|“||I study guys like you for a living, I know more about you than you know about yourself.||”|
— Morgan in "The Longest Night"
Derek Morgan is a former Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. For a time, he was the acting unit chief of the BAU, taking over as Hotch stepped down temporally. Morgan specialized in explosives, fixations, and obsessive behaviors. He officially resigned from the BAU in Season Eleven in order to be with his new family. His position was taken over by Luke Alvez in Season Twelve.
Morgan was born to an African-American father and a Caucasian mother. During high school, Morgan was popular from his sophomore year to graduation; he confided to Reid that during his freshman year, he got his "ass kicked every day". He went to Northwestern University on a football scholarship and is an honor graduate in Law, holds a black belt in Judo, runs FBI self-defense classes, served in a bomb squad unit, and worked as a Chicago police officer. He and his two sisters, Sarah and Desiree, grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood. The three of them were close to their paternal aunt Yvonne and cousin Cindi, whose house they would stay at whenever their parents were working.
At the age of ten, Morgan was a witness to the shooting death of his father Hank, a police officer. After his father's death, Morgan struggled somewhat with youthful fighting, earning him a juvenile criminal record. He was taken under the wing of a local youth center coordinator, Carl Buford. Buford acted as a surrogate father to Morgan, helping Morgan to obtain the aforementioned football scholarship, but Buford was also sexually abusing him, which Morgan revealed several years later, under extreme duress. As a teen, he discovered the body of an unidentified boy, which had a profound effect on him (he went door to door in order to collect money to buy the boy a headstone and visited the boy's grave every time he came home to Chicago).
"We all have people in our lives. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. But they shape us, Detective. That's why you have that badge. That's why the two of us are sitting in this car right now."
Morgan's personality has changed dramatically several times during the course of the series. At the beginning of Season One, Derek appears to be an overeager attention getter, wearing three-piece suits and constantly quoting regulations and being the only member of the team who understood Reid's "jokes". His personality would then shift to a suave, ladies man-type before finally settling into the serious, grim-faced agent that he is today, especially following his temporary promotion to Acting Unit Chief. However, he still maintains the suave attitude towards women, only in a more mature fashion. He has shown to be very flirtatious towards Penelope Garcia.
On the Job
Years later, in "Profiler, Profiled" Morgan's past would come back to haunt him when he was arrested by the Chicago Police Department for the murder of the unidentified boy and two others. The lead detective (who had arrested Morgan several times as a boy) believed Morgan was guilty and used a BAU profile done by Jason Gideon (who was unaware Morgan was the prime suspect) to support his case. Believing he was being framed by the real killer, the BAU searched through Morgan's life and background to prove him innocent, which Garcia was uncomfortable doing. They later identified Carl Buford as the man who set Morgan up to take the fall (Buford was friends with the lead detective). When Hotch asked about Carl, Morgan told him to back off. He then escaped police custody and spoke to a local boy who was friends with the latest victim. The boy revealed he was currently being molested by Carl and that the latest victim knew about it. Morgan confronted Carl, who initially denied that anything happened between them, and told Morgan the other boy was lying. Refusing to back down (and wishing that he had told someone about Carl when he was a kid), Morgan eventually got Carl to admit to the abuse. Carl's admission was overheard by Chicago detectives (who were hiding nearby), and they arrested him. Carl pleaded with Morgan to help him, and Morgan simply told him, "You go to hell."
In "Omnivore" Morgan became very close to being killed by The Reaper. The Reaper tackles him through a window and Derek is rendered unconscious. Since The Reaper is a power/control type killer, Morgan's unconscious state was a turn-off and The Reaper spared him, leaving behind a .44 Magnum round to let him know that he easily could have killed him. He also took Derek's credentials.
In "Cradle to Grave" Hotch works Morgan harder than usual. As such, Morgan unintentionally lashes out at Jennifer Jareau. She tells Morgan that Hotch has been getting some heat from Strauss. Hotch later tells Morgan that he is stepping down as Unit Chief and, in order to keep the team together by promoting from within the Unit, would like Derek to be Unit Chief.
In "The Eyes Have It" Morgan is successful in his first case as Acting Unit Chief. At the end of the episode, he is given his own office, which was acquired after JJ and Garcia had pulled some strings when its previous occupant, one Agent Hall, was set to retire soon. He also sees Tamara Barnes throughout the episode. They meet at an outdoor coffee shop where Tamara gifts Morgan a silver cross necklace that belonged to her brother William. She also suggests that they get a drink eventually when his job dies down.
In "Retaliation", towards the end of the episode, Hotch approaches Morgan at his desk and lets him know he appreciated what he did for the team as Acting Unit Chief, complimenting his natural leadership and initiative. Morgan finishes his paperwork for Hotch, letting him know that he knows how precious time a child needs with a single parent.
In "The Uncanny Valley", on board the teams plane towards the beginning of the episode, it's seen that Hotch is giving out the orders, signifying Morgan's step down as Acting Unit Chief and Hotch's step back up to Unit Chief.
