Weeks after Thomas Gibson's final Criminal Minds episode, the show finally addressed his character's whereabouts.
On Wednesday's episode, titled "Elliott's Pond" and directed by cast member Matthew Gray Gubler, it was revealed that Gibson's character, Aaron Hotcher, was leaving his post as longtime head of the Behavioral Analysis Unit.
After Peter Lewis (aka Mr. Scratch) began stalking Hotch's son, Jack, the two decided to enter the Witness Protection Program. The move would make made it nearly impossible for Hotch to return to his field of work at the BAU if and when the opportunity presented itself, prompting him to make the decision to leave for good in an effort to protect Jack.
That meant a new BAU chief had to be named and it only made sense for it to be Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster), a request Hotch made personally. "Thank the universe for silver linings." (Also, girl power!)
The episode closed with the new team toasting to a new beginning. Because Gibson's character was not killed off, it leaves the door open for a potential return down the line for the former series regular. Whether that is a realistic opportunity remains to be seen.
Fans of Criminal Minds had mixed feelings over the way the show wrote off Gibson's character, who, earlier in the season was said to have been "on assignment."
Some were happy about the way his exit was handled…
#CriminalMinds just handled the Hotch situation perfectly. A+— ashley (@shyesplease) November 17, 2016
Wonderful sendoff to Hotch. Was the best-case scenario and really respectful to the character. #CriminalMinds— Jake Higgins (@jhiggins2987) November 17, 2016
Props to the writers of Criminal Minds for coming up with a very believable way for Hotch leaving since he got fired from the show— Madelyn Einck (@MaddawgEinck) November 17, 2016
While others were still broken up over it…
Since Hotch left, I've been able to figure out every ending before the show is over. I don't like not being in suspense. #CriminalMinds— Elaine T. Palmer (@AUNTIELANELANE) November 17, 2016
Criminal minds will never be the same now that Hotch is gone— Maddy Andrade (@Maddyandrade) November 17, 2016
Gibson was fired in August after allegedly kicking writer-producer Virgil Williams during an on-set altercation. CBS and ABC Studios said in a statement back then that "creative details for who the character's exit will be addressed in the show" would come "at a later date." Gibson was last seen in the Oct. 5 episode, the 12th season's second installment.
Seems like we got our answer.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
For more on how Criminal Minds handled Gibson's final appearance, watch below.