After Thomas Gibson’s less-than-auspicious exit from Criminal Minds, the minds behind the show have been very tight-lipped about his departure. Outside of some very official and diplomatic comments regarding the physical altercation between Gibson and a producer that got the actor suspended and later fired from the show, not much has been said about the exit. Now in a lengthy interview with TV Guide, Criminal Minds showrunner Erica Messer opened up about Gibson’s exit, how she felt writing Hotch out of the show and whether we could ever see the character again.
In the interview Messer is very honest about the fact that the situation is far from ideal and like many fans, she is not particularly happy that Hotch had to be written out of the show. Season 12 in general has been a bit of problem for Messer and crew. Before the altercation, Hotch was supposed to be a big part of season 12. This is not even to mention that the show was already adjusting to Shemar Moore’s (much more amicable) exit at the end of season 11.
“You think you can prepare for anything and yet you get curveballs thrown your way. Season 12 has been that,” Messer explained. “But the cast, crew, writers and producers have all come together to keep the show on the track and keep everything moving ahead and keep telling entertaining stories for everybody. It’s been hard, but sometimes those immediate things end up being lessons that you can learn from.”
Messer struggled with how to write Hotch out of the show given her big plans for the character in season 12. She ultimately decided on having him enter witness protection to help save his son, Jack, from Mr. Scratch. Messer talked about the decision saying, “I think for all of us who love Hotch, we would say he was an amazing team leader, but he was also an amazing father. He’s had so much tragedy since we’ve known him that he would not risk losing his life again or his son’s life for the job anymore. He’s the hero and he’s amazing, but at the same time, he would never let Jack be an orphan. That was how I came at it.”
Messer added, “Without having a chance to see Thomas again to physically write out the character, I felt like something massive had to have happened while we claimed he was off doing temporary duty. That was because, being a protective leader, he didn’t want his work family to get dragged into this and for them to possibly get hurt … He’s certainly a big hero to Jack and that’s really important, and showing the strength of being of a father and a single father at that.”
Messer admits there was discussion about Hotch being killed off, even in as something as simple and random as a car crash, because people die like that all the time in reality. “I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it but I certainly have — where a family member’s died in a car crash and you can’t really process that because it was an accident and you were just going to see that person,” Messer explained. Ultimately though she decided it was better if Hotch was written off and allowed to be a father to Jack, off-screen.
“It is what it is and allowed us to say goodbye to him, knowing he’s off being a dad to Jack, and that seemed to feel good for everybody,” Messer said.
Since Hotch is alive, however, there will always be hope that the character could come back at some point. Sadly, Messer is not very optimistic that Gibson could come back to the show, even so Criminal Minds can physically say goodbye to Hotch. Messer admitted there are no discussions currently happening to bring Gibson back to the show in any capacity.
“It’s hard to do those kinds of things,” Messer elaborated talking about Gibson’s return. “I think you saw that with Mandy (Patinkin) and we were never able to see him again. If the show goes on 10 more years, who the heck knows? But there’s nothing I can think about right now because it’s not in the immediate future.”
So what do you think? Are you still upset that Hotch has been written off the show? How do you think Criminal Minds handled the character’s exit? Would have been better to kill him off? Do you think Gibson will ever return to the show?
Criminal Minds season 12 airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)