“When love is in excess it brings a man no honor nor worthiness.” Eruipedes, quoted by Gideon in Season 1 Episode 5 Broken Mirror.
I love Criminal Minds. Call it a morbid fascination or whatever you will. But I just love watching the BAU, short for Behavioural Analysis Unit, get into the mind of an unsub, (that’s criminal to you and me, short for unknown subject) and figure out what makes them tick. The BAU is a subdivision of the FBI based in Quantico, Virginia. They create profiles of unsubs based on clues they pick up from victims (who are, in almost all cases, dead) and the crime scenes or scene of discovery (sometimes the bodies are dumped away from where they were killed). It’s difficult to describe the sense of suspense I experience, heart in mouth, as I watch them put the clues together until they identify and locate the perpetrator, and they almost always do. As gruesome as some of the crimes are, I enjoy watching it because I am assured that the bad people will ultimately be apprehended or killed. Although, I have to say I’ve been caught out a few times when the killer has gotten away. However, they usually get their comeuppance episodes later, much to my viewing satisfaction but alas, usually after the unfortunate demise of several more victims.
The camaraderie amongst the team is quite endearing. It’s interesting to watch the unique dynamics of the very different individuals who make up the team. The rather stern-faced and serious unit chief is Aaron Hotchner. I can count the number of times he has cracked a smile on the fingers of one hand. Alright, I exaggerate slightly, I know, but he most certainly does not buy into the school of thought which says it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. His smiles are few and far between. In spite of his seeming lack of a sense humour, he is a worthy leader. David Rossi, one of the original founders of the team, is the extroverted, rich, successfully published author and agent who takes a more laid-back approach to life but still gets the job done.
The sweet flirtatious banter between Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia is something I quite look forward to every episode. Their relationship is a cross between a mating dance in the wild and a deep sibling bond. Morgan can be quite aggressive towards unsubs but is fiercely loyal to and protective of his team-mates. Flamboyant and fun-loving Garcia, a reformed hacker turned FBI technical analyst, hates blood and gore so prefers to work behind the scenes and usually provides much-needed levity and comic relief for the team particularly with her know-it-all joking manner of answering the phone.
Dr Spencer Reid is the youngest member of the group. He is a genius, an autodidact with an eidetic memory and IQ of 187. He is usually the butt of Morgan’s ribbing and jokes but he takes it on the chin and has, on occasion, retaliated too. Over the years and as a result of working with the team, he has lost some of social awkwardness and loosened up a bit. Jennifer Jarreau, fondly called JJ by the rest of the team, started off acting as a liaison between friends and family of victims, the police and the press but is now a profiler.
I have to say I was glad to see the back of Jason Gideon. The man took life way too seriously, even when he was doing what should have been fun stuff like going a date or being holed up in his beloved cabin in the woods, you got the feeling that he was just going through the motions. On the other hand, I miss Emily Prentiss. I was sad to see her leave. She brought a balance to the team and got on equally well with every other member. I haven’t quite bonded with Alex Blake, Emily’s replacement and the newest member of the team, it’s early days but she seems ok.
I just watched ‘ Episode 12 of Season 8 Zugzwang’ and I have concluded that the employment contracts of the team must state somewhere in the small print that members of the BAU are not allowed to have happy, trouble-free romantic relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I know real-life relationships are not trouble-free but my word, the kind of disasters that befall the BAU’s love life is nothing short of cataclysmic!
Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t watched this episode yet and you are planning to, I would suggest you stop reading now. Just as I was beginning to get excited at the prospect of Reid finding love, his love interest is killed by her stalker in this episode. At first, I didn’t want to believe she had actually died but with Reid’s non-communicative hibernation in the subsequent episode, the evidence was glaring and I had to accept it. This is the latest in the long and rather tragic history of the BAU’s personal lives.
In Season Five, Haley, Hotchner’s wife, was killed George Foyet aka The Reaper. Granted they were divorced but that was also because of the havoc played on the marriage by Hotchner’s work commitments. JJ married the father of her baby, Detective William LaMontagne in the Season Seven finale but only after he had been shot and kidnapped by bank robbers and their son, Henry held hostage by one of the kidnappers. Garcia was shot by a man she went on a date with. Rossi has been married and divorced three times. Gideon’s girlfriend was murdered by Frank Breitkopf. Prentiss’ death had to be faked in order for her to escape the attentions of Ian Doyle, a dangerous arms dealer, but not before he stabs her in the stomach with a wooden table leg. She had acted as his girlfriend years back while working undercover with Interpol and he was intent on revenge.
Morgan is the only one who seems to have avoided similar tragedy in his love life and that’s simply because he does not have one. He must know something the others haven’t quite cottoned on to – if you do not have a special person in your life, unsubs can’t get to you through them. This does not mean that he has not suffered personal tragedy. At the age of ten, he witnessed his father, a police officer, shot to death. He was sexually abused as a teenager by Carl Buford, a man who acted as a surrogate father to him. His cousin disappeared while relocating to another state, only to reappear years later, apparently the victim of severe domestic and psychological abuse by her dominant partner and kidnapper. I guessed he reckons he has had enough trouble for one lifetime and there is no need to invite any more.
Achieving personal happiness or finding love on this show is an asymptote. It is as elusive as Utopia. I have no idea how much more personal trauma and tragedy this one team can withstand especially considering the nature of their work. One thing I do know, having followed the series closely for eight seasons, is that there will probably be a whole lot more and I will watch every bit of it. It is, after all, what makes this show such riveting viewing. After each episode, I just heave a huge sigh of relief and thank God it’s make-belief.
“Robert Kennedy once said “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”” Gideon in Season 2 Episode 18 Jones.
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