'Criminal Minds' Fans Surprised by Thomas Gibson's Hotch Appearing in Series Finale

Not everyone was able to come back to say a proper goodbye to Criminal Minds. Thomas Gibson, who played Supervisory Special Agent Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner from 2005 to 2016, wasn't brought back for Wednesday night's two-part series finale. However, the show did make use of some old footage of him as part of a hallucination of Reid's (Matthew Gray Gubler), and again in a flashback.

As one might expect, longtime viewers of the CBS procedural had mixed feelings about how Hotch's return was handled by the show, along with Shemar Moore's return as Derek Morgan.

"Well I guess throwback Morgan and Hotch is better than none," wrote one viewer, while another tweeted they "want a real Hotch appearance."

"All these Hotch flashbacks but I want the real thing," a third chimed in.

Yet another wrote that they were "pleasantly surprised that they actually showed Hotch in this episode," even if it was some recycled footage.

While he was around since the first episode, Gibson ended up having a tumultuous parting with the long-running series. Back in 2016, he got into an on-set altercation with a writer/producer. In a statement, Gibson issued a statement where he apologized for the confrontation.

"There were creative differences on the set and a disagreement," Gibson wrote. "I regret that it occurred. We all want to work together as a team to make the best show possible. We always have and we always will."

However, the network clearly didn't feel the same way, and he was fired from the show in August in a statement of their own, which made it clear that Gibson had "been dismissed from Criminal Minds. Creative details for how the character's exit will be addressed in the show will be announced at a later date."

Earlier this week, showrunner Erica Messer addressed the issue in an interview with TVLine, albeit she didn't actually confirm or deny Gibson's return.

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"What I'd love to do is honor the history of the series in some way that is satisfying for all of us, and I don't know exactly what that will be," she explained. "As we're closing a chapter on the series, I want to be sure that we're honoring all of those people who were here and the lives that we've all been invested in for so long."

While Gibson wasn't personally along for the ride, a number of other familiar faces were able to show up for tonight's conclusion, including Ben Savage, Jane Lynch, C. Thomas Howell and many more.