Back in 2016, a fan-favorite actor and character took a bow on Criminal Minds when Shemar Moore’s Derek Morgan left behind his life of chasing after dangerous killers in order to be with his wife (Rochelle Aytes) and new baby son. With the final season of the popular CBS show kicking off Wednesday, January 8, fans are wondering if — and hoping! — that they’ll see Morgan return for the CBS show’s final season.
Here’s why we think he might come back.
Moore’s Exit Was Amicable
Since Moore left the series under friendly circumstances, a return is not out of the question. He told TV Guide back in 2016 that he simply felt like it was time to move on and the producers supported his decision — and he even said that he would be open to returning.
“I’m just ready to grow. I just want to leap. And I don’t know where I’m going to land, but I believe that I’m going to land. … I’m not leaving to go be a big star. I’m not leaving to go make a bunch of money. … I’m leaving because I just creatively want to be fueled and [am] excited to try new things and see what else I’m capable of,” said Moore.
He added, “[Executive producer] Erica Messer refused to kill Derek Morgan. Those elevator doors closed. Am I going to sign a long-term contract? Probably not. But if they ask me to come back and dance, yes, I would be willing to do that. [But] not right away.”
He Has Returned Before
And return Moore did, for a guest-starring appearance in the fall of 2017. But whether he’ll return for the final season is still a mystery. In January 2019, Messer was vague about just who they would try to get back for the swan song.
“I am very hopeful that we can honor all of those characters who have been beloved and with this team, with the audience for years, but I don’t know what that’s going to look like; I don’t know the logistics of anything or the story. That won’t be shooting until the spring, so I have some time to think about it, but the hope is to be able to honor all of that history, all of those heroes who have come and gone,” Messer told Deadline.
It Is More Likely Moore Returns Than Thomas Gibson
Interestingly, fans are also hoping to see Aaron Hotchner return for the final season, though actor Thomas Gibson left Criminal Minds under very different circumstances than Moore did. Gibson was fired from the show in August 2016 after an on-set altercation with a producer. At the time, Gibson released a statement thanking the show for his time there, but it still isn’t quite the same way Moore exited the show.
“I love Criminal Minds and have put my heart and soul into it for the last twelve years. I had hoped to see it through to the end, but that won’t be possible now. I would just like to say thank you to the writers, producers, actors, our amazing crew, and, most importantly, the best fans that a show could ever hope to have,” said Gibson’s statement at the time.
It remains to be seen if either actor will appear for the final season. But fans can look forward to the reappearance of Jane Lynch as Reid’s (Matthew Gray Gubler) mom, Diana, and also Rachael Leigh Cook joining the show as Reid’s love interest.
Now, Messer did tell TVLine in a recent interview that Moore is not returning, saying, “I’ve been asked if Shemar [Moore] is coming back [as Derek Morgan], and it’s no. He’s very busy shooting S.W.A.T. Again, I wanted to be able to acknowledge the history of the series, certainly in that finale, and was able to do it in a different way.”
But it feels like the show would want to try to keep his return a secret as a surprise for fans, so don’t count Moore out just yet.
The final season of Criminal Minds premieres Wednesday, January 8 with back-to-back episodes beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
READ NEXT: How to watch ‘FBI: Most Wanted’ Online