In "Exit Wounds", Derek and Penelope shared a room when the team had to double up due to lack of rooms, prompting Penelope to call dibs with Morgan. Her boyfriend Kevin quickly became jealous, calling him a "Muscle-Bound Modern-Day 007", Penelope quickly retorting that he's more of a Jason Bourne. After she witnessed a murder, she ran towards the victim causing Morgan to be mad at her, commenting on that behavior as reckless. Then Morgan wanted to conduct a cognitive interview which made Penelope angry. Towards the end of the episode Penelope comments on her change of behavior towards seeing blood. This prompted Morgan to comment that she's changing into someone stronger than she realizes, that she cared enough to risk her life to save someone else's. She then revealed that she's scared she's changing into someone she's not just so she can do the job. Derek then tells her that she sees the beauty in everything and everyone wherever she goes and that he'll keep protecting her so that she won't change.
In "Our Darkest Hour", Morgan was attacked by a serial killer who killed Detective Matt Spicer in front of his eyes. At the end of the episode, Morgan and Spicer's sister had to watch as the unsub abducted Spicer's daughter, with Morgan vowing "We will find you, you sick son of a bitch." In the episode's follow-up, Morgan is able to rescue Spicer's daughter and kill the unsub.
In "Lauren" Morgan was angry with Prentiss for never telling the team of her past with Ian Doyle and the extents to which she went to get his profile. However, he was also extremely worried about her and was the agent who found her moments after she was stabbed by Doyle. He blamed himself for her 'death', and reacted badly when told that she was alive. However, he recovered from the shock quite quickly but later falsely told her that she had to undertake recertification training. When she confronted him about lying, he told her that he didn't want to lose her again and needed some reassurance. They then agreed to meet up for ten hours of training.
In "Painless" Morgan engaged in a practical joke 'war' with Reid, giving Reid's phone number to the press. Non-stop calls irritated Reid until he eventually lost his temper and yelled into the phone at one of his callers. On the plane, it is revealed that Reid hacked his MP3 player so that Morgan couldn't turn it off and could only hear Reid screaming and Reid hacked Morgan's phone so that he thought Garcia was calling, only to hear more screaming. Impressed, Rossi waves a white cloth as a signal that Morgan should surrender, but he refused, insisting that it was over before telling Reid that "payback's a bitch".
In "Restoration" Morgan is forced to confront his demons regarding Carl when a spree killer appears in Chicago and is revealed to be one of Carl's former victims. He goes to Carl for information about all of the victims he molested and is taunted briefly by him on two occasions. However, Carl agrees to give him a list of his victims after Morgan threatens to tell the other inmates (who are only aware of Carl's murders and not his pedophilic tendencies) about the true nature of his incarceration. When Rodney Harris is identified as the unsub, Morgan approaches him as he holds his own family hostage. He reveals to him that he too was molested by Carl and manages to convince him to surrender. At the end of the episode, Morgan learns, to his shock, that Carl was killed by other inmates, who had seen a news report revealing Carl's true crimes.
In "The Return" it is revealed that Morgan had a girlfriend prior to Season Nine, named Savannah Hayes, who is his neighbor and works as a nurse at Bethesda General Hospital. However, their relationship was shown to be strained due to the demands of their jobs. It is revealed that the two of them met after Morgan became depressed over a case that ended badly and Savannah approached him.
In "Demons" the follow-up to "Angels," it is revealed that both of the bullets that hit him struck his bulletproof vest, although he then receives a graze wound to the arm while he was engaging the suspect, whom he manages to kill.
In "Derek" the follow-up to "A Badge and a Gun," Edgar Solomon tortures Morgan by beating and then burning him. However, the torture is unsuccessful, as Morgan dissociates himself from the pain and has visions of his father Hank assisting him. When Solomon orders his men to have Morgan stripped down, Morgan overpowers one of the men and shoots everyone. Solomon, who was the sole survivor of the shooting, calls John Bradley to kill Morgan and eats the phone's SIM card. After Solomon succumbs to his gunshot wound, Morgan retrieves the SIM card from his stomach, places it in the phone, and gives the BAU his location. Soon after, Bradley arrives to finish the job and Morgan attacks him. Bradley pins Morgan down by stabbing him in the hand, but before he could finish him, he is shot and killed by Reid. At the hospital, Morgan is treated for his injuries. When he wakes up, Savannah tells him that she is expecting their first child, but Morgan tells her that he already knew and then proposes to her, which she accepts.
In "A Beautiful Disaster", Morgan brings Savannah to the hospital. The BAU comes to the hospital and takes charge of the case, and Hotch takes Morgan off the case because of his personal connection to it. The team figures out that the unsub is Chazz Montolo, the father of the late Giuseppe Montolo, who was arrested by and later killed in front of Morgan. Montolo leaves a note in one of the payphones that he used to call Garcia. JJ shows Morgan the note even though he is off the case because she believes that he should be on it. Morgan lies to JJ, saying that he doesn't understand the contents of the note. Once he has a moment to himself, he leaves the hospital to confront Montolo, who is at one of Morgan's renovated houses.
