In 2010 I took a short work hiatus which meant I was often home for most of the day. Back then Netflix wasn’t really a thing, so I would often have local cable TV playing in the background of whatever I was doing. And it was because of this that I started regularly watching police procedurals. They’re not the cleverest or most highbrow of shows, but they’re more like a guilty pleasure. Most of it was NCIS, which the cable channels loved showing for some reason, but during that time I also picked up other shows like the quirky Bones and Castle. But the best of these shows by far, was Criminal Minds.
Criminal Minds, or CM for short (as the very small group of office friends who also enjoyed the show called it), was a cut above the rest for a number of reasons:
- a strong, solid cast of interesting characters, my favorite was the “nerd” of the group, Dr. Spencer Reid, played by Matthew Gray Gubler
- it’s serious stuff, the crimes in investigation almost always being of the serial killer variety; the other shows often sprinkled some light comedic moments across the episodes, such a thing was rare in CM, especially considering the subject matter they dealt with. What other shows would have as special season finale villains would be mere unsubs-of-the-week for the CM team
- a focus on behavioral science and profiling in order to catch their unsubs. While I did read somewhere a while back that profiling isn’t held in as high regard nor considered as scientifically rigorous as the show makes it out to be, it’s still a reasonably good conceit for a TV show, and the framework helps the show establish villains with understandable motivations
- these shows tended to have the trope of having an “ridiculously powerful tech guy” providing support for the team. The most egregious of these is NCIS’ Abby, who is somehow able to do anything with a computer while at the same time being a top of the line forensic scientist. (NCIS is also famous for idiotic tech scenes that work nothing like IRL, such as the famous one where they have 2 people working one keyboard trying to stop a hacker). The best one is CM’s Penelope Garcia; like most such characters she can do basically anything with a computer, but this is a lot more believable than the rest because she is a complete nerd who was access to all the FBI databases. (Don’t get me wrong, you definitely still have to suspend your disbelief a lot of times!)
In any case, I’m writing about this show because their series finale ended this week, after 15 seasons. I started watching this show around the 3rd or 4th seasons (after Mandy Patinkin’s Jason Gideon had already left), and never stopped. (I later borrowed some DVDs from one of the office friends to back-watch the first few seasons). The series finale was reasonable, not the best I could have imagined (more on that later), and centered mostly around Reid and Garcia, appropriate since they were the only characters who had managed to stick around from season 1.
The recurring villain for the final season was one carried over from season 14, and was kind of a disappointment. He was kind of hyped up to be a really big threat, the FBI’s Most Wanted, but he went out in just the most ridiculous way to somehow justify a spectacle.
I had the perfect idea a while back for how this show would end: it would involve Aaron Hotchner. He was one of the original CM FBI team members and head of the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) from the time Mandy Patinkin left until he was written off the show in 2016 due to the actor Thomas Gibson having an altercation with someone from the crew. Because of the way he left, this suggestion would never have been viable, but I would have wanted Hotch to be the series’ final unsub, finally breaking down after one last horrible event that forces him to relive all the trauma from all the previous seasons. And he would be the BAU’s greatest nemesis - someone who knows how they work and operate, who can counter all their moves and even use their profiling against them. In my head, it would have been glorious. Alas, it was not to be.
CM is actually the last of the police procedurals I was still watching. Others that I liked because of their quirkiness, such as Castle and Bones, had ended years ago.So it’s kind of an end of an era for me, not just the era of Criminal Minds, but the era of watching police procedurals in general. There’s a lot more stuff to watch now, so I don’t know if I’d ever pick up such a show again. I did enjoy the show a lot during the course of the last ten years, despite the heavy subject matter, so I look back at it fondly.
For the last time, wheels down.