Recently, CBS announced that Daniel Henney (who starred in the recently canceled Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) will be joining Criminal Minds season 13 as a series regular. This announcement was made only a week after we learned that Damon Gupton’s character Stephen Walker will not be back for season 13. So what’s with all the rotating characters? Criminal Minds is still wildly successful, but isn’t anyone else tired of this revolving door? I sure am.
Personally, I think Criminal Minds can survive without these additional characters and furthermore, that the show (and the fans) would be better off for it.
The Core Cast
While the series, like any, has lost some of its original cast, the majority of the team is still intact. Reid, JJ and Garcia have been on the show since season 1. Rossi has starred since season 3, and Prentiss, while gone for a few seasons, is back as not only a series regular, but the unit chief.
One of the things that makes this series so strong and long-lasting is the relationships between these original cast members. If you’ve been watching the series for 13 years, you know it’s not just about the murder and mayhem, it’s also about the interaction between the members of the team.
Since these characters have been on the show for so long, we know them, we love them and we follow their storylines, no matter what happens. There’s something comforting about watching the same characters for so long. Additionally, each of the characters from the (more or less) original team has a very specific role on the team and a very specific personality. These things create the dynamic of the team and keep the audience interested and engaged with the series.
So, with such a strong (and large) original cast, why do the showrunners insist on cycling these additional team members in and out?
The Revolving Door Characters
Who’s come and gone in the past five seasons? Great question. And I’ll be honest, I had to look them all up because I couldn’t actually remember all of the character or actor names. They’re that forgettable. But anyway, in seasons 8 and 9, the BAU had Alex Blake, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn. She departed at the end of season 9. Then, in season 10, Jennifer Love Hewitt played Kate Callahan; she only lasted that season.
Aisha Tyler came on as a recurring cast member for season 11 as Dr. Tara Lewis. After Thomas Gibson was removed from the cast for season 12, Tyler was upgraded to series regular. Season 12 also brought on Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez, Damon Gupton as Stephen Walker and Paget Brewster returned to series regular as Emily Prentiss.
Sounds like the BAU has a lot of turnover, huh?
The problem with these characters is not only that they don’t last very long (which is definitely an issue) but also they’re all the same. Because the characters come and go so fast, there’s nothing special about them. You don’t get an opportunity to know them and when a new one comes in, you don’t see the point in becoming invested in their character.
In addition, when all of these characters cycle through, they never develop a true and believable relationship with the other team members and any bonding that does occur feels forced. Even when the writers and producers try to make you care about these characters by devoting a “backstory” episode to them, it never really seems to click. When characters come and go so quickly, not only do they not have the opportunity to get in well with the current team, but they also don’t get in with the audience.
After all, who remembers now what Alex Blake’s “deal” was? As an avid watcher of this show, I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t. With everything else going on in the show, it’s difficult to remember a character who came and went and didn’t have much overall significance.
This all begs my question: why bother?
The Ones That Have Worked
This might be a partial answer to my objection to adding new characters and replacing them again and again when they leave. In the past two seasons, the show has found two additional characters who have worked.
So what made these characters work while others didn’t?
I have a few theories. With Dr. Lewis, they didn’t throw her at you all at once. She was a recurring character in season 11 and there were a few episodes that focused on her, but it wasn’t in your face all the time. It’s almost like they snuck her in while you weren’t looking, and before you knew it, you were like: “Oh, yeah, she’s part of the team.”
I also think part of what has made Dr. Lewis successful is that she helped fill a huge void on the team when Thomas Gibson left. While she didn’t replace Gibson per se, her character helped fill a large void by simply being there and participating in the team on a series regular basis.
Additionally, Alvez’s character seems to fit perfectly in the hole left by Shemar Moore’s character, Derek Morgan. Morgan was on the show since the beginning and he was certainly a fan favorite. While his leaving was difficult for a lot of fans, Alvez fills his position in many ways. How, you ask? Like Morgan, Alvez is handsome, charismatic, charming, athletic and he has that sense of manly toughness. Even more, Alvez seems to be developing a special relationship with Garcia, which was a trademark of Morgan’s character. While they’re not one in the same, I think Alvez has been the most successful recent addition to the Criminal Minds cast because he perfectly balances replacing a character with bringing something new to the mix.
The Verdict: What Will Happen in Season 13?
It comes down to this: with the successful additions of Lewis and Alvez and a stacked team of seven people, does Criminal Minds need to continue this cycle of replacing characters?
I say no.
Even if Rodriguez or Tyler were to leave the show, the remaining characters (most of whom have been there since the beginning) would keep the show just as successful and interesting for audiences.
This leads me to question why the showrunners felt the need to replace Damon Gupton with Daniel Henney. Gupton’s Walker was an alright-enough character … but with the strength of the team as it stands, I don’t see any need to replace him. I don’t think losing him takes away that much from the show and I’m not sure how much Daniel Henney will be able to bring.
Nevertheless, I’ll be tuning in. While I may be tired of the revolving door characters, I’ll never get tired of the thrilling and sometimes horrifying storylines. If they haven’t turned me off after 13 years, they would have to do something drastic to turn me off now.
The season 13 premiere of Criminal Minds will air on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 10/9c on CBS. Want to keep up with the show? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page!
(Images courtesy of CBS)