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Does Hotch's Criminal Minds Storyline Deserve Better Closure?

For 12 seasons, the intrepid agents of the Behavioral Analysis Unit on "Criminal Minds" were led by the cool and collected Agent Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner (Thomas Gibson). A man of fiercely-held principles, Hotchner saw the BAU through some of its most trying cases over the years, and was a dogged and dedicated hunter of serial killers who felt they were above the law. His last appearance on the series was in Season 12's "Sick Day," after which he retired from the BAU to spend more time with his surviving family.

Hotchner's departure came as the result of a little behind-the-scenes drama — Gibson was involved in an altercation Thomas Gibson was involved in on the set serious enough to merit his dismissal, which left the writing team little choice but to have the character depart off-camera. The ignominious end to Gibson's time on the show ensured that Aaron Hotchner didn't even get a proper send-off episode like Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) did in his final episode, also in Season 12. 

In the aftermath of Gibson's departure, the question remains: Did Aaron Hotchner deserve better?

Hotch is the moral compass of the BAU team

Without a doubt, Hotchner served as the leader and inspiration for the BAU team, leading from the front in the field and encouraging his agents to excel in their efforts. He's a seasoned profiler who, when confronted by a lawyer attempting to cast aspersions on the BAU in the Season 3 episode "Tabula Rasa," proceeds to profile the lawyer using a series of deductions with such accuracy that he effectively demolishes the man's case. He stares down the barrel of a serial killer's gun in the Season 5 premiere episode "Nameless, Faceless," and does not blink when the killer fires a bullet that barely misses his shoulder.

Hotchner serves as the moral compass of "Criminal Minds," pointing true north and ensuring that the team remains focused, professional, and precise. His sudden departure in Season 12 left a great many fans disappointed, and also left the character without a proper send-off — the kind that the character deserved, even if the actor didn't.

It's a truth in writing that if you have to kill or retire an otherwise beloved character, you need to ensure that their final adventure offers some closure. The events of Thomas Gibson's abrupt departure from the show left the character of Aaron Hotchner as little more than an afterthought, written off the series unceremoniously with a desire to spend more time with his family.

While the decision was justified to remove Gibson from the series, perhaps a final episode could have been written for the character, providing Hotchner with one last case to solve with the team. Although we haven't had any word that Thomas Gibson might return for the forthcoming "Criminal Minds" revival on Paramount+, there's always the chance that the series will find a way to give Hotch the send-off he truly deserved. As always in this era of revenant television, hope springs eternal.