Why is Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds but not in Criminal Minds Evolution and could actor Matthew Gray Gubler return?

There’s no-one quite like Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds but if you were hoping to see actor Matthew Gray Gubler in the reboot you’ll be disappointed…

Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds played by Matthew Gray Gubler
(Image credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds was a truly unique character using his genius skills to help the BAU team but he sadly isn’t back in action in reboot show.

Whilst Criminal Minds fans were likely delighted to see their favorite Behavioral Analysis Unit profilers back catching criminals in the new Criminal Minds: Evolution reboot, the opening episodes likely left some with questions. Perhaps the two biggest causes for speculation focused on who Rossi lost in Criminal Minds: Evolution and why is Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds but not in the reboot. His actor Matthew Gray Gubler hasn’t returned and though you can still see him as the team’s resident genius in seasons 1-15 on different platforms now Criminal Minds has left Netflix, many people might be hoping he could come back.

Here we reveal what we know about why fans saw Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds but not in the reboot, if he left the BAU and whether his actor Matthew Gray Gubler could return. 

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

Matthew Gray Gubler attends the "Zoe" premiere during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

(Image credit: Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Why isn’t Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds: Evolution?  

Very sadly the final episode of Criminal Minds was not only the last we saw of the person who Rossi lost, but of fan-favorite character Spencer Reid, who’d been part of the show since the beginning. Just like that feeling when we found out that Douglas Henshall wouldn’t be part of the Shetland season 8 cast, it’s a little sad and strange to see Criminal Minds: Evolution without Matthew Gray Gubler’s popular character. And it’s been hinted that he actually wanted to return…

Opening up to Deadline, the show’s executive producer Erica Messer said that schedule-wise it was very difficult for Matthew to come back as Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds: Evolution. 

“He’s been doing other projects and a lot of those were lining up during our window. Our window of shooting was just August to December 2. It was the same with Daniel Henney [who played profiler Matthew Simmons], who was working on The Wheel of Time. So I wasn’t able to get them, but I could get the six other cast members,” she said. 

So it seems that we got to enjoy watching Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds but not in Evolution because Matthew Gray Gubler’s other projects and schedule just didn’t work time-wise with the dates they were shooting the reboot.

Why did Spencer Reid leave the BAU?  

If you’re new to the long-running US crime drama and have just been drawn into the reboot, Criminal Minds: Evolution, you might well be wondering - why did Spencer Reid leave the BAU? - the answer is a simple one: he didn’t! The original run of Criminal Minds pre-reboot came to an end in 2020 leaving devoted fans devastated and hoping against hope for its return. 

Thankfully all that wishful thinking paid off when the reboot was announced and there was every chance initially that Spencer Reid would be back because he was still a part of the team at the end of season 15. 

In the finale, appropriately titled, ‘And in the end…” we saw plenty of Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds to round off the show as the team finally took down serial killer The Chameleon. He even co-narrated the opening quote by E.E. Cummings that was such a unique part of Criminal Minds’ episode style. He suffered intracranial bleeding before being found by Penelope Garcia and Jennifer "JJ" Jareau and going to hospital.

By the end of the episode he’s made a complete recovery and regained consciousness, leaving the door very much open for the profiler’s actor Matthew Gray Gubler to return as Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds: Evolution. 

Whilst ultimately he hasn’t come back as of yet, Spencer is understood to have remained a BAU employee - something Criminal Minds: Evolution executive producer Erica Messer has confirmed to Variety.

Matthew Gray Gubler attends photocall for "Criminal Minds"

(Image credit: Photo by Toni Anne Barson/FilmMagic via Getty)

She explained that despite both Spencer Reid and Matthew Simmons being absent from the reboot, their desks are there and they haven’t left the bureau. 

“It’s a little bit more of a mystery what Reid and Simmons are up to,” she said. “They’re certainly not forgotten. Their desks are still there, still have stuff on it,” Erica teased. “We’re definitely playing that. They are not gone gone.”

This remark will likely have come as an immense relief to fans of both Matt Simmons and Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds as it seems that given neither left the BAU, the door is still open a crack for a possible return…

Could Matthew Gray Gubler return as Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds: Evolution?

For those wondering if former regular cast member Matthew Gray Gubler could return as Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds: Evolution then it seems like this could technically be a possibility, though of course it hasn’t been confirmed. In light of Erica’s comments it’s easy to see how they might be able to bring about a return for Spencer, though, as he still works for the BAU and is presumably off crime-solving on another case in Evolution. 

The executive producer also told the publication that she’s hopeful that more of Criminal Minds’ original stars “will be able to come back and play at some point”. We’ve also seen that Criminal Minds has managed to explain Spencer’s absence before as he has previously been missing from a few Criminal Minds episodes. 

Matthew Gray Gubler visits Build Series to discuss the TV show "Criminal Minds"

(Image credit: Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

The character has also taught classes before and often went to visit his mother frequently at short notice, providing more possible ways Criminal Minds: Evolution could allow him to return, either as a guest star for a set number of episodes or more permanently going forwards. 

Criminal Minds: Evolution is available to watch in the US via Paramount+ and in the UK via Disney+ and you can also watch all the previous seasons which had Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds here too.  

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with seven years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.