'Criminal Minds' Poll: Will You Miss Damon Gupton's Stephen Walker?
'Criminal Minds' Poll: Will You Miss Damon Gupton's Stephen Walker?
Meredith Jacobs
Meredith Jacobs
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Criminal Minds brought in a couple new characters in season 12 following the BAU losing both Morgan (after Shemar Moore left) and Hotch (after Thomas Gibson was fired), but thanks to the finale cliffhanger, it was unclear if everyone would (or should) be back. Now we know at least one person who won't be coming back: Damon Gupton's Stephen Walker.

Though it's still unknown how the show will write him out, it's hard to imagine all six agents involved in the cliffhanger crash coming away from it unscathed (nor should they), but is Stephen the character who should be leaving? That's debatable, especially since he fit in so well once he joined the team.

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Stephen Walker Seamlessly Fit in with the Team

In a season of change with two new agents joining the team, Luke Alvez was very obviously the "new guy" (and Garcia made sure he knew it the entire year), both to the BAU itself (having come from the Fugitive Task Force) and the team members. Meanwhile, Stephen Walker was brought in as someone who came from the Behavioral Analysis Program, had a past with both Prentiss and Rossi and seemed to just slip right into his spot on the team.

Stephen knew what he was doing; Rossi even had him join him and Prentiss for his advanced seminar in the episode after he was introduced to the team as its newest member.

And that was really that. The show didn't make that big a deal out of Stephen joining the team, especially once he was there. Sure, we were left to wonder who the person Prentiss hired was before he showed up after they returned from a case, but that's really it. That's how it should have been done at that point too. The series made such a big deal out of Alvez being the new guy constantly that it had to do the opposite with Stephen. While that was good for the team, was it good for viewers? Not necessarily.

It did mean that he was just another profiler working with the team, and since the series had spent years establishing most of the other characters, that did make it hard for him to stand out at times. Sure, one of his friends was at the center of a case, which put him at the center of it as well, but the focus of the second half of the season was almost entirely on Reid's prison arc, to the point that most of the cases and everything else (including Stephen) was entirely too forgettable. So, while he'll be missed, it's in the way of someone you want to see stay but whose loss won't shake up things too much.  

Stephen Became Determined to Catch Mr. Scratch

Peter Lewis has made it very personal for the team, but the person who has been least affected by him is Stephen Walker. Sure, he knows what Mr. Scratch has done to them, but up until the team thought he was behind framing Reid (only to find out it was Cat Adams in the penultimate episode of the season), he was very much on the outside looking in. He hadn't been targeted personally. Scratch never went after his family. That didn't stop him from becoming more determined to catch him the more frustrated he became, not even entertaining the idea of leaving the BAU to return to the BAP.

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That's something the team needed. They needed someone who could look at the case objectively, and that's what Stephen Walker did. But since it doesn't seem likely that Scratch's arc will be wrapped up in the premiere and rather, he'll be sticking around (there is, after all, episode 300), it's a shame that they're going to lose that. (But that doesn't mean the show should bring in someone new to fill that hole.)

There Are Multiple Ways to Write Him Out -- Without Killing Him Off

As much as it may pain me to admit it, someone had to be injured or killed when the 18-wheeler crashed into the SUVs at the end of the finale. It's just not realistic for everyone to walk away and continue after Mr. Scratch after what has been assumed to be Lewis' trap in the road. Though it looked like Rossi, Prentiss and Tara's SUV took the worst of it, it would be easy enough to have something else happen on the road if fatality or injury is the way they want to say goodbye to Stephen Walker. (He was in the other SUV with JJ and Luke.) (Hey, though it may not be the best move, they could even have him kidnapped from the car and missing for quite a while, only to be found off-screen and decide to return to the BAP.)

Though something like that could serve as further motivation for the team to go after Scratch, do they really need it? At this point, not really. He's done enough to them, and it would get to the point where he would do too much that they can't drag out catching him.

Besides, killing off Stephen would be the wrong move. Injure him, fine. Put him in a position where he has to take a desk job or leave the FBI or something. Give him a reason to leave the BAU. Have him recovering off-screen for an indeterminable amount of time and have one of the others mention he's returning to the BAP or taking another job. (We've found out about former team members moving on like that before.) Say he's still helping them with Scratch, only he's doing it another way. There are options.

What do you think? Are you going to miss Stephen Walker? What are you hoping to see in Criminal Minds season 13? Let us know in the comments below!

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(Image courtesy of CBS)