Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Criminal Minds: Evolution Episode 5.
Since 2005, Criminal Minds has been bringing the most sadistic, creepy, and sinister cases ever to a television drama. While the show can be haunting, one of the most compelling elements of the drama is the strong relationships that the characters have with one another.
For years, J.J. Jareau (A.J. Cook) has been an integral part of the BAU team. Now that we've entered the era of Criminal Minds: Evolution, the first season of which essentially serves as Criminal Minds' 16th season, she's one of the only cast members from the original series that's still here. But after the mid-season finale, her future doesn't look too bright. So is A.J. Cook leaving Criminal Minds?
Is A.J. Cook leaving 'Criminal Minds'?
Fans of A.J. Cook and her Criminal Minds character were likely on the edge of their seats during the mid-season finale for Criminal Minds: Evolution. When J.J.'s fate was up in the air, fans wondered if the actress was leaving the show.
If J.J. were to exit the show, it wouldn't be the first time. After Season 5, A.J.'s character was written off, reportedly due to budget constraints. She made guest appearances for big moments on the show, including Emily Prentiss' (Paget Brewster) then-final episode.
"It felt like a breakup with a guy," A.J. said to TV Guide about learning that she was fired. "It happened out of nowhere. And it was an 'It's not you, it's me' sort of thing. You think, 'What did I do?' It's been a roller coaster ride, but I just had to put one foot forward and keep moving."
Fans were upset at CBS for cutting the actress, and there was an outpouring of support for A.J. Because of this fan attention, A.J. was ultimately brought back on the show as a regular in Season 7.
"[The fans'] outpouring of support really blew me away," she said to TV Guide. "That's definitely the silver lining to being let go. The fans really let me know how they felt, and I guess they really let CBS know too."
Does J.J. die in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'?
Although Season 15 was the last for Criminal Minds, fans are relieved that many of our favorite characters are still here in Paramount Plus's Criminal Minds: Evolution. With J.J. leading the way sans Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney), it's really her series to leave. A.J. considered leaving the franchise along with her co-stars, but ultimately decided to stick it out.
The mid-season finale comes only five episodes into the new(ish) series, so it would be a major shock if A.J.'s character is killed off so soon. But it's a possibility. In the episode, we learn that J.J.'s husband Will's cancer diagnosis was actually just an inflamed thyroid. But the experience encourages them to promise each other that they'll always let each other know when they have problems. (Foreshadowing!)
During a BAU investigation, J.J. and Luke Alvez find themselves in danger when they enter a shipping container with the culprit's victims. J.J. tries to call Will, but it goes straight to voicemail. And when she enters, it's clearly a trap. As they try to get out, there's an explosion and their body cams go dark, so we have no idea if they make it out alive.
However, clues from A.J. prove that J.J. probably isn't dead, nor is she leaving any time soon. The biggest clue is that she's directing a yet-to-air episode of the series, which she revealed to Collider.
"There’s a pretty strong J.J. storyline in the episode that I directed," A.J. explained. "I hadn’t had to act and direct, at the same time, that much before, so that was a bit of a challenge. But you surround yourself with really good people around the monitor, and you’re like, 'Did that work? I don’t know. I can’t watch it.' It takes a village."
Unless that upcoming episode is some sort of flashback episode, which we doubt, then it seems like J.J. doesn't die in Criminal Minds just yet.
Criminal Minds: Evolution returns with new episodes starting Jan. 12, 2023, on Paramount Plus.