As Samuel Taylor Coleridge noted in his Biographia Literaria almost two centuries ago, a "willing suspension of disbelief" is essential to the enjoyment of poetry. The same applies to the enjoyment of television today - an acceptance in some part of your brain that the characters whose lives and adventures you are following on the screen are in some sense real. And few things disrupt that pact made with your fiction as does a major character leaving a narrative because the actor or actress can no longer perform the part. It's as if the really real world behind the television has reached out and punctured the pretended real world of the narrative you've been following so closely.
Sometimes it can't be helped, as when Jock Ewing left Dallas because actor Jim Davis died in 1981. Other times this happens because the actor or actress decides to leave, as when Adam Cartright left Bonanza in 1965 because Pernell Roberts rode away in search of greener pastures.
In the case of J. J. leaving Criminal Minds, the fault seems to be with the powers that be somewhere in control of the series. Actress A.J. Cook certainly didn't seem to want to leave, based on her public statements. In a case of the storyline of tonight's show echoing what happened in really real television life, A. J. was apparently obliged to leave for the same unsatisfying executive reasons as was J. J. on the show.
It was clear in tonight's episode that the rest of cast will certainly miss her. The worst criminal part of the story at least had a happy ending - a Natalee Holloway kind of story in which the victim was found alive, due in the case of Criminal Minds to the sharp observations of J. J.
So the writers gave J. J. a fine send-off in these last two episodes - the first two episodes of a new season. As I said in my review last week, J. J. added a tender humanity, a lightness of being, to this often crushingly intense show, and, for that reason, she'll be difficult to replace, if she is at all.
5-min podcast review of Criminal Minds
See also Criminal Minds in Sixth Season Premiere and Criminal Minds 5.22 and the Dark Side of New New Media
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