Criminal Minds boss breaks down that explosive series finale
So long, you crazy FBI profilers! On Wednesday, CBS’s Criminal Minds — quite literally — went out with a bang. Here, the show’s longtime executive producer Erica Messer talks about the “bittersweet” process of saying goodbye to the drama after 15 seasons, and how the writers actually considered a few out-of-the-box ideas to give fans one last, crazy thrill.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we talk about that final scene, did you consider really going for broke during these final episodes by doing stuff you’ve never done before, like a musical episode?
ERICA MESSER: Yeah, there was crazy stuff thrown out in the room, and we didn’t just shoot it down. We would say, “Okay, how could that happen?” The idea of a live episode or… what do you call it?… a documentary film crew following the crew around. We ended up exploring some of those, but ultimately we weren’t able to find a way to keep it true to the series. A musical would just take you so far out, that we just didn’t know if that would be the right way to go or not.
Wait, you didn’t actually talk about a musical episode, did you?
I mean, somebody brought it up for our final 10. “Do we do a musical?” We were like, how in the world would we do it? And I think the idea was gone by the time we ordered lunch but we did think about it. It’s a classic! You have to think about it for a second, right? But we didn’t want to go too far off the beaten path in the show’s final run. There were a couple of episodes that we thought, “oh, let’s just make this 100 percent from the unsub’s point of view.” But then you’re never really seeing the team. I mean, we loved the idea. We all sort of rallied around it but then said, “Wait, this is the final 10 hours of this show. If you have one of those hours where you’re not seeing all of our favorite people on the screen, fans are going to feel like they’re getting cheated out of an hour of our team.” And so while I think that would have been a great idea to do some other season, it didn’t feel like the right time to do it in our finale season. So we took a kernel of that idea and made an episode around that.
Did you consider making sure no women died in the final 10 episodes?
I would like to say that. But per usual, we are equal opportunity offenders. So it’s not only women who died.
You had quite a death in the finale!
Yes. The death is the bad guy, The Chameleon, who we’ve been chasing all season. And he dies in our beloved jet, which has basically been a character for 324 episodes. I mean, it’s major. Our team had to stand around and watch the jet explode. There had always been a joke that we should blow up the jet. And I always said, no, no, no. Other shows blow up jets and people die on the jets. I knew we would never kill any of our characters. So this felt like if we’re going to ever blow up the jet, it’s got to be now. It was weirdly sad when we were all watching it. Like, Oh my God, there’s our jet!
Did everyone talk in the writers’ room about what they wanted to do next?
We did. Some people love telling procedural stories and especially serial killer stories. So some plan to keep pursuing that. Others like myself wanted to step away from it a little bit and look for the light in the world instead of all this darkness. But everybody who’s been on this show has an incredible skill set that we can’t ignore. It’s the skill set of being able to tell a mystery and being able to tell a character-driven procedural. It’s been a lot of fun.