Writing Emily Prentiss out of Criminal Minds

I first started writing this post back in February immediately following Paget Brewster’s decision to leave Criminal Minds and as the idea of writing a TV blog (yeah, I know, there are enough of those already) first took shape. But life and other priorities being what they were, I got it 2/3rds done and then it got put on the backburner. But with the departure of Paget’s character, SSA Emily Prentiss, in tonight’s double episode of Criminal Minds, I figured it was now or never if I wanted to post this. So for those who, like me, will sorely miss Paget and Emily next season, here is an exploration of the various ways in which they could have written her out and my preference for how they do it:

Shipper Heaven — Emily resigns or transfers to another unit to be with one of the men on the team–or JJ.

Declan — Emily resigns or transfers to another unit in order to take a more active role in raising Declan.

Burnout — Like Elle and Jason before her, the job at the BAU becomes too much for Emily and she resigns/quits/walks away/goes nuts and shoots a suspect in cold blood.

State Department — Emily resigns to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the State Department.

Transfer or Promotion to another Unit in the FBI — Emily gets a job opportunity in another section of the FBI such as counter-terrorism (based on her CIA/Interpol experience) or as unit chief in some other city.

Return to CIA or Interpol — Emily decides to return to her roots and transfers back to either the CIA or Interpol, most likely to work in counterterrorism again.

Retirement — Like Rossi years ago, Emily might be ready to take some time off (she has had a rough few years), kick off, travel, or pursue some of her passions. We know she probably has a decent trust fund or inheritance to fall back on and lots of real-life BAU agents have had lucrative post-FBI careers as writers, in the entertainment industry, or by consulting with local police departments.

Firing — Emily has always been a bit of a loose canon willing to speak her mind and push the limits of the job. She could push too far and be fired from the FBI.

Traumatic (Near Death) Experience — Having just survived one near death experience last year, another one so soon thereafter could push Emily to re-evaluate her decision to return to the BAU. This is similar to the burnout option, but the motivation would be physical rather than mental.

Serious or Disabling Injury — Emily has gotten knocked around more than pretty much any other character on the show–beaten, hit by a truck, impaled, shot, and bashed in the head several times during her six years on the show–but she has always (eventually) managed to get up and walk away (though indications are it probably took her weeks if not more to recover from the wounds inflicted by Doyle). But an injury that would require months or years to recover from or one that left her permanently disabled in some way would provide a way to write her out of the show (with possibilities for return visits).

Death — Emily has escaped the grim reaper several times, even coding in the ambulance following her battle with Doyle. Perhaps her luck runs out.

Obviously, the show has a lot of options when it comes to writing Emily out. However, I think several parameters should apply. First, Criminal Minds has had to write out four main cast members over its run (including Paget/Emily just last year). Each time, the departures were traumatic. I think it is time for a happier ending for a character. Second, Emily has already been “killed” once–just last year–doing it again, especially so soon, is overkill (pardon the pun). Finally, and most importantly, I think that Emily should be written out with the dignity and respect the character deserves and in a way that honors the character as she has been portrayed on the show.

That said, I would like to see Emily written out in one of two ways: either she is given an opportunity for advancement within the FBI (unit chief or great job with a counter-terrorism task force would be my vote) or she returns to her roots and goes back to the CIA and/or Interpol.

Given how long this post already is (and that the season finale starts here in an hour and a half), I am going to leave my thoughts there for now. However, I have already written more in-depth analyses of each of the options I outlined above and have more to say about why I prefer the two options I mentioned. In the coming days I will post those discussions in a series of entries along with an analysis of how the show really wrote Emily out. I also have started work on a post about Paget’s post-Criminal Minds career. In the meantime, I look forward to tonight’s episode even as I will be very sorry to see Emily leaving again.

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