Criminal Minds has become a staple of network television in the past two decades. It has put itself up there with the likes of Law & Order and CSI. The series has been running for more than 16 years after being canceled a couple of years ago when its spin-off shows didn’t meet the required viewership. The show is back once again, but this time on streaming, with a new number of episodes and an overarching plot that will keep us on our toes for the entire season. Criminal Minds: Evolution is now available on Paramount+.
Criminal Minds: Evolution continues to be produced by Erica Messer and Breen Frazier and stars Joe Mantegna, Paget Brewster, A.J. Cook, Kirsten Vangsness, Aisha Tyler, and Adam Rodriguez. This season focuses on the aftermath of the last season, and how David and his team try to rebuild from those losses. At the same time, a new network of serial killers seems to have been built during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are executing their plans at the moment. Matthew Gray Gubler and Daniel Henney don’t return for the revival. At least not for this season.
Procedural shows are pure popcorn entertainment. The structure and the formula have been proven time and time again with several degrees of success. Some shows manage to cling to people’s minds and run for decades, while others crash and burn in a matter of episodes. It is a hard genre to work with, you have to basically create hundreds of stories that can finish in a matter of 45 minutes, but also try to build the characters in the background.
The characters are the real life and soul of the show. The cases can be interesting, but they are only watchable and compelling because of the people involved in solving them. Criminal Minds: Evolution manages to bring almost the entire cast back, and that is great. If they had only managed to bring a few characters back, it would have felt like a waste of time. Mantegna and the rest of the cast slip back into their characters in a very natural way, and there are some cool developments with David that might lead to a compelling arc in future episodes.
However, Matthew Gray Gubler and Daniel Henney who played the characters of Dr. Spencer Reid, and Matt Simmons respectively, don’t come back for this revival. It is a shame because both of them were fan favorites. The show doesn’t even name them and just moves on. It doesn’t seem like the door for their comeback is closed, but their absence is felt in the team’s dynamic. Nevertheless, the show manages to still have the fun interactions that the audience has come to love from these characters.
The cases follow the same structure as always. Each new case involves some serious creepy affairs, and our heroes follow the same modus operandi as always, being more reactive than anything else. There is no reason to change the formula, as it has worked for many, many years. But now that the series has found its way to a streaming service, it might allow itself to be more experimental, at least for a tiny bit. There is nothing wrong with keeping things the way they are, but changing things might also bring new people to the table.
In terms of visuals, the production hasn’t really changed anything. Criminal Minds: Evolution looks exactly like any other network TV show. This is one of the things that might have changed between moving from network to streaming without having to mess with the narrative formula, but producers decided to keep things just the same. So, if you don’t like the cheapness and the way network TV is shot, then this might not be the starting point for you in the franchise if you are not already committed to the characters.
The most interesting aspect of this Criminal Minds: Evolution iteration of the franchise is the overarching plot involving a master serial killer who during the pandemic, has been teaching others how to do the job. It is a concept that is incredibly creepy, and it might not be so far from reality, especially in this day and age when everybody can basically connect through the internet, for good, and for evil as well. The identity of the master serial killer is revealed very early on, and this adds a layer of tension that feels very welcome. Criminal Minds: Evolution feels dangerous once again.
In the end, Criminal Minds: Evolution brings back everything that made the show successful in the first place. It brings back the classic structure and most of the original cast that remained with the show in its closing season, and it also brings back that entertainment factor that makes this genre so watchable. There are some changes, of course, and some fan favorites don’t return for this iteration, but the cast and the production team maneuver around these shortcomings, and the show still comes out on top. If you missed Criminal Minds, they are back once again.