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The Biggest Revelations In Criminal Minds: Evolution

"Criminal Minds: Evolution" can probably claim the title of quickest series revival in TV history. The original show, which aired on CBS, ran for a grand total of 15 seasons and only concluded in 2020 — so when it was announced the following year that a new chapter was in the works, there was a considerable amount of confusion among fans. How different would the new show be from the original? Would all of our favorite characters return? Viewers had a lot of questions, along with a few of their own ideas for how the new series should go down.

There was also the question of how they were going to address the events that happened in the Season 15 finale (which a number of fans already had their issues with). JJ (A.J. Cook) and Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) both announced at the end of the season that they would be leaving the BAU — Garcia was too traumatized by the job and JJ was moving to New Orleans with her family — something that would clearly need to be addressed. It was also revealed that neither Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) nor Simmons (Daniel Henney) would be returning for the new series.

With all of that uncertainty, fans have been understandably concerned about how the reboot will turn out. Luckily, the wait is finally over, and so far, the reboot has answered a lot of our questions — like whether the characters will swear — while posing a few more. Keep reading to discover the biggest revelations in "Criminal Minds: Evolution."

The team has been split up

One of the biggest shockers in "Criminal Minds: Evolution" has to do with the state of the BAU. Though the end of Season 15 already saw changes afoot for the team, things at Quantico have changed quite a bit since we last checked in. At the start of the episode, we find our remaining team members working on several cases at once. Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler) is in Washington state working on a case involving several bodies that were found in a shipping container. Rossi (Joe Mantegna) is in Virginia working on the case of a supposed family annihilator, and JJ and Alvez (Adam Rodríguez) are holding down the fort back at HQ. Emily (Paget Brewster) is also around, but she's no longer a "wheels up" kinda gal.

The fact that the team has essentially been split up is pretty surprising, being that the team dynamic is one of the most beloved aspects of the series. It's clearly not something anyone on the team enjoys either, as Tara has to work all alone on the other side of the country and Rossi's developed a dangerous obsession with the case he's working on. Luckily, it looks like the rest of the season will see the gang (minus a few) back together again, as their separate cases might not be so separate at all.

Garcia helped create a social media site

The finale of the original "Criminal Minds" saw Penelope Garcia make the decision to finally quit the BAU. She'd been through a lot over the course of the series — her near-death experience in Season 3 continued to have an effect on her — in addition to having a difficult upbringing following the death of her parents. It made a lot of sense that she'd leave the BAU, considering how traumatizing the job had been for her.

In the first episode of "Criminal Minds: Evolution" we were thrilled to see that Garcia has been thriving since leaving the BAU. She's been hosting group baking sessions at her house, meditating, and she even helped create a social media site called Soar that gives young people a safe place to connect online. According to Garcia, she wrote a very complicated-sounding encryption software that makes the network totally unhackable. Garcia's foray into the tech world makes a lot of sense, and her involvement with Soar aligns perfectly with her passion for digital security and keeping young people safe.

As she tells Rossi in the second episode of the series, she thrived during the pandemic, as she started working on herself and going to therapy (she advises Rossi to do the same). Her decision to leave the BAU was an important step in setting boundaries for herself, and her involvement with Soar seems to have put her in a much better mental place than she was when we last saw her.

Rossi suffered a devastating personal loss

Rossi announced in the "Criminal Minds" finale that he had actually decided not to retire, so it's no surprise that he's still working at the BAU when we find him in the new series. What is surprising is the state he's in. When we first see Rossi he's living out of a hotel and doesn't seem to be making any effort to take care of himself. He's snappy with colleagues — including Garcia, who promptly shuts down the video call when he raises his voice at her — which isn't like Rossi at all, and his obsession with the case is veering into dangerous territory.

We're pretty sure we know what's up with Rossi by the end of the premiere, and our suspicions are confirmed by the second episode. While trying to talk down a victim on the verge of suicide, Rossi reveals that his wife Krystall (Gail O'Grady) died a year ago, and he's been struggling to stay above water ever since. He seems to be counseling himself as much as he's counseling the young woman, and it's clear that Rossi hasn't quite taken his own advice yet.

As Prentiss suggests to him earlier, grief isn't something he should have to deal with on his own, though it's clear that's what he's been doing all this time. Luckily, it seems like Rossi might finally be ready to work through his grief and start living again, as he checks out of the depressing hotel he's been living in at the end of Episode 2.

Garcia is (temporarily) back at the BAU

Out of all the questions we had coming into the new series, perhaps the biggest was how Garcia would end up back at the BAU. She seemed very confident in her decision to leave the FBI, something which seemed like it would be a really great change for her going forward. So when it was made clear that she would be returning for "Criminal Minds: Evolution," fans were perplexed.

