'Criminal Minds' EP Erica Messer shares how difficult it was to write Hotch out of the police procedural
If fans had a lot to process in terms of the slew of changes that the seemingly tight Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) underwent this season, the "Criminal Minds" boss assures that they did everything they can do to make the transition as easy as possible.
On top of Shemar Moore's departure in season 11, capped with a fitting farewell to Derek Morgan, an unexpected onset altercation also prompted the team to lose their unit chief Hotch, as Thomas Gibson was eventually fired from the show. That left Messer and her team scrambling to fill out the gaps in the otherwise tight team and while newbie Adam Rodriguez's Luke Alvez is already parked for a vacant slot, Hotch's post is still left empty.
While the writer's room, fortunately, was able to spin the story in a way that the returning Prentiss (Paget Brewster) will be taking over leader duties, another glaring plot hole still looms â€” Why did Hotch suddenly disappear? Messer was able to find help with frequent collaborator and "Criminal Minds" cast Matthew Gray Gubler who plays Reid in coming up with an acceptable reason for the Unit Chief to suddenly abandon his team.
"Given what was in front of us â€” I wrote that and Matthew directed it â€” it was done with such love and care for the history of the show and that character and the hero that he is and will continue to be, in the eyes of the team and most importantly the eyes of his son. He gave up being an American hero to be a hero to Jack, and I do feel proud of that," Messer told TVLine in an extensive chit-chat about the all the changes in the police procedural and how it will impact the show moving forward.
It is important to note that with that way Hotch was written over the years and the kind of predicament that he was subjected, "Criminal Minds" has a small window of possibility which he might choose something over his job. Back in season 5, he had his first wife gunned down in front of him by the Boston Reaper (C. Thomas Howell), which left him to raise Jack by himself. But despite all of this, he continues to show up at the office for almost every case.
"It's the safest possible route, because what wasn't safe was trying to live a normal life, having Scratch show up at Jack's school. The second that happened, Hotch is like, 'I'm out.' That felt real to us," Messer added referring to having Hotch finally giving up his badge when Jack is tailed by the ongoing season's big baddie, Mr. Scratch (Bodhi Elfman). Just like George Foyet, the veteran profiler has a storied history with Peter Lewis and his fear of deja vu forcing him to make a hard choice only makes sense.
As for everything that is left off-camera, Messer admits that she cannot disclose much due to some legal proceedings regarding the altercation involving Gibson and a long-time "Criminal Minds" writer, Virgil Williams. That being said, she arguably shares the same sentiments that most long-time fans felt about losing Hotch as one of the main gameplayer of the show.
"Personally, I was really sad writing the episode where I had to say goodbye [to the character], because I knew that no matter what you do, it's never going to be perfect. You're not going to please everyone, especially when you don't have the face there to say goodbye to," she admitted.