This post contains spoilers for episodes 1-5 of Criminal Minds: Evolution.
I’ve been a fan of Criminal Minds since its first episode over 15 years ago. When CBS decided to bring it back, I was thrilled. But last month, when they set off a bomb that supposedly killed JJ and Luke, and then said “TO BE CONTINUED… NEW EPISODES RETURN JANUARY 12”, I groaned audibly.
Not because I had to wait until January 12 — although, quite honestly, the point of midseason finales for streaming shows escapes me — but because by creating a cliffhanger the writers have basically told me that, in no uncertain terms, JJ and Luke will survive. Oh, sure, they made us think JJ would die because first Will’s cancer scare turned out not to be cancer and then JJ didn’t tell him she was going into a dangerous situation despite promising earlier that day to do so (which would make the explosion the third beat), but putting a month in between shows doesn’t work anymore.
Back in Ye Olde Dayes of Televisione, cliffhangers at the end of a season were expected, because there was no internet and the showrunners needed to keep us talking. After the end of season 3 of Star Trek: The Next Generation, my dad and I spent all summer arguing (in a positive way) over what we thought would happen when the show came back. Then someone came up with the concept of a “midseason finale”, probably to take advantage of sweeps. Nowadays, though, people are going to talk about the shows on the internet no matter what, so there’s no need to create long gaps between cliffhanger episodes. Plus, CM:E is a streaming show, so it’s not beholden to the old ratings systems.
Adding “TO BE CONTINUED…” was bad enough — usually after a cliffhanger episode, whoever the main character(s) are who are in peril, they’ll usually come through okay. If the show had just faded out and gone to credits, and then come back next week, I might have actually believed JJ and/or Luke could die. (Not that they really need to fridge the series’s one Latinx actor, but.) However, by giving me a midseason finale cliffhanger, the show took away all of the tension. I know that, when I tune in to Paramount Plus later today, I’ll find out that JJ and Luke are injured but generally fine, and within a couple of days (show time, not actual time) they’ll be back on the job.
I’d love to be wrong. I’d love to see a legacy network show kill two main characters off permanently. Not that the fan in me wants JJ or Luke to die, but the writer in me would appreciate the shock value. It won’t be the Red Wedding, but it’ll be something different.
(I know this post wasn’t about spanking, but sometimes I have other things I want to talk about.)