Fans have been holding out hope all season that Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) would return to Criminal Minds somewhere in the show’s final 10 episodes. With the two-part series finale airing Wednesday, February 19 on CBS, read on to find out if he came back for one last appearance, but be warned of light spoilers from episodes 9 and 10, “Face Off” and “And in the End.”
SPOILER WARNING: Don’t keep reading if you care about being spoiled for the series finale.
Derek Morgan Came Back… Kind Of
In an effort to feature several cast members who have graced the show over the years, the series finale featured flashbacks to past episodes. The set-up was that Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) sustained a brain injury during an explosion in episode 9, when the team was trying to bring down The Chameleon (Michael Mosley). After passing out, Reid experienced a dream-like state where he interacts with past cast members.
First, he found himself watching a scene from the season one finale, “The Fisher King Part 1,” which featured Gideon (Mandy Patinkin), Hotch (Thomas Gibson), Morgan (Shemar Moore), and Elle (Lola Glaudini) talking with one another. Patinkin left the show after one season and Glaudini was written out in season two. Moore chose to leave in March 2016 and Gibson was fired from the show later that same year after an on-set altercation with a producer.
Then later, at Rossi’s (Joe Mantegna) retirement party, Rossi took a minute to remember hosting Will (Josh Stewart)and JJ’s (A.J. Cook) wedding in the season 7 finale ” ,” and the show used footage of Morgan and Hotch celebrating with their colleagues as a way to show those characters again in the series finale.
So Criminal Minds found a way to “bring back” some of the past characters without actually bringing them back. What showrunner Erica Messer had previously said about the final season was that she wanted to “honor the history of the series in some way that is satisfying for all of us” and she told Parade in a pre-season interview that they felt like bringing Moore back in particular would take viewers out of the story they were telling in the series finale.
“He’d been back a few times and by the time the finale rolls around, it’s all hands-on deck to save the day. It felt to bring him in would be taking us out of the velocity of that story,” said Messer. “But that said, in the finale we do have flashbacks where you see the history of the series. You definitely will see all those people who have come and gone that we love.”
But Some Characters Actually Did Come Back
While unconscious, Reid found himself actually interacting with a couple familiar faces. The first was the late BAU Section Chief Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) and the second was Reid’s foe from seasons 4 and 5, The Reaper (C. Thomas Howell).
Finally, after he was hospitalized, Reid was visited by his mother, Diana, who has been a recurring character played by Jane Lynch for nine episodes over the years. It was nice for the two of them to have a final scene together because their relationship has been so fraught over the years. In fact, at the start of the season, Messer told Parade that they felt like they had to bring Lynch back in order to bring Reid’s story full circle.
“We definitely brought back Jane Lynch to try to round out her story with Reid,” said Messer, adding, “I think the fans of the show know it’s about the characters, and the team, and the heroes fighting the darkness.”
Criminal Minds’ final two episodes air Wednesday, February 19 beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.