The upcoming Criminal Minds reboot makes a great case about finally bringing Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) back to the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), but it isn’t as simple as doing that. It has just been two years since the FBI’s specialized unit wrapped up its run on CBS, and yet the profilers are already set to make their television return via the Paramount+ revival. Officially titled Criminal Minds: Evolution, it’s also the perfect opportunity to reunite Hotch with his old unit. Deciding and executing his possible return is quite complicated considering how Gibson left the series.
Gibson was fired from Criminal Minds at the start of season 12 following an on-set altercation. The actor’s departure was abrupt, luckily, it was able to explain his sudden absence without the need for an on-screen farewell. Apparently, Hotch entered the witness protection program in light of Mr. Scratch’s (Bodhi Elfman) escape. After the dangerous UnSub was killed, he decided to stay retired and devote his time to raising his kid. It has been six years since Hotch left and was replaced by Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) as the new BAU chief. While she has done a great job leading the team, the state of the team coming to the Criminal Minds reboot proves that it needs Hotch.
When the BAU returns Criminal Minds: Evolution, they will be understaffed, and Hotch is the best candidate to join the team for its latest case. Both SSA Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney) and Doctor Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) won’t be involved in this new endeavor, leaving only five profilers working on the matter. Although the BAU has operated in worse circumstances before, they are also up against a significantly more capable serial criminal, and they’re not only dealing with a single individual but a whole network. Recruiting additional members is an option, but it may be more difficult to do this. Firstly, the BAU is once again under pressure from the FBI higher-ups which will be Prentiss’ primary arc in the Criminal Minds revival. Secondly, it will also take longer to sift through candidates and get them acclimated to how the BAU works. Considering the urgency of the case, bringing back Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner for the Criminal Minds might be the most practical way to fill in the vacant spots on the team.
Can Thomas Gibson’s Hotch Really Return To Criminal Minds?
In terms of narrative, there really isn’t anything stopping Hotch from returning in Criminal Minds season 16. Mr. Scratch is dead. Meanwhile, his son would be a teenager by now which means he no longer needs as much supervision and family time. If Paramount really wanted to, it would be fairly easy to reincorporate the former BAU chief into the team. Gibson’s return will ultimately be decided by the production team working on the Criminal Minds reboot. Based on the official crew list, it doesn’t seem like the producer that the actor had an on-set altercation is part of the upcoming streaming project. That doesn’t guarantee that he can be brought back, but it makes it easier if they decide to. It’s worth noting, however, that after multiple set kerfuffles and with clear anger management issues, the new revival, Criminal Minds: Evolution shouldn’t bring Gibson back without addressing his past problems. There needs to be evidence that he has worked through these past issues and proof that similar issues will not be likely to happen again. Alternatively, Paramount could easily opt to just recast Hotch. That way, they wouldn’t have to deal with Gibson’s baggage but are still able to utilize his character in their storytelling.
For now, the main Criminal Minds reboot cast only has five profilers. Showrunner Erica Messer did say that they have a couple of big surprise guests lined up for the Paramount show. All kinds of cameos will be appreciated, but arguably the best ones will be from familiar faces, including Hotch (even if he has a new face).
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Criminal Minds: Evolution will premiere with a two-episode special on Thursday, November 24 on Paramount+.