Because I have a tendency to fall in love with shows that are soon canceled, I didn’t succumb to the siren song of Criminal Minds until A&E started airing the first few seasons in syndication. But, oh, have I made up for lost time! Now, six seasons in, I’m desperate for the season premiere coming September 21.
For those of you who haven’t been converted yet, Criminal Minds follows the adventures of an elite team of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, which provides criminal profiling services to local law enforcement. Each week, the team wings across the nation on its private jet, pitting their powers of psychological perception against some of the world’s most criminal minds.
The leadership of the team shifts somewhat due to twists and turns in the plot, but at its core are five characters who have been with the show from the start.
Unit Chief, SSA Aaron Hotchner—Portrayed with almost unrelieved brooding by Thomas Gibson, Hotch is the emotional center of the group. He’s the parental figure of the group. At the beginning of the series, his gloominess was abated somewhat by scenes with his wife Haley, and son, Jack, but as their relationship begins to unravel, and they eventually divorce, Hotch becomes more and more serious.
SSA Derek Morgan—Intense and at times impulsive, Morgan (Shemar Moore) is the player of the team. The son of a Chicago cop who died in the line of duty, Morgan takes his job very seriously. He takes over as Unit Chief for a time during season five when Hotch is distracted by his hunt for the Reaper.
SSA Dr. Spencer Reid—Age 27 in Season 4, the baby of the group, Reid, played by Matthew Gray Gubler, was a child prodigy. He has an eidetic memory and degrees in math, chemistry, engineering, psychology, sociology, and philosophy. Reid’s mother suffers from Paranoid Schizophrenia and lives in a psychiatric facility to which Reid committed her when he turned 18.
SSA Media Liaison J.J. Jareau—Not a profiler, J.J. is one of two team members who have managed to maintain a relationship, having met her partner Will LaMontaigne during a case in New Orleans. Played by A. J. Cook, she is good friends with Reid, even going so far as to choose him to be godfather to her son. J.J.’s role is as the one who relates best to the public and members of local law enforcement.
Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia—Not an agent or a profiler, Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) generally stays in Quantico when the team is on a case, using her computer hacking skills to crunch numbers, sifting through multiple databases at a time to discover criminal and medical histories. Garcia is often the voice of “everyman,” voicing the horror and distaste that the other team members are often too busy to mention. With an endless supply of spectacles and a flair for makeup and hair color, Garcia is the mother hen of the group, often hovering when she senses a member of the team needs help.
The rest of the cast has shifted as the series progressed, with Joe Mantegna’s Dave Rossi stepping in to fill the vacancy left when Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) left the bureau after a serial killer murdered his girlfriend. Whereas Gideon was intense, Rossi is more laid back, and often counsels team members that they shouldn’t let the job become their lives.
Season One’s Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini) was the new kid on the block, but left after killing a suspected rapist who was unarmed. She was replaced by Emily Prentiss, played by Paget Brewster, who previously worked as an undercover agent for Interpol. The daughter of a US Ambassador, it is first believed that her mother pulled strings to get her onto the team, though she denies it. It takes a bit for Emily to fit into the team, but eventually she does, often hanging out after work with J.J. and Garcia.
Over their six season run, the team has dealt with multiple stressors, including last season’s behind the scenes casting shake-ups. In the summer of 2010, A.J. Cook was let go from the show, which was written two episodes into the 6th Season as J.J. being given a promotion to the Pentagon that she couldn’t refuse. But thanks to the cancellation of spin off Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and the departure of longtime show runner Edward Allen Bernero, Cook has been signed to a new two-year contract and will reprise the role of J.J. starting this fall.
In more good news, Paget Brewster, who left the show to pursue another project after her role was cut back considerably, will return this fall as well thanks to an option clause in her contract with CBS. Her departure had been written into the plot by having Emily “die” at the hands of a villain from her Interpol days. It was later revealed that her death was staged, and A.J. Cook returned briefly as a special guest star so that J.J. could oversee Emily’s escape into parts unknown.
It remains to be seen how the writers will handle bringing Emily back from the dead, and moving J.J. back to the BAU from the State Department. The season ender in May suggested that Section Chief Erin Strauss, who has not always been a big fan of Hotch’s team, might be going through some personal trauma. Will it mean a temporary promotion for Hotch? Or will J.J. come back to the BAU into a role other than Media Liaison? And how on earth are the team going to handle Emily’s rise from the dead? Garcia and Morgan and Reid were devastated by her loss. And I don’t think they’re going to welcome her back with open arms. I have my own theory about Hotch and how much he knew about Emily’s situation. And if the team feels like they can’t trust Hotch there’s going to be conflict-galore. I can’t wait!
Manda Collins has been reading mysteries since her first Nancy Drew at the age of six. An academic librarian by day, by night she writes historical romance blended with mystery for St. Martin’s Press. Her first book, How to Dance with a Duke, is scheduled for release in February, 2012. To learn more, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter @MandaCollins.