Will Criminal Minds Survive Without Mandy Patinkin?

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Our good friend Jill at ‘Criminal Minds Fanatic’ broke the exclusive news from Criminal Minds executive producer Ed Bernero that Mandy Patinkin has left the show.

What does this mean for Criminal Minds? Going into its third season, Criminal Minds has consistently been growing stronger. It’s the kind of show that gets under your skin—in the best and creepiest way possible—but also has you loving the characters and caring what happens to them. That’s why the absence of a main character like Mandy Patinkin is leaving so many question marks circling Criminal Minds.

At the beginning of the second season, Lola Glaudini, who played Elle Greenaway, left the show and was replaced by Paget Brewster’s character, Emily Prentiss. It’s safe to say that most fans (myself included) were devastated at the loss of Greenaway, and therefore took a long time in warming up to Prentiss. Now, Prentiss has become an integral part of the Criminal Minds team, proved herself to the viewers, and in return has gotten fans to rally around her. Will the same happen with Mandy Patinkin’s replacement? Will we be able to love that new character?

It may be harder in this instance, as Patinkin’s character, Jason Gideon, is the role model on the show. He’s the one that the other characters look up to. Thus, as fans, we looked up to him as well. In essence, the fans are also losing their mentor with Patinkin’s departure. Patinkin himself, with his lengthy acting experience and impressive resume, is also a superstar to the cast. As Kirsten Vangsness, who plays Penelope Garcia, once said to me, “When you act with Mandy, you just rise to the occasion.” Can we—the fans, the BAU team, and the cast—bounce back? I’m going to say yes.

As much as the characters on Criminal Minds are essential to the show, they are not the central storyline of each episode. The episodes focus on a crime, an unsub (unknown subject), and the BAU team getting inside the criminal’s head to solve the crime.

As executive producer, Simon Mirren, explained to me, it is not their purpose to make a member of the BAU team the spotlight in each episode, saying that it would feel forced if the show delved into each of their specific stories every week.

Keep in mind, the cast is still a pivotal part of the show. But as long as they aren’t replacing the entire main cast, then I think the show will carry on just fine. Yes, Patinkin’s Jason Gideon is the leader of the pack, but Thomas Gibson’s Aaron Hotchner plays Gideon’s professional peer. Hotch can easily slide into Patinkin’s father figure role and keep the team together.

It’s also important to note that since Criminal Minds is going into its third season, the story and the cast have well established themselves. While some viewers may have first tuned in to the show due to Patinkin’s role, fans have grown to love the rest of the cast, and Criminal Minds has proved itself as an ensemble show. Mandy Patinkin is not the only driving force of Criminal Minds. Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, Paget Brewster, Mathew Gray Gubler, Kirsten Vangsness and A.J. Cook are equally significant.

Of course, the writers have their work cut out for them in writing Jason Gideon out of the show and bringing a new character in. And, casting Patinkin’s replacement will be a tough task as well. Trying to find an exact replica of Gideon would be a disappointment to fans. Let Hotch, with his identity already established, fill that position, and find a completely original role for this new character to jump into. The fans don’t want to be introduced to a new character and think, “Oh so this is Gideon’s replacement,” because no one will be up to par. Instead, give fans a whole new character that is simply that—a new character joining the BAU team.

And hey, good for Prentiss: she won’t have to be the newbie anymore!

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