The reason Garcia eventually makes her way back to the team is because of the social media app she helped create, Soar. As she mentions in the first episode, the site is totally unhackable because of how strong her encryption is, so when the team tells her they suspect one of their unsubs is using it to stalk his victims, she doesn't believe it. She also initially refuses to help with the case because, as she tells Rossi, she's finally in a good, healthy place.

So when she gets a file containing information pertaining to the case, she sends it to the team rather than cracking it herself. This seems to be the wrong move, as she gets another message saying people will die if she doesn't get to work. This finally convinces Garcia that she needs to go back to the BAU one last time, even though it's clearly painful for her to do so. We're worried about how Garcia's going to deal with being back, but it's also obvious that the team can't function without her.

Garcia and Alvez only went on one date

One of the biggest cliffhangers at the end of the final season of "Criminal Minds" had to do with the nature of Garcia and Alvez' relationship. Though they clashed at first, the duo had been getting flirty with one another all season — which makes sense, considering that Alvez was Morgan's replacement — but it wasn't clear if anything was actually going to come of it. Finally, in the series finale, it was revealed that they had a dinner date planned.

Alvez and Garcia reunite in the "Evolution" premiere, and the result of their date is revealed. When Alvez crashes Garcia's baking group to ask her some tech questions, one of Garcia's friends inquires about their relationship. "It was one dinner, three years ago," Penelope says. "We thrive as frenemies, however." Alvez is confused by her choice of words, but he quickly moves on, as there is plenty of important work to do.

With that line of dialogue, it seems like any possibility of a romantic relationship between the two has been shut down. However, "Criminal Minds" star Kirsten Vangsness has remained cryptic about Garcia and Alvez's future. "No one will be sad," Vangsness told TV Line. "You'll think, 'Aww, man...,' and then, 'Wait, what?' And that's the most I can tell you about it." Vangsness added that fans will feel satisfied by how the story progresses, but whether that means the two will become a romantic couple remains to be seen.

Prentiss is busy fighting political battles

Prentiss has always been the most politically minded of the group — her mother was a diplomat, after all — so it makes sense that she's moved up the ladder at the FBI. "Evolution" sees Emily navigating the difficult job of Section Chief and all the political maneuvering the position requires. Prentiss' biggest adversary is Deputy Director Doug Bailey (Nicholas D'Agosto), who seems intent on blocking all of her requests at every turn.

Basically, Prentiss' job these days seems to be full of headaches and red tape. It was the Deputy Director who decided that the team should be split up despite their impeccable track record at solving cases, and every time Prentiss asks for more resources Bailey shuts her down. What Bailey clearly doesn't understand is that the BAU works best as a team, not as individual agents spread out across the country. Luckily, the way this season has been going it looks like the gang will get back together after all due to the interconnected nature of their cases, but Bailey is certainly not a team player. If there's anyone who can outsmart a bully like Bailey it's Prentiss — we just hope she doesn't lose too much sleep over it.

Zach Gilford plays an unsub

One of the biggest surprises regarding the "Criminal Minds" reboot was who is (and isn't) on the cast list. In addition to the cast members who have returned, we were also excited to see some new faces, including "Friday Night Lights" star Zach Gilford, whose presence on the show has been noted in all the press releases. Variety reported that Gilford will play Elias Voit, "an operations analyst for a global cyber-security firm who has a dark side and an obsession with death."

Voit having an "obsession with death" seems to be a bit of an understatement, as it appears he may actually be one of the most fearsome unsubs the BAU has ever faced. On the outside, Voit seems like a normal guy. We were surprised to learn at the end of Episode 2 that he actually has a wife — who is played by Gilford's real-life spouse — and seems to be a happy family man. But he also has a temper, which we see when he snaps at the checkout attendant at his local hardware store. And even more disturbing than that, it seems he's the leader of a network of serial killers who live and die by his rules. It's not clear yet what his endgame is, but his obsession with death clearly goes far beyond just watching videos online.

JJ's marriage might be in trouble

At the end of Season 15, it was revealed that JJ and her husband Will (Josh Stewart) were moving to New Orleans, where Will is originally from; he sacrificed his job there in order to move to Virginia and have a family with JJ. Though their relationship has always seemed very solid, it seemed like a good move for JJ to make a sacrifice for Will this time around this time.

At the onset of "Evolution," we see what life has been like for JJ and Will since moving back to Virginia. JJ is busy with her job, and Will is also back working at the local police department. Their kids are growing up, and JJ is even worried that her eldest son has a girlfriend. Will is right in his assessment that JJ is a "supermom," but what he seems most worried about is the status of their marriage.

JJ is always busy with work and looking after the kids and she doesn't seem to have much time for Will, something that becomes apparent when she has to cancel their scheduled date night. Will understands, but he's clearly feeling sad about the situation. JJ develops some worries of her own while they're working on a case and Rossi suggests that people's fears manifest themselves in their sex lives. JJ's concerned she and Will aren't connecting on an emotional or a sexual level, an issue that will likely come up again as the season goes on.

