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'Criminal Minds: Evolution’ Spoilers: What Is Gold Star?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 10, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 10, 2023 |


Criminal Minds: Evolution, Paramount+’s continuation of CBS’s long-running Criminal Minds, completed its first season this week. Those who like to see everything tied up may be slightly disappointed in a mostly satisfying finale.

The first season of the series centered on the investigation of a network of serial killers recruited during the pandemic by Elias Voit (Zach Gilford), the mastermind. Gilford is surprisingly good in the role of a serial killer. He’s reminiscent of Dexter’s Trinity Killer: A decent family man with a loving wife and two kids, who murdered the sh*t out of people on the side. By the finale, however, the BAU had managed to locate Voit and only had to separate him from his family so that he would not kill them and rescue Rossi (Joe Mantegna) from an underground bunker Voit had trapped him in.

The BAU accomplished both tasks, but not before the bumbling deputy director of the FBI Doug Bailey (Nicholas D’Agosto) was killed. Bailey had had a conversation with the Attorney General behind closed doors before he volunteered to go inside Voit’s home to talk to him. Voit and Bailey talked circles around a matter called “gold star” that the Attorney General granted Bailey “full authority” to speak on.

“By my math,” Voit told Bailey. “There’s only two people who know about [gold star].”
“Only you and me,” Bailey responded, at which point Voit shot him in the head and killed him.

Apparently, there’s only one person who knows about gold star now.

What is gold star? That’s not clear. The reference to “gold star” made by Bailey did not make the final after-action report, according to Rossi, and it is clear that the Attorney General is covering up something.

However, “gold star” will play into the second season of Criminal Minds: Evolution, according to showrunner Erica Messer in an interview with Variety. Gilford’s character will return next season and operate in something akin to a Hannibal Lector role: A serial killer who advises profilers on other serial killers.

Well, we’re hoping to have Zach a lot in the season and sort of treat him — the simplest way to say it — as our Hannibal Lecter. He knows information about gold star. The team is already a little bit hip to it, because Lewis [Aisha Tyler] and Prentice [Paget Brewster] told Rossi that gold star wasn’t in the report, and it should have been because Bailey was acting weird when he said it. So they’re already sort of hinting at. What is gold star? Voit knows what gold star is, because he said it out loud and they heard him say it out loud. So he is using that knowledge as power in his captivity.

The “gold star” mystery seems to have been belatedly added onto the season as an excuse to bring back Gilford, with whom the showrunner liked working. “We didn’t know we were gonna fall in love with Zach so much that we wanted to come up with a story that could continue, really, until we started breaking those episodes. And we’re like, how do we keep Zach around?”

That is unfortunately all that is known at the time about gold star. It sounds like it was a last-minute creation designed to keep Gilford around for another season. I doubt even the writers fully know yet what exactly the gold star mystery is. We’ll find out in season two, which is expected to begin production sometime in 2023.