SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers from the Thursday, February 9 finale of “Criminal Minds: Evolution,” now streaming on Paramount+.
The profilers on “Criminal Minds” know a thing or two about catching a killer. This season, the first of “Criminal Minds: Evolution,” did something they’ve never done before by following one UnSub through the season. Elias Voit/Sicarius (Zach Gilford) was finally arrested during the finale — and Rossi (Joe Mantegna) was rescued.
While the mystery of tracking down Sicarius was solved, Elias opened the door on a whole new mystery, muttering the secret phrase “gold star,” one that had hidden meaning to one agent, Doug Bailey (Nicholas D’Agosto), who was killed for knowing what it meant. Here, showrunner Erica Messer breaks down what that mystery means for Season 17, whether Tyler (Ryan-James Hatanaka) will return and the future of Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) and Alvez (Adam Rodriguez).
Starting at the top. This whole season was about tracking down Sicarius, which the BAU did. What were the discussions around uncovering another layer to that story with the “gold star” mystery?
It was intended to show that it’s not over just yet. A huge part of that is because we love working with Zach. When we created the character, we didn’t know Zach was going to play Voit, and this wasn’t how we saw the season. We just thought it would end. We knew we wanted to save his family because he was going to be on the run with them, but we didn’t know we were gonna fall in love with Zach so much that we wanted to come up with a story that could continue, really, until we started breaking those episodes. And we’re like, how do we keep Zach around?
So, what does next season look like? A continuation of his story or introducing a new UnSub?
Well, we’re hoping to have Zach a lot in the season and sort of treat him — the simplest way to say it — as our Hannibal Lecter. He knows information about gold star. The team is already a little bit hip to it, because Lewis [Aisha Tyler] and Prentice [Paget Brewster] told Rossi that gold star wasn’t in the report, and it should have been because Bailey was acting weird when he said it. So they’re already sort of hinting at. What is gold star? Voit knows what gold star is, because he said it out loud and they heard him say it out loud. So he is using that knowledge as power in his captivity.
Voit shot Tyler, but he survived. Will we see him again?
Yes, there’s a very great chance that we will be seeing Tyler. We loved Tyler. We love RJ. We thought that relationship would do exactly what it did this season, but we really liked giving Garcia that messy relationship. We just completely bought that she would break up with him after that betrayal, but that maybe it isn’t over. Maybe this is her person. We want to keep exploring that, so it’s gonna get a little more complicated next year because he’s going to be around still, sort of consulting, and where it gets messy now is Alvez knows about it. So there can be a little bit more of a triangle than we’ve ever really done on the show, in terms of the members being in relationships. It felt like now’s the time to do it. We also didn’t want to deny Garcia and Tyler this bond because it does feel special and real.
Is there jealously there with Alvez?
Yeah, I think there is. We got to see the date that was promised. And that did not go well, and they both could exhale at the end of the day, and say, “Yeah, what are we thinking?” I think what was unsaid in that is, we love each other, but we’re not going to be a couple. Then in Episode 9, when he finds out she’s been sleeping with Tyler Green… it’s not a big brother saying like, “What are you doing? You’re messing up.” It’s different. It’s like, “Why him? Why him?” And so that kind of tells you it isn’t over. Alvez having any feelings for her isn’t over, because he wouldn’t have reacted that way. So now we get to play a little bit more of the triangle because Alvez knows now. He didn’t love Tyler to begin with.
Lastly, we got Krystall (Gail O’Grady) back in flashbacks in a beautiful way. What was that process of getting her back?
I called Gail to tell her Krystall died when we started the season, and that was based on a true story as well. There were so many side effects of COVID-19 — things that weren’t caused by COVID, but they kind of were. People that were in trial programs for chemo or whatever, and had to stop, and then people got sick and died. So that that was the thought process. I don’t think we ever got that detailed with it. But that was always our backstory for what happened and in that, for somebody like Rossi, who wants to be in control of things, he couldn’t control her getting sick. He couldn’t control that there was a pandemic. He couldn’t control anything, and it really took his legs away. So when I called Gail to say, “This is what’s happened, but we plan on doing flashbacks, and we have plans to do a ghost/fantasy sequence,” she was like, “I’m happy to be there whenever I can be there!”
I do feel like this time around we get to play with flashbacks and that kind of thing a little bit more. So ideally, we’ll be able to bring Nick back to play Bailey, and do some scenes that we had not had an opportunity to see in Season 16. Like, when does he get the download on gold star and all that kind of stuff? Hopefully his schedule will line up with ours.
Will there be any other familiar faces?
We would love to. I sound like a broken record but they’re not promises we can make, because we can’t keep them. It’s up to our very busy friends who are doing other projects, but hopefully it can work out. We would love it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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