Shemar Moore decided he wanted to leave Criminal Minds a year ago. His contract was up, and he wanted to push himself as an actor. CBS knew about this and wanted to keep his departure a secret.
In a world where spoilers are everywhere, it seems impossible that news of Moore leaving Criminal Minds did not leak. Only a small number of people knew about it to make sure fans got the true shock value. Even executive producer Erica Messer’s family had no idea that they would be saying goodbye to SSA Derek Morgan on Wednesday night.
— Criminal Minds Hub (@CrimMindsHub) March 25, 2016
CBS had come to Messer after she and Moore agreed on a departure date, saying that it would be good to have the shock value. It was something The Good Wife managed when Josh Charles left the show and really had maximum impact. This was something The Vampire Diaries had decided not to do with the loss of Nina Dobrev. To get fans ready to say goodbye to Elena Gilbert, they made sure everyone knew that she was leaving the show at the end of Season 6. This may have been on the back of the backlash Grey’s Anatomy faced when Patrick Dempsey left the show suddenly in Season 11.
First McDreamy dies on greys & now Derek leaves criminal minds???????????????????????? great just great #CriminalMinds
— Leslie❁ (@lesslina_xo) March 24, 2016
The good news for Criminal Minds fans is that Derek has left the BAU with his life intact. It has been a positive move for the FBI agent, who decided he wanted to start a real family with his wife and son. His job within the BAU has him travelling at short notice across the country, and it took its toll on his relationship with Savannah at the start of their relationship.
— Lauren (@suplaurennn) March 24, 2016
Messer admitted to TV Guide that this was a storyline difficult to keep under wraps. It was such a big part of Season 11, and there were speculations early on that it would be Moore’s last. Not really knowing if he was going to leave — or how it would happen — meant that fans really engaged with the show. They wanted to know if Derek was going to face the same fate as NCIS’ Caitlin Todd, who was killed off suddenly at the end of Season 2. There was a strong possibility that he could be the first member of the team to be killed off while being part of the team.
@J_McCarthy36 it’s time for a marathon of episodes that revolve around Derek
— hey everyone (@LucBYE) March 24, 2016
— DeNiSe (@tremontiholic) March 24, 2016
Moore nearly left last year. When his contract was up, he had told Messer that he did not want to return to Criminal Minds. She could not create a plausible storyline for him to just not turn up at the start of Season 11, so she convinced him to come back for another year. It meant that Moore and his character had a year to really say goodbye and flesh out a full storyline for him. Initially, it was just going to be for six episodes, but she managed to get 18 out of him.
— Kristi|QueenJeanne ♥ (@einberg_kristi) March 15, 2016
Not only did the storyline help fans, but it also gave Derek Morgan a real reason to leave the BAU. He realized that to be a good father and keep his wife and child safe, he would need to leave. Messer wanted to make sure the door was always open for Moore to return, and that was added to the speeches at the end so Derek could always return to the BAU.
Everyone’s crying! #CriminalMinds nailed it tonight with Derek’s emotional departure. Reid, JJ… and oh god GARCIA broke me! BROKE ME.
— Tari Jordan (@Willowy04) March 24, 2016
Moore did suggest that he should become the first team member to die on screen. It was something Messer was not going to entertain; she kept Patinkin’s Gideon alive off screen for so long. She wanted to know that Derek was alive and well somewhere, so she made sure fans got to see him leave Criminal Minds happy and ready to start a life with his family.
[Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images]