Criminal Minds: How Paget Brewster’s Emily Prentiss Died, Left & Took Over the Show Emily Prentiss became one of the most beloved and long-term Criminal Minds cast members, despite her late start and rocky treatment by the studio.

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Criminal Minds Prentiss Kneeling
Criminal Minds suffered from notorious cast turnover, beginning in Season 2 with the departure of the primary protagonist Jason Gideon, brought to life by Mandy Patinkin, and the subsequent loss of Lola Glaudini"s Elle Greenaway. Despite a huge amount of fan support and a 15-season run, main characters came and went at an alarming rate on the CBS procedural. However, one of the most interesting cases of character transition is Paget Brewster"s Emily Prentiss.

Prentiss wasn"t an original member of Criminal Minds" Behavioral Analysis Unit, but instead debuted in the ninth episode of Season 2. After a few years as a main character, Prentiss died, revived, left, visited, returned and eventually took over the team. The wild ride for Brewster and her character features personal choice, studio penny-pinching and a dose of misogyny.


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Who Was Emily Prentiss Criminal Minds?


Criminal Minds Prentiss Flashlight
Emily Prentiss was a child of diplomats who grew up in cities across Europe and the Middle East, following the assignments of her mother, a U.S. ambassador. Because of her upbringing, Prentiss was fluent in multiple languages, including Arabic, Spanish, French, Russian and Greek, all of which play a role in various episodes as she translates for witnesses, suspects and the BAU.

While Prentiss" backstory became a major plotline in later seasons, her personal life was left somewhat to speculation. The character was initially written as lesbian, which both Brewster and the writing team were enthusiastic about before CBS required a heteronormative re-write. She also famously has a cat named Sergio.


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Prentiss" Initial Arrival and Departure on Criminal Minds


Criminal Minds Prentiss JJ
Prentiss joined the BAU in the middle of Season 2, with the resignation of Agent Elle Greenaway following her vigilantism. With Greenaway"s departure, the BAU had no women field agents, and relied upon communications liaison Jennifer Jareau and technical analyst Penelope Garcia as the only female team members. Prentiss" arrival was a step in the right direction for women"s representation on the team.

But Prentiss wasn"t initially accepted by all team members. Although she received orders to join the BAU, then-director Aaron Hotchner didn"t accept Prentiss. As a result, she had to prove her profiling competence and join on a probationary basis while slowly earning the trust of other BAU agents.


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Despite Prentiss quickly becoming a fan-favorite character, Brewster was asked to continue in a reduced capacity for Season 6. The in-story reason was Prentiss" Interpol past catching up to her when escaped international arms dealer Ian Doyle tracked her down to find his son. During her subsequent kidnapping and torture, Doyle stabs Prentiss with a broken table leg, a wound which most of the BAU believe leads to her death.

Prentiss" drama-heavy send-off masked a murkier, behind-the-seasons reason. A.J. Cook"s Jennifer Jareau had already been written off the show to save money, and the reduction of Prentiss" role was a further cost-saving measure. The uncertainty in Prentiss" future on Criminal Minds led Brewster to consider other acting possibilities, including filming a pilot for another show. The result was CBS working to get rid of two women cast members under the guise of reducing costs.


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Prentiss" Resurrection and Interpol on Criminal Minds


Criminal Minds Prentiss Hotchner
Despite the death of her character, her pursuit of other opportunities, and what she called the "scummy" behavior of the network in writing off the women characters, Brewster returned to Criminal Minds in the seventh season. Fans were livid at the loss of both J.J. and Prentiss, leading the network to activate a clause in Brewster"s contract that would require her to return. While unhappy with how CBS handled the situation, Brewster still appreciated the fan support and her Criminal Minds community.


Brewster"s immediate return meant the show"s writers had to quickly resurrect her character. While audiences learned that Prentiss survived her stabbing and was on the run in Paris at the end of her final episode in Season 6, "Lauren," the BAU team had to readjust to the news of her survival in the Season 7 premiere, "It Takes a Village," causing some drama in particular with long-term agent Reid.

However, after her resurrection, neither Prentiss nor Brewster felt the same about their work. After being refused the provision to audition for a pilot season, and with the final year up on her contract, Brewster decided to quit Criminal Minds with the Season 7 finale. Onscreen, Prentiss was offered a position with Interpol in London, making her departure from the BAU official.



Brewster made two guest appearances on Criminal Minds between seasons 7 and 11. The milestone 200th episode in Season 9 brought the head of Interpol, Prentiss, back to help recover the kidnapped Agent Jareau, while longtime BAU member Derek Morgan"s final episode in Season 11 saw Prentiss return to say her goodbye. Apart from those two episodes, Brewster stayed from the show for five whole years.

But neither Brewster nor Prentiss could stay away forever, however. When star Thomas Gibson was fired from the show in Season 12, that left the BAU Unit without a director, Aaron Hotchner. Once again, Brewster was brought back not only to reprise her character but also to act as the new unit chief. From the middle of Season 12 until the show"s 15th and final season, Prentiss remained as head of the BAU.

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Brewster"s tenure on Criminal Minds was anything but consistent, with a mid-series start, a death and multiple departures. But it"s a testament to her skills as an actor and the design of her character that fans have been on board the entire time, always eager for the reappearance of Emily Prentiss.

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