'Criminal Minds: Evolution' Premiere's Most Shocking Moments, Revealed

Things have been rough for the BAU during the pandemic.
by Amber Dowling — 

The cast of 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'


Warning: This story contains spoilers for the first and second episodes of Criminal Minds: Evolution, titled "Just Getting Started" and "Sicarius," . Read at your own risk!

Following the chilling two-part premiere of Criminal Minds: Evolution on Paramount+, one thing is clear: the pandemic has not been kind to the members of the BAU. Or, at least not to most of them. 

In the first episode, "Just Getting Started," Dr. Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler) works a crime scene that uncovers a heinous serial killer (Elias Volt, played by Zach Gilford) with plenty of victims from over the years. Meanwhile, Rossi (Joe Mantegna) and his team investigate an unsub who targets entire families. 

The two story lines may seem disconnected at first glance, but the connection very quickly starts to come to light, and by the second episode, the team realizes they are dealing with a serial killer who developed a network of like-minded killers during the pandemic. And he is still guiding them and even putting together kill kits for them. While viewers get a glimpse of who that killer is, the BAU is scrambling. But, at least the case is forcing them back together. 

Here, Metacritic breaks down the five most shocking moments from the premiere, as the hunt for Elias Voit officially kicks off.  

Rossi's big loss

When viewers last left the BAU leader he had made some big life decisions. He realized he was part of the job, he and Krystal (Gail O'Grady) had figured out their relationship, and all was well in his corner of the world. Now, that's all exploded. 

Rossi is disheveled and addicted to the job when the show returns, and most of that is a result of Krystal's death during the pandemic. And while Rossi eventually showers and shapes up, showrunner Erica Messer reveals his storyline is one that pays tribute to what so many people went through during the pandemic. 

"When the pandemic happened, a lot of things shifted in the medical community. You didn't go in for your regular checkups; it was emergency visits only," she says, noting Rossi's story is also based on a personal experience. "A lot of our audience will be able to relate to that. Because in the last nearly three years since we've seen this team, people have experienced death and grief and all kinds of things in their lives."

The jet is gone — for now

In 2020, the BAU's jet blew up and they got a fancy new one — one that viewers didn't really get a chance to explore then and still has yet to in the first two episodes of the new followup series.

In the first two episodes back it's clear that the new big cheese (played by Nicholas D'Agosto) has no interest in keeping the BAU together, and wants to redirect funds to the terrorist unit. In the meantime, the team is working with very few funds, never mind a big fancy jet that takes them across the country on a whim. 

"We will see a jet this season, but that's all I'm going to say," teases Messer. "But these budget cuts are real. Their work environment has shifted, and really reflects what a lot of us are feeling working for any kind of corporation with budget cuts and remote working. It was really an opportunity to show through the team how we've all experienced change."

JJ and Tara's contradictory love lives

Two characters who seem relatively unaffected by the pandemic at the outset are JJ (A.J. Cook) and Tara, but as it turns out they've been busy behind the scenes with their love lives. For Tara, it's a positive thing. She's thriving in a new relationship with a woman she also happens to work with. 

"Tara is married to the job, and that's cool for her — she's been happy," Tyler explains. "But this relationship is a big surprise for her. It's a nice surprise, but something she wasn't expecting and something you're really gunning for. It's been really uplifting and transformational for her to be with someone she really admires. But, we're going to see how challenging it is to do this very dark and difficult work and also maintain a relationship."

Someone who does understand that is JJ. When the show picks up it offers a glimpse into her home life, where she's still slaying it as a mother (to much older kids!) but is also struggling in her marriage to Will (Josh Stewart). According to Messer, that storyline is an homage to women everywhere trying to do it all during the pandemic, but always coming up short. 

Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) is back

If there is one person who thrived during the pandemic it was Garcia, what with her anglophile baking club, meditation sessions, and group Zoom dance parties. But it doesn't take long for darkness to creep back into her life as a mysterious person begins helping her online and giving her breadcrumbs to find this killer. 

It's almost heartbreaking to see the character return to the BAU after she talks about how much healthier she felt upon leaving. (And yes, she rediscovers her pink Post-It note in the process.) But viewers know it's for the good of catching this killer, and so does she, which is why she ultimately makes the very tough decision to reurn. 

On the bright side, says Vangsness, this version of Garcia has learned to take control of her own narrative. 

"She's not in the job the way she was before," the performer explains. "Even as an actor, I have a different job than I had before. Now I'm wandering around on my legs, walking around. I live life with people. It's really good because she is different now and has come to peace with who she is. She's not going to try and prove herself to anybody else." 

This killer means business but he also focuses on family

As the team reassembles and begins their hunt in earnest for this highly sophisticated and tech-savvy serial killer, viewers get a glimpse into who he is as the episodes unfold. Not only is Voit a computer genius who is in control of all the killings happening around him, but he has gotten his killers to agree to a death pact if they're ever discovered. 

And yes, some of them are discovered because they are not quite living up to his masterful level of covering tracks.

The other big shocker? Like many real-life serial killers Voit has a home life, complete with daughters and a wife (played by Gilford's real-life wife, Kiele Sanchez). 

"This character is super unique," explains Messer. "He has this ability to turn things on and off, which we don't see a lot in the traditional, episodic show. By the time we get to Episode 3 and see the people he loves and the people who love him, and the protector that he is, it complicates your thoughts about this guy because he's horrible. He's a serial killer. This is an unacceptable societal situation,

"And yet, I'm kind of cheering for him to do something bad. That was something we've never been able to explore on this show before," she continues.

And what's Gilford's take on the character he plays? Click here for Metacritic's interview with him.

Criminal Minds: Evolution streams Thursdays