When we look back on moments from the past eleven seasons of Criminal Minds, there are quite a few that stand out when it comes to leaving us floored, both mentally and emotionally. When Spencer (Matthew Gray Gubler) was abducted, Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) shot, Hotch (Thomas Gibson) tormented by Foyet, JJ (AJ Cook) tortured and Emily (Paget Brewster) nearly killed, as an audience we have been left feeling every last wound. This week’s instalment titled “Beautiful Disaster”, directed by CM’s very own Matthew Gray Gubler and written by Kirsten Vangsness (Garcia) and executive producer Erica Messer, gave us another moment to add to the emotionally driven stockpile. Last week, we were left with a blank screen after a single gun-shot rang out while Morgan and Savannah talked everything “baby”. This week didn’t waste any time. As Morgan is seen carrying a motionless Savannah into the emergency department of the hospital, chaos ensues as she is swept away to undergo emergency surgery. When the nurse seeks out a disoriented Morgan to ask if there is anyone he’d like them to call we cut to Garcia, who in a moment knows exactly what is going on. With Spencer and JJ in tow, and Rossi (Joe Mantegna) already on the scene, the team assemble.
Morgan is heated and even a kind word from Garcia doesn’t do much to silence the flames. To add to his frustration, Hotch informs him that he is off the case – he is a material witness – and it is too much for him to be investigating this right now. In a fit of rage, Morgan brings up Foyet, stating that out of everyone Hotch should understand what Morgan is going through. Talk about ouch. Morgan acknowledges he crossed the line – especially seeing as we all know how the Foyet case ended. Fear not, the team is on the case regardless. As the team tries to piece the security footage together, with the information they’ve been gathering (secretly, without Rossi or Hotch knowing) they catch a break. All of the information leads back to the Montolo family – remember Giuseppe, the assassin Morgan put away earlier in the season – well his father is now the one after Morgan, trying to avenge his son’s death. After initially thinking Chaz Montolo was dead, the security footage reveals he is very much alive – alive so much, that he was in the hospital when Morgan was there. Seen at a telephone booth, JJ retraces his steps to find a folded note hidden in the change dispenser.
The episode picks up pace after Spencer is sent to check in on Morgan; as he does his best to assure his friend that they are doing everything they can, Morgan gets one up on Reid. Was it his plan to drop subtle cues for Morgan? Or did Morgan just do his best to analyse the behaviour of good ol’ Dr. Reid? Elsewhere, JJ has recovered the letter left in the phone booth and sneakily ushers Morgan into a closed off room. Voicing her disapproving thoughts in regards to him being kicked off the case, she shares the letter with him before giving it to the team. Responding by saying he has no idea what it means, the team is left to figure it out. However, Hotch knows better and confronts Morgan himself about whether or not he knows the true meaning behind it. The two once again exchange heated remarks before Morgan gets news that Savannah is out of surgery.
Meanwhile, the team continue their hunt for Chaz with no new leads to go off. But when interrupted by a doctor looking for Morgan it is all too clear what has happened. Garcia gets the security footage up and we see Derek running from the hospital. In a scene that parallels that of Hotch driving to his house to rescue Jack and Hayley from Foyet, Morgan knows what he has to do and won’t stop till he ends this himself. It is now a time sensitive situation, and with Morgan’s behaviour sporadic the team must solve this quick. Going off of the letter left by Montolo, the team work back to find a connection with one of the many houses Morgan has renovated. They are on their way! No sooner has the team left that Savannah has to be rushed in for an emergency C-section. As the team hurry, Morgan has already been taken hostage by Montolo, who is holding a gun to his head, playing a little game of Russian roulette. Giving him a little bit a reprieve, Chaz gives Morgan a chance to say one last goodbye – he calls Garcia. After patching him through, the entire team now being able to hear, Morgan asks them to make sure Savannah and his baby are taken care of. The uncanny similarities between this and Foyet have memories flashing back in quick succession, such a stellar move from the creative team at CM. A gun-shot sounds and the screen goes black. Luckily, the gun shot was a stray bullet from the scuffle that saw Derek get the upper hand. Montolo encourages Derek to pull the trigger, shoot me, but with the timely arrival of the rest of his team, Montolo is arrested.
What this episode did beautifully, was dedicate enough time for Morgan to say farewell. Behind closed doors we witness him sharing his decision to leave with Hotch, followed closely with a scene between him and Dave, where father to father they shared a simple conversation about how important that role is. The goodbyes that follow are so visceral, an element I’m sure was increased with the genuine love these actors have for one another behind the scenes. It is known in any setting, personal or professional, when you spend an extended period of time with one another you form a bond, sometimes closer than those you form with family. This week’s episode is an example of that. As Morgan sits alone in the office, taking it all in one last time, JJ walks in surprised to see him. Taking this opportunity to give him a present to celebrate the birth of baby boy Morgan, opening the wrapping paper reveals a “Criminal Minds Family Photo” circa 2016. The writing is simple, yet meaningful, with the actors themselves bringing to life the words on the page. As they embrace, the sheer pain of this goodbye is evident as both Morgan and JJ let the emotion fall. Shemar and AJ beautifully execute this scene, and allow the audience an insight into what must be, in reality, just as tough and as real a goodbye. Next up, Morgan follows a quietly detached Reid into the boardroom; knowing how much he hates goodbyes Morgan tries to relieve the pain. No matter what though, Reid is undeniably happy for his “big brother”. With an embrace full of brotherly love and pride, the two exchange “I love you” before Morgan reveals a birth announcement card with Spencer – “Introducing, Hank Spencer Morgan” – and if you weren’t crying before this, you should now be sobbing. Last but certainly not least, Morgan visits Garcia as she is doing her best to avoid the inevitable (by packing). As she recounts what she went through when Morgan was abducted and then again when Savannah was shot, the mutual affection we love about these two is evident. The chemistry between Shemar and Kirsten has become such an anchor and light for a show that covers such dark material, so much so in their last, most genuine exchange…
“Everything you and I do together is magic, since the minute we met.” – Derek Morgan
If there was ever a ship that an audience should get behind, it is this one. Involving a friendship so deep that it can withstand some of the darkest moments life throws us at, and a devotion to one another so important and so integral when walking through life. Kirsten and Erica did a flawless job in sending off Special Agent Derek Morgan, and in combination with Shemar Moore and the entire cast, it won’t soon be forgotten.