Morgan finds himself in a hostage situation with a gun pointed at him. Montolo threatens the BAU and plays a game of Russian Roulette with Morgan. Montolo allows him to say goodbye to the team on the phone, but Morgan gets the upper hand and gets Montolo on the ground. The BAU team comes right on time, and apprehend Montolo. Back at the hospital, Savannah is in the middle of a C-section and Morgan arrives just in time for the arrival of his newborn son. As the team celebrates with Morgan, he talks with Hotch about his departure from the team in order to protect his family and to be around for his son. Morgan says goodbye to JJ, Reid, and Garcia. Before he leaves the building, he looks into the conference room and watches his team work one last time before his departure.
Derek shares a special relationship with Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia. In "Penelope", Derek's love for his "Baby Girl" was evident as he stayed by her side protecting her and caring for her during her recovery. Penelope's love for her "Hot Stuff" and "Gorgeous" (as she calls Derek) was also evident in Mayhem and Lessons Learned as she sat with her face full of fear and terror at the thought of losing him. Derek and Penelope have had no romantic involvement, but the deep love they share is proof positive that they have a lifelong bond because neither one can survive without the other. They have a sibling-like bond. In "Exit Wounds", Derek and Penelope shared a room when the team had to double up due to lack of rooms, prompting Penelope to call dibs with Morgan. Her boyfriend Kevin quickly became jealous, calling him a "Muscle-Bound Modern-Day 007", Penelope quickly retorting that he's more of a Jason Bourne. After she witnessed a murder, she ran towards the victim causing Morgan to be mad at her, commenting on that behavior as reckless. Then Morgan wanted to conduct a cognitive interview which made Penelope angry. Towards the end of the episode, they made up per usual.
- His original sidearm was a Glock 17 with a TLR-2 Streamlight laser/flashlight combination attachment. By Season Six, he switched to a Sig Sauer P226R with a TLR-1 tactical light attachment. He also carries a Glock 26 at his ankle as a backup.
- Morgan was originally named "Tim" ("Compulsion").
- He was undercover for two years ("Natural Born Killer").
- Morgan's relationship with Spencer Reid is comparable to brothers.
- Morgan's favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut, with his favorite Vonnegut novel being Mother Night ("Fear and Loathing").
- He usually kicks down the doors and storms in.
- Began to once again believe in God right before Garcia was shot and was praying in a church as she was being operated on ("Lucky", "Penelope", and "Lucky Strikes").
- In a deleted scene from "Damaged," Morgan claims to Prentiss that he does 1,000 sit-ups a day when working out, sometimes twice a day.
- He is a fan of Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, and Walter Payton ("Elephant's Memory"). His admiration of Payton was to the point where he disapproved of a pimp using Payton's nickname ("Protection").
- He finds out that he likes mojitos and enjoys South Beach while on vacation.
- He has a dog named Clooney, who is not mentioned in any later episodes ("Secrets and Lies").
- He grew up in an area with a high crime rate ("A Thin Line").
- He is a fan of hockey but doesn't like baseball ("I Love You, Tommy Brown").
- In the same episode, he also admits he posed nude for an art class on at least one occasion.
- He once considered suicide after being molested by Carl ("Foundation").
- He is a fan of the rapper Nas, considering everyone who can't quote "Illimatic" as ignorant ("#6").
- He hates prisons ("Boxed In" and "Lockdown").
- The background story of his sexual abuse which prompted him to join the FBI was based on the real-life experiences of former BAU member and current writer/consultant, Jim Clemente.
- He is a friend of former Dallas Cowboys player Michael Irvin ("'Til Death Do Us Part").
- In A Higher Power, it was mentioned that he owns four properties and enjoys remodeling them in his spare time. However, the later episode A Beautiful Disaster revealed that he owns a total of eight properties and that he demolished them in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks and has since been remodeling them. He did this as a way to vent out his frustration and have control over something.
- Has appeared in 251 episodes as a main character, A Beautiful Disaster being his last.
- He appears to be particularly fond of children, harboring a particular hatred towards criminals with child victims. Such as Jeremy Sayer ("Safe Haven"), J.B. Allen ("Foundation"), Billy Flynn in Seasons Five and Six, and when he suspected James Charles to be responsible for the murders his son committed ("The Boogeyman"). He usually refers to them as a "sick son of a bitch".
Behind the Scenes
Derek Morgan is portrayed by former soap actor Shemar Moore.
During Season Ten, Moore believed that he would depart from his role of Morgan during that time since his contract was about to end. However, he was convinced to stay in Season Eleven in order to give his character a proper sendoff. According to showrunner Erica Messer, Morgan was originally going to appear in Season Eleven's first six episodes before departing, but it didn't feel like enough appearances. The staff eventually settled on Morgan departing in the eighteenth episode.