A Death and a Sweet Goodbye: Breaking Down the Emotional Series Finale of 'Criminal Minds'

The 2-hour finale event of the hit crime drama brought tears, gasps, and moments of joy

After 15 dramatic, emotional and action-filled seasons, Criminal Minds has officially come to an end.

During Wednesday's 2-hour finale event of the hit crime drama, the members of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) not only came together to capture Everett Lynch a.k.a. "The Chameleon" — who nearly killed David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) a year ago — but say goodbye to one of their own.

In the first episode, entitled "Face Off," Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) shocked the team by informing them she had landed a new job.

"Guys, I have something to say. An opportunity has presented itself to me and it is in Silicon Valley," Garcia told the group. "Global stratagem development. They're a private research group that's expanding their stratagem to include combatting global environmental change."

"That sounds perfect for you," said Luke Alvez (Adam Rodriguez). "You get to do all the good work at the BAU without the gore."

"300" -- When Reid and Garcia are abducted by Benjamin Merva (Michael Hogan), it's up to the rest of the team to find them. The BAU finds surprising clues in their own history to solve why the two heroes have been targeted by a mass murderer. It's a race to save them before a "Believers" prophecy is fulfilled, on the 14th season premiere of CRIMINAL MINDS, Wednesday, Oct. 3 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Joe Mantegna (David Rossi) Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Joe Mantegna as David Rossi. Cliff Lipson/CBS

"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Garcia asked. "I don't want to go anywhere. This is my home… the BAU is and come on, we're family."

"Yeah, we're family and our relationship to each other is not bound by wherever we show up to go to work," said Alvez.

"If you have the opportunity to do something you love, Penelope, you should absolutely explore it," Dr. Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler) said.

Meanwhile, Rossi — with the help of former partner, Jason Gideon (Ben Savage) worked together to develop new theories as to where Lynch was hiding.

After coming up with a plan, the team seemingly trapped and successfully killed Lynch — or so it seemed. Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) discovered Lynch had escaped the home explosion through a secret tunnel and was still alive.

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Matthew Gray Gubler plays Dr. Spencer Reid. Getty Images

In the second and final episode, entitled "And in the End," Rossi (who thought Lynch was dead) played with the idea of finally retiring. However, the team quickly realized "the Chameleon" was still alive and the retirement went out the window.

Meanwhile, Reid was recovering in the hospital after a hard fall that landed him in the hospital with a brain injury. During his hospital stay, Reid went in and out of hallucinations and received a visit from his mom, Diana Reid (Jane Lynch). Finally, with skill and determination, the team ended the wild goose chase with Lynch and (finally!) killed him with a massive plane explosion.

The Criminal Minds cast. Criminal Minds/Twitter

Fast forward a month later, the team gathered at Rossi's house to celebrate, what was supposed to be his retirement party. However, the intimate gathering turned into a send-off for Garcia. Rossi isn't retiring — just yet, anyway!

"So we're at the beginning of the end," Garcia told her team during the gathering. "And this time next week we're not going to be together like we have been for as long as I can remember. I want you each to know you hold a very special place in my heart. I want to freeze right now. I want to soak this in."

"Thank you for letting me be a part of this for so long," she added. "And thank you for reminding me that there is an infinite amount of heroism and kindness in the world no matter how bleak it seems."

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The episode also featured flashbacks to previous seasons, featuring many familiar faces including Morgan (Shemar Moore), Elle (Lola Glaudini), Hotch (Thomas Gibson) and Gideon (Mandy Patinkin).

"We wanted to write this finale as fans of the show and also as a thank you to all the fans who had been watching," showrunner and executive producer Erica Messer told Entertainment Tonight.

And so, the most important thing was to get our tone right, to not go completely off-book and do something that doesn't feel like the 325 hours of TV that people had been watching. In doing that, we really wanted to explore how far we've all come in the last 15 seasons."

As fans watched the last and final episode, emotions were quick to flood the social media universe.

And the cast shared their thoughts, too.

"This photo says it all," Aisha Tyler wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the cast. "What an incredible ride with seven of the most caring, hardworking, talented people I have ever had the good fortune of working with. And a stellar team that toiled behind the scenes to make every inch of @crimmindscbs extraordinary. Thanks to everyone who touched the show and showed me kindness along the way, to Erica Messer and Breen Frazier and that fateful first day where they pitched me a six-episode arc that turned into five exceptional seasons. Wheels up, friends. #wheelsup."

"I've carried these 3 props with me almost every day for the last 15 years," Gubler wrote on Twitter. "After tonight I'll just carry them in my heart where I will forever keep memories of the best crew, the best cast, and the best fands (fans/friends) a fictional crimefighter could ever have."

CBS announced in January 2019 that the police drama series would be coming to an end — but promised an "epic final season" in the works. The 15th season will feature 10 episodes.

The series was created by Jeff Davis and premiered in 2005.

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