vulnerable member of the UnSub team, and when she was eventually sold to a terrifying serial killer, she attempted to stall him from killing her quickly.

Eventually Meg is found, just in time as is the BAU way, and returned home to Kate and Chris. JJ reveals at the end of the episode that she too is pregnant and two weeks later Kate hands in her notice. Her reason for leaving isn’t because of Meg’s recent near-death experience. When her sister died, she took a year off work to bond with Meg and basically become her mother-figure. Kate tells Hotchner she wants to have that same experience with her new baby, too.

As of now, showrunner Erica Messer revealed to EW that the writing staff has yet to come up with a new plan to replace Jennifer Love Hewitt or what the plans will be for A.J. Cook, who is also pregnant in real life, as they go back to work on June 1. Messer revealed she’s open to the idea of bringing Hewitt back for a potential season 12 since Hotch tells Kate she’ll “always have a place here,” but for now it’s all about whether the show should bring back familiar faces for a few guest spots or just continue the “revolving door” of new agents. Personally, I think it could be fun to go a similar route as Bones, which employed the revolving door method for Brennan’s interns after the imprisonment of Zack Addy, or just continue rotating in a new team member who ultimately leaves at the end of the season like some kind of Harry Potter-esque Defense Against The Dark Arts position curse. It is a bit concerning that most of the recently departed teammates have been women, so if new members of the BAU squad are going to be introduced next season—revolving door or not—I look forward to Criminal Minds gaining another strong female presence.