Lewis has a girlfriend

Over the course of its 15 seasons, "Criminal Minds" featured almost zero LGBT characters, with the exception of one episode in Season 12 that focused on a gay serial killer. Better LGBT representation has long been something fans have hoped for, and "Evolution" finally delivered on that promise. While a certain cadre of viewers have long held the belief that Prentiss should be a lesbian (and that she should date JJ), it seems like that won't be happening anytime soon. What we've been given instead is another surprise: Dr. Lewis has a girlfriend.

Prentiss is the first one to notice something is different when she meets the girlfriend in question, a woman by the name of Rebecca Wilson (Nicole Pacent). Prentiss immediately picks up on a palpable vibe between the two women, and Lewis confirms that they are in fact dating. Before we (or Prentiss) can ask, Lewis reveals that it's not the first time she's dated a woman, but it is the first time she remembers "being this happy." Prentiss is thrilled by the news, especially since happiness seems hard to come by for the BAU agents these days.

Speaking with TV Line, Aisha Tyler revealed that she loved getting to explore this part of Lewis' life, especially since she hasn't been in a relationship in a while. That doesn't mean it's going to be all smooth sailing, however. Tyler teased that Lewis' relationship with Rebecca "is going to affect her life in some very specific and surprising ways as the season continues on."

Reid and Simmons are mentioned but never seen

For "Criminal Minds" fans, one of the most upsetting pieces of news regarding the revival is the fact that Matthew Gray Gubler will not be appearing in the new series (as far as we know), nor will Daniel Henney, who plays Matt Simmons. Prior to the series premiere, showrunner Erica Messer reassured fans that they won't be written off the show entirely. "They're certainly not forgotten. Their desks are still there, still have stuff on it," Messer said at a panel in September (via Variety.)

Messer was true to her word, as both Reid and Simmons were mentioned in the premiere episode. Everyone's least favorite Deputy Director tells Prentiss "I'm not at liberty to discuss their assignments. If and when they return is entirely up to them. Sadly, we don't have any say."

On the bright side, this leaves the door open for the return of Reid and Simmons, should either actor decide to come back. Aisha Tyler told Newsweek that "the way that we're treating it on the show, [is the same as] with the way we're treating it in real life, which is that they're out there, they're out there in the field having a good time, and their desks are waiting for them and we're excited for them to come back."

The cases are all connected

One of the biggest revelations in the "Evolution" premiere is the fact the BAU team has been split up to work on different cases. This almost never happened over the course of the show's previous 15 seasons, and it's definitely not what we were expecting. Luckily, the team is brought back together again at the end of Episode 2 as the result of a shocking revelation: all the cases they've been working on are connected.

It's Rossi who figures out how each case is related. He theorizes that, just like the rest of us, serial killers had to shut down their operations during the early days of the pandemic because it was too risky to be out in the streets. It would make sense, Rossi suggests, that they would go online instead. Rossi's assumption is correct, and we begin to learn that someone has created a network of serial killers so they can share their kills and trade tips.

This mastermind appears to be Elias Voit, who has been murdering people at least since 2005, as a flashback suggests. Elias has rules that the killers in the network must follow; if they don't, there will be dire consequences. Elias has also convinced his fellow killers that they must kill themselves if they're in danger of getting caught so the network stays a secret. This makes it even more difficult for the team to expose the network, but luckily, they have their secret weapon back in Penelope Garcia.

The BAU is in danger of being shut down

While solving cases has always been the top priority for the BAU, this season there's a new battle that the team must face: bureaucracy. Right off the bat, it's obvious that Prentiss is butting heads with her superiors, namely one Deputy Director Bailey. He keeps shutting down all of her requests for additional resources, citing budgetary concerns.

Prentiss is understandably worried, so Lewis offers to call in a friend — who we later learn is actually her girlfriend — that works at the DOJ. Lewis' girlfriend Rebecca tells the team that Bailey has lofty political aspirations and is using the BAU as a pawn in his political maneuverings. What Rebecca tells the team about his plans for the BAU is alarming: She says domestic terrorism is on the rise, which means it's the most profitable issue for the FBI to focus on. He feels that chasing serial killers isn't profitable, which means his intention is to fold the BAU into the domestic terrorism division.

Rebecca gets specific about what this would mean for each team member: Tara, Luke, and JJ would be reassigned, while Emily would be replaced and Rossi would be forced into retirement. This is obviously bad news for everyone involved, and Prentiss is determined to make sure Bailey doesn't get his way. Being that there's also an organized network of serial killers on the loose, it doesn't seem like this will be an easy season for anyone.