‘Criminal Minds’ And ‘The Walking Dead’ Featured Parallel Story Arcs With A Sense Of Oppression [Opinion]

Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead have had remarkable parallels this season in the mood, plot, and, sadly, also in ratings. Norman Reedus and Matthew Gray Gubler are as different as day and night, but their characters, Spencer Ried and Daryl Dixon, have experienced similar hardships. It seems that the complaints from viewers are a bit different, but dissatisfaction among fans for 2016–2017 season has been an epidemic for both shows.

The Walking Dead’s 18-49 demographic dropped by 16.83 percent for this season compared to last season. Criminal Minds demo ratings were down by 22.79 percent for the season, according to TV Series Finale.

The Walking Dead with Norman Reedus is planning a more enjoyable season for this fall, complete with a completely different mood. The Walking Dead just had a really sad and difficult section in their source material, Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel The Walking Dead, and they have passed that section now.

Criminal Minds has not announced what is in store for Season 13, but so far, producers seem reluctant to address the issues that are killing their previously stellar ratings. Criminal Minds problems have at least one easy fix, and that would be bringing back Thomas Gibson and making the show more like previous seasons in content.

Norman Reedus’ experience in Season 7A of The Walking Dead parallels Matthew Gray Gubler’s stint in Season 12B of Criminal Minds in a striking number of ways. Both Daryl Dixon of The Walking Dead and Dr. Spencer Reid of Criminal Minds had a very rough year.

Norman Reedus’ character on The Walking Dead was overwhelmed by guilt over the death of his friend, got captured, took a beating, and was physically and psychologically tortured. Reedus’ character was humiliated and ridiculed amid nagging self-doubts.

Matthew Gray Gubler as Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds normally has an eidetic memory, but he woke up in a strange place and could not remember what happened the night before. Surrounded by incriminating evidence, Spencer was accused of murder, imprisoned until trial, and subjected to all the violence that being in prison entails.

Norman Reedus and Matthew Gray Gubler and their characters faced a tough season. Fans were disgruntled about various aspects of Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead.

Criminal Minds actor Thomas Gibson was publically shamed in real life. At least that is how the fans at #NoHotchNoWatch think of Thomas Gibson’s public dismissal and accusations delivered through the media that he deliberately kicked co-producer and writer Virgil Williams. The hashtag #NoHotchNoWatch has been boycotting Criminal Minds all season, and some fans intend to continue their protests through the summer.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Negan on The Walking Dead
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Negan,the leader of an oppressive cult called the Saviors on The Walking Dead [Image Gene Page/AMC]

Recently, #NoHotchNoWatch activist Shaaron Phillips explained her feelings about the treatment of Thomas Gibson in the comments section of an Inquisitr article.

“You are correct, we believe Thomas was unjustly fired and smeared by the networks and producers who believed he had lost his value to CM and the fans. They believed most fans wouldn’t care, miss or notice his absence once they brought Paget Brewster in to be his permanent replacement. They believed firing him, and then discrediting and ignoring his years of dedicated service and ruining his reputation would make quick work of getting fans to believe Thomas was not worthy of their support.”

Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead both experienced a degree of disconnect from their audience over the on-screen and off-screen actions. In all cases, watching beloved heartthrobs and heroes like Norman Reedus, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Thomas Gibson get beaten, imprisoned, or variously accused in real life has proven to be the wrong way to make audiences want to tune in to see more.

Criminal Minds viewers have described their feelings about the show as sad or disappointed, while others are obviously angry. Walking Dead viewers report that they are bored with the slow progression of the show.

Norman Reedus, Thomas Gibson, and Matthew Gray Gubler are still very beloved by fans, but story arcs, fictional drama, and casting changes have viewers upset.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon fires weapon on The Walking Dead
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon fires weapon on The Walking Dead [Image by Gene Page/AMC]

Criminal Minds firing Thomas Gibson, as it turns out, has no parallel in The Walking Dead. Even though The Walking Dead kills off more of their main characters in most seasons than the entire cast of Criminal Minds that sort of plot-driven termination is acceptable to the Walking Dead audience, at least as long as it isn’t Norman Reedus’ character Daryl Dixon.

The Walking Dead’s horrifyingly graphic depiction of beloved original cast member Glenn Rhee’s death was not seen in the same light as Thomas Gibson’s firing from Criminal Minds. Steven Yeun was willing to make the sacrifice for his character, Glenn, because the works of Robert Kirkman called for his death. Steven Yeun told Time he thought of it as an iconic moment.

“You read that comic, you kind of don’t want that to go to anyone else. It’s such an iconic moment and I think I even said, ‘Don’t give that to anybody else.'”

Norman Reedus and Matthew Gray Gubler both deserve great admiration for their heartbreaking performances. It has to be recognized that Matthew Gray Gubler also had iconic moments this season, but it was too much for some audience members to withstand. The audience feels every fist blow applied to someone like Matthew Gray Gubler, and they feel degraded when their hero Norman Reedus is subjugated to someone like Negan.

Thomas Gibson’s termination from Criminal Minds was not for the good of the plot. Even the show’s writers admit that Gibson’s absence presented numerous writing and plot difficulties, as scripts had to be revised. Thomas Gibson’s dismissal was in no way similar to Glenn’s demise by way of a baseball bat to the head.

While The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds both feature a lot of violence and carnage, Criminal Minds does not have a policy of killing off the cast on the show, though CBS does allegedly have a history of firing the Criminal Minds cast rather arbitrarily as they did with A.J. Cook and Paget Brewster several years ago. Paget Brewster told Cinema Blend what happened from her perspective.

“CBS had just called Ed Bernero and said, “I want new women.” So we were fired, the fans were upset, there was a petition… I was heartbroken.”

In The Walking Dead, a grisly death comes with the territory. Deaths are based on the Walking Dead graphic novels, though they are occasionally switched or changed to keep the TV version from being too predictable.

Fans of The Walking Dead with Norman Reedus are accustomed to violence against zombies and various enemies. Criminal Minds fans are accustomed to horrendous serial killers preying on mostly women and children, but there is no real attachment to these one-time guest stars.

The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds displayed a tremendous amount of bone-crushing oppression this year, dealt out to the fan favorites among the regular cast. Oppression feels different than random violence, and when it is inflicted upon characters fans love, it quickly becomes unbearable and depressing.

The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds seem to have effectively proven a phenomenon that happens when the heroes of a show are abused and painfully defeated over long story arcs. As realistic and true to real life as long-term hardships may be, TV viewers do not find it entertaining.

Criminal Minds further proved these heartthrob actors like Thomas Gibson and Matthew Gray Gubler and their characters are sacred. Their reputations should be protected and upheld, not degraded. Discarding beloved cast members can result in a backlash.

The Walking Dead should take heed and always remember not to fire Norman Reedus, because “If Daryl dies we riot.” Judging from the reaction of Criminal Minds fans to the firing of Thomas Gibson, Walking Dead writers should take that saying seriously.


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[Featured Image by Alberto E Rodriguez and Jessie Grant/Getty Images]