‘Criminal Minds’: Here’s Why Penelope Garcia Left at End of the Series

by Lauren Boisvert

“Criminal Minds” ended it’s 15 season run in February 2020, with a 10-episode season that saw a bittersweet end to the BAU. There were some change-ups as well, which included Penelope Garcia leaving the team. Kristen Vangsness, who played Garcia, co-wrote the finale episode with showrunner Erica Messer, and the two used Garcia’s exit as a way of letting the audience separate from the show.

“She’s the eyes of the audience, really. She’s the empath.” Vangsness said of her character, “She’s the one who usually says if something’s gross or good or bad.” Because in “Criminal Minds” fiction the BAU will of course continue their work, having Garcia leave the team is a way for the audience to say goodbye. “Since Garcia’s the eyes of the audience, you pull her away,” Vangsness continued.

Garcia left the BAU after getting a job offer in Silicone Valley. The team urges her to take the job, but at her farewell party, she reveals that she took a local job at a non-profit. Garcia leaving takes the audience out of the show for the last time, but at least fans know that within the free narrative, she’ll still be in the neighborhood.

As for her reasons for leaving, that all comes down to Spencer‘s recent hospitalization. “Those [violent injuries] don’t come without a cost,” Vangsness said in a conversation with TV Insider. For Garcia, she’ll continue to do what she always did: “She will figure out more streamlined ways to make the world and the universe a happier, more peaceful, more friendly place.”

‘Criminal Minds’: Fans Weigh in On Best Episodes Where Everyone Lives

“Criminal Minds” often shows the difficult, grisly side of solving crimes; sometimes, not everyone makes it. There’s always at least one death in every episode, often more than one. But, occasionally, everyone lives.

Fans on Reddit recently discussed their favorite episodes where everyone lives, even if traumatic things happen to the characters. The first episode is season 11, titled “A Beautiful Disaster.” In the episode, a man named Chazz Montolo shoots Derek Morgan‘s wife Savannah while she’s pregnant. Her life hangs in the balance throughout the episode; it turns out that Montolo blames Morgan for his son’s death, and went out looking for revenge. At the end of the episode, Savannah pulls through and gives birth to their child.

Another episode, titled “Saturday” from season 15, sees half of the BAU team taking a much-needed break, while the other half investigates a case. The episode focuses on the personal lives of the characters and doesn’t feature much death. There’s really no life-on-the-line moments in this episode; just a little slice of life where everyone lives. A rarity on “Criminal Minds.”