The CBS procedural ends its 11th season with an uncertain future
Credit: Darren Michaels/CBS
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No good deed goes unpunished. And the BAU’s most-recent punishment for all their crime-solving good deeds is a real doozy. Criminal Minds’ season 11 finale ended without anyone’s life in the balance nor another departing BAU member. Instead, the team finds themselves gearing up to go head to head with a few skeletons from their past.

The ominous message that Hotch supposedly called in to 911 definitely sets the tone for the series if it is picked up for season 12 (that future is not quite definite just yet): “Today will change everything.” The team had no idea until it was too late.

When Hotch’s door is kicked in and he is hauled away to the DOJ under suspicion of planning nefarious activities, the team quickly comes together to prove their leader’s innocence and find the true culprit of whatever is about to happen. With the help of Garcia and Reid, the team is able to gather enough evidence to prove that the 911 “Hotchner” left was actually spliced together using footage from Hotch’s reports over the years. He was framed, but how did the DOJ get the information to detain him in the first place?

Turns out Peter Lewis, a.k.a. Mr. Scratch, ratted out Hotch for being dangerous. “The world needs to know what kind of man Aaron Hotchner really is,” he states in a video testimony. Hotch asks why the DOJ, FBI, or anyone would believe anything the convicted serial killer would have to say, and the evidence stacked against Hotch is a little suspect. Not only do they have receipts of Hotch buying materials to make a bomb (which anyone could frame), but they also know that he was exposed to the dissociative drug Mr. Scratch used on his victims (who suffered psychotic breaks after) — which Hotch just so happened to leave off his report.

The series writers do a nice little callback to some of the series’ big moments, including the fact that Hotch did nothing when Rossi shot Gideon’s killer, Donnie Mallick, but he allowed Elle to resign after she shot an unsub, all to prove that Hotch’s judgment has been clouded since the death of his wife.

NEXT: The conspiracy goes DEEP

But while Hotch continues to maintain his innocence and demands to see the case against him, his team is already making waves on who framed him in the first place. Reid remembers that former unsub Antonia warned Hotch a “storm” was coming, and JJ rushes down to threaten her into talking. She reveals that her own son Asher is involved in the frame job but that he’s not the ultimate culprit. She asks for JJ to make sure Asher stays safe, but it’s really Reid who is able to keep that promise when he discovers that while Asher spliced the 911 call, he has autism and is definitely not responsible for the storm that is about to hit the team.

No, the real culprit turns out to be Eric Rawdon, a psychopath hell-bent on blowing up a major city, just so he can see it burn. He likely framed Hotch because the team leader wrote up Rawdon’s profile and testified against him, which eventually put him in jail.

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But blowing a city up is not Rawdon’s only plan. We quickly find out that while he has been incarcerated, he’s determined not to stay that way: He’s planned an entire prison break just to escape with his team. Rawdon almost makes it out, too, after shooting down many SWAT team members and even releasing the real monsters in cellblock A to come and attack the BAU team members. Dr. Lewis is almost killed by a man she once put away, but she is ultimately saved by a recently released Hotch. The team finds and apprehends Rawdon and thwarts the bomb blast as well, just in the nick of time.

All of this happens within the first 45 minutes of the episode’s finale, so clearly things weren’t quite done. During a night in at Rossi’s house, the team gets a call: Turns out Rawdon’s plans were even more complicated than expected. Other cities experienced prison breaks, much more successful than Rawdon’s, and now 13 serial killers the team once put behind bars have all escaped, including Mr. Scratch. Guess we know now why he testified against Hotch in the first place.

The finale sets an incredible stage to bring Mr. Scratch back for an epic showdown with Hotch if season 12 happens. With the emergence of many other serial killers from the show’s past (and if season 12 can get the go-ahead), it’ll be fun to see who the writers will pick to bring back.

What did you think of the Criminal Minds finale?

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