The CBS crime procedural Criminal Minds ended its fifteen-year run on February 19, 2020 with the airing of the episodes “Face Off” and “And In the End,” the ninth and tenth episodes of the show’s fifteen season and the 323rd and 324th episodes of the series overall. I ended my two-and-a-half year run as an auditor on February 28, 2020, after 876 days on the job. I’ve been thinking about endings lately.

These two events are not connected in any real way except that my job as an auditor required me to travel and Criminal Minds is an inevitable companion for anyone who turns on the TV at a hotel at 9 p.m. on a weeknight. The show was not something I sought out in my time on the road, but it’s also something I didn’t not seek out, so I probably watched (or didn’t not watch) like ten episodes over the last three years. How serendipitous, then, that the final episodes aired during my final overnight work trip?

Criminal Minds is perfect for temporary settings like work travel. Each episode presents a crime that is solved by the end of the episode. There’s nothing the viewer needs to know in order to understand the events and characters in any given episode that can’t be gleaned from context clues. The most confusing part of the show is the FBI jargon, but after a character says “unsub” (unknown subject) you catch on pretty quickly. You can transplant yourself into the world of Criminal Minds as easily as you can check into a Hampton Inn. 

Criminal Minds’ most notable feature was that it was always on television and the only real promise it ever made was that a new horrifying criminal will show up on the next episode. How can something like that end? 

“And in the End” was different from other episodes of Criminal Minds only because the show said that it was. The criminal for this episode was a serial killer nicknamed The Chameleon who was introduced in the premiere episode of season fifteen and escaped. This unprecedented longevity gave the show’s characters permission to say things like “this is the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced” throughout the episode, but The Chameleon didn’t feel much different than the show’s other, more temporary villains. 

To ramp up the conclusiveness of it all, the episode got self-reflective. The audience followed an unconscious character through his out-of-body experience in which he conversed with criminals he helped capture in past episodes. These ghosts-of-unsubs-past helped the character ponder how much of himself he had lost along the way. If at any point this felt like character development pushing towards the end of an arc, it didn’t stay that way long—the character woke up as soon as the narrative tension of him being unconscious was played out and he ended the episode in pretty much the same place he started. 

I felt a similar lack of finality in leaving my job as an auditor. That job had been one of my only constants since graduating from college in 2017, and even though I had to do more than just show up everyday, it still felt episodic. Every day I went to work to audit a bank and the next week we would move onto the next audit. Sometimes an engagement spanned multiple weeks, but eventually it would end and a new one would begin. While I was in it, it almost felt unreal to me that that cycle could just end.

I worked as an auditor until I didn’t. Any attempt to make different aspects of my final week feel meaningful or sentimental worked like a manufactured arc in a non-serialized show. The final cup of coffee at the office or the final email sent were only significant because I tried to tell myself they were. But still, there was a kind of melancholy that came with stopping something that I had done consistently for a significant stretch of time. Even though I didn’t necessarily love the thing that was ending, at least I knew it. 

The following Monday, I showed up to my first day of a new job. The job is in an industry I’m excited to be a part of and will allow a much better work-life balance than auditing did. It’s still a job. Everything changed while nothing changed—this job feels better, but the rhythm of waking up and going to work feels familiar. That might sound mundane, but I mean it sincerely: I’m thankful for the familiarity.

I bet twelve reruns of Criminal Minds have aired since I started.

1 Comment

  1. Kyric Koning

    Endings are a great place to be reflective as they are to start something new. Great piece. Continue in your peace, but do not let anything become too familiar that it becomes mundane and meaningless, potentially like a rerun.

    Reply

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