Darker, Twisted, and Better Than the Original

Dec 26, 2022

The sudden end of the long-standing Criminal Minds, which aired on CBS for 15 seasons, was devastating. With, in this writer’s opinion, the best team in the show’s history in the last few seasons — Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster), Jennifer “JJ” Jareau (AJ Cook), Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler), Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney), Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), Luke Alvez (Adam Rodriguez), David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), and fan-favorite Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) — and no shortage of interesting stories and dynamics to explore, the end came far too soon for these beloved BAU profilers. Thankfully, the Paramount+ revival Criminal Minds: Evolution has picked things back up with most of the team, but don’t expect this to be the same show you left behind.

After viewing the first two episodes of the season, the “evolution” in the title seems incredibly fitting. That is precisely what this revival is. Without strict network boundaries to work within, the series is expanding in major and satisfying ways. From the longer length of episodes to the much bigger, somewhat serialized story of a group of killers working together, Criminal Minds is making the most of its new life and succeeding at doing so. The revival is new and improved, shaking up a few vital aspects of the series to tell deeper, darker, and more exciting stories.

RELATED: The 18 Best ‘Criminal Minds’ Episodes, Ranked

Image via Paramount+

As we catch up with the profilers, it’s impossible to ignore how much has changed over the last few years. Reid and Simmons are gone on assignment, kept secret from the team by the powers above them, promising they are free to return if and when they decide to — fairly representative of the real-world situation. JJ and Will (Josh Stewart) are struggling to find their footing again with their hectic schedules. Tara has gone in a new direction romantically, while Prentiss has accepted a promotion to Unit Chief that has taken her out of the field in an attempt to help her department do their jobs to the best of their ability amidst exceptional and mind-boggling bureaucratic interference.

No one has experienced quite as much change (at least thus far) as Rossi and Garcia. Rossi is a wreck when things pick back up, having experienced a profound change in his life during our time away that has completely turned his life upside down. While he’s the new leader of the BAU, he’s becoming obsessed with their cases and shutting out the world. He’s particularly preoccupied with the recent murder of a family as he desperately tries to put the pieces together before the killer strikes again, all as a distraction from his own feelings. On the other hand, Garcia has put her serial killer hunting days behind her since she left the BAU, focusing more on letting light and positivity into her life. She has no interest in returning to her former team but begins to be sucked back in when the project she has been working on in her time away becomes a vital part of the investigation.

As a whole, the Behavior Analysis Unit looks quite a bit different after the FBI decided to change up its way of doing things. Instead of being a cohesive team, they’ve been split into several directions and tasked with solving different crimes as micro-teams to maintain peak efficiency. When the revival begins, Tara is on her own in Yakima County, Washington, digging into a cold case that piques quite a bit of interest. Rossi is dealing with the above-mentioned case alone. Luke is heading up the department back at Quantico, filling in for Rossi whenever he’s relatively unreachable. Meanwhile, JJ is just getting back from looking into a different case on her own.

Image via Paramount+

It takes a bit of time to get used to the new normal, but the writers have excitingly developed the characters in the time away. Everyone is on a new path now, though it’s easy to see how they should, eventually, come back together to be the team we once knew. Altogether, there’s a heightened focus on the characters as individuals, which is something that was always sorely lacking when the series was on CBS. There was never enough time to tell the stories of serial killers and dig into the characters on a personal level in every single episode, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue now with more time at their disposal (even if there are fewer episodes).

Criminal Minds has always told mind-boggling, twisted stories of fictional serial killers that consistently lead to unexpected places. This hasn’t changed on the revival. But, what has changed is how they’re going about it. There’s still the case-of-the-week aspect, but as teased in the description for the season, it’s all connected to a network of serial killers started by the devious Elias Voit (played by Friday Night Lights and The Midnight Club’s Zach Gilford). From the very beginning, we are watching the evolution of this horrifying individual and how he has become one of the most prolific serial killers the BAU has ever been tasked with hunting. So, while there’s still the gratification of finding a killer at the end of an episode, the serialized storytelling continues… which allows the series to do so much more.

We’ve seen it before with season-long villains like Mr. Scratch (Bodhi Elfman), who feels somehow remarkably similar to Elias, but it hasn’t had quite the same effect because those stories were forced to build in a very scattered manner. With Criminal Minds: Evolution, each episode picks up with the story from the last and continues to develop it, ultimately giving the writers more power and no need to somehow find a way to write off their season-long villain in the interim. It allows the viewer to stay invested in the overarching story with fewer distractions, which can only increase the eventual payoff of the profilers finally catching this nefarious villain.

Image via Paramount+

After only two episodes, it’s impossible to say anything as if it’s matter-of-fact. There are still eight more in the first season of Criminal Minds: Evolution that could completely change things up again. However, the series is on a great path so far. The characters we have come to love over the years are back, the BAU is together again, and there’s a great, winding story to accompany the reunion. Plus, a new life on streaming allows the show to be darker, more twisted (without getting too gruesome), and ultimately far more realistic. An interview with a suspect in the premiere episode is the most genuine on the series to date and is one of the first examples of everything that stands to be gained from embracing this new path forward.

Overall, it’s a joy to have Criminal Minds back again in any form. Positive change is in store, even if circumstances aren’t the best for the characters upon our return to their lives after witnessing their “happily ever after” in the series finale on CBS. Evolution feels true to who each of them is and provides the opportunity for more of everything that people loved about the original show. It’s clear that the actors are happy to be back, and the writers have even more sadistic and perverse stories of serial killers to tell.

Rating: B

Criminal Minds: Evolution premieres with its first two episodes November 24 on Paramount+.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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