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Criminal Minds: Evolution Boss Erica Messer Explains How Her Paranoia Inspired The Unsub Network

When CBS' hit procedural drama "Criminal Minds" ended its 15-season run in 2020, it left a clear void of serial killer creepiness in the primetime television landscape. As it happens, that void could only be filled by the return of "Criminal Minds." Said return, of course, came on the Paramount+ streaming platform under the title "Criminal Minds: Evolution." As the 10-episode "Evolution" series continues to unfold, it's clear that the "Criminal Minds" creative team didn't lose any of their edge during the show's two-year hiatus. 

If anything, moving from network television to a streamer opened a whole new bag of tricks for the "Criminal Minds" crew, who are now not only free to drop a few expletives per episode but also indulge in a level of gore they never could have depicted on CBS. The move also allowed for a noticeable shift in narrative, with the Behavioral Analysis Unit team not just hunting down a "creep of the week" as they did in the original series, but also tracking an entire network of unsubs who are, in turn, helping each other out with their various vile misdeeds. Longtime "Criminal Minds" showrunner Erica Messer admits that this game-changing narrative twist was mostly the product of her own dramatic paranoia.

Messer jokes Paramount was maybe a little worried by her Criminal Minds: Evolution pitch

Erica Messer made that admission during a recent interview with Deadline while promoting the streaming premiere of "Criminal Minds: Evolution." It seems her idea for the series' unsub network came about when, during her own pandemic downtime, Messer found herself imagining how serial killers might fare during such lockdowns. "That's my paranoid brain in overdrive thinking, 'what are serial killers doing during the pandemic?'" Messer told Deadline before admitting she still isn't quite sure why the unsettling thought even occurred to her. 

The "Criminal Minds: Evolution" boss added that her train of logic didn't stop there, noting, "Then I thought, 'what if they're talking to one another? What if they're giving pointers?'" That concept was indeed what Messer pitched to Paramount bosses when they asked if she was interested in doing another season of "Criminal Minds." Messer claims the Paramount brass were as unnerved by the idea as they were keenly interested in it, joking, "That's what I pitched to Paramount and they said, 'What's wrong with you? And yes, please do that.'"

Whichever part of Messer's paranoid mind spawned the original idea for "Evolution," the concept of the unsub network really has breathed much-needed life into the "Criminal Minds" formula, which — after more than 300 episodes — had arguably gotten a little stale. Given the series' narrative revitalization, it's easy to imagine Messer and the "Criminal Minds" writers using it as a launching point for several more seasons of "Evolution" — unless, of course, her mind can conjure an even more killer twist.