10 Of The Best Characters From Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds is an American police procedural crime drama television series created and produced by Jeff Davis. It premiered on September 22, 2005, and has run for fourteen seasons on CBS. It follows a group of behavioral profilers who work for the FBI as members of its Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), who use behavioral analysis and profiling to investigate crimes. The show tells the story of the team as they work various cases, and tackle their personal struggles.

The show’s original cast consisted of seven star-billed characters: Jason Gideon, Aaron Hotchner, Elle Greenaway, Derek Morgan, Spencer Reid, Jennifer Jareau, and Penelope Garcia.

The cast has undergone major changes through the series’ run, with several of the show’s original members leaving and being replaced by nine additional starring characters: Emily Prentiss, David Rossi, Ashley Seaver, Alex Blake, Kate Callahan, Tara Lewis, Luke Alvez, Stephen Walker, and Matt Simmons.

Take a look below for our list of the 10 best characters from Criminal Minds.

1. Spencer Reid

Reid graduated from high school at the age of twelve. In his youth, his father William left him and his mother Diana as he could no longer deal with her paranoid schizophrenia, among other things. Reid once mentioned that he was a victim of bullying in school where he was stripped naked and tied to a goalpost in front of other students.

After waiting for all the other teenagers to leave, he walked home, only to find that his mother had not noticed he was so late to return because she had been having one of her schizophrenic episodes (“Elephant’s Memory”). Reid grew up learning nearly everything he knows from books, with his mother (a college professor of 15th-century literature) often reading to him. Still, Reid knew that the way his mother was living wasn’t healthy.

When he was eighteen, he had Diana placed in a mental institution. Until Season Twelve, she resided in that same mental institution and Reid had stated that he sent letters to Diana every day because of the guilt he felt for not visiting her. Reid is also worried about the fact that his mother’s illness can be passed on genetically; he once told Morgan that “I know what it’s like to be afraid of your own mind”.

Reid has an eidetic memory, meaning that he can remember an exceedingly large amount of information with extraordinary detail. This, however, only definitely applies to information gathered visually (especially things he’s read, as implied with the word eidetic). His ability to retain auditory information, however, has been rather inconsistent, as evident when he once noted he could not remember Garcia’s name (“Tabula Rasa”), but has been able to perfectly recite speech he hears, even when it was in a completely different language of which he didn’t speak a word (“Corazón”).

2. Emily Prentiss

Emily Prentiss was born on October 12, 1970. Due to her mother’s diplomatic background, Prentiss traveled a lot when she was a child, living in several Middle Eastern countries and at one point in Rome. In “Demonology”, she reveals that from wanting to fit in, she became pregnant as a teenager in Rome. When she went to talk to her priest, he said that if she got an abortion, she would not be welcome in the church.

Her friend Matthew Benton encouraged her to go to an abortion clinic, and after the abortion, he helped her find the courage to come back to church. In “Tabula Rasa”, Garcia reveals that Prentiss graduated from Garfield High School in 1989 and that she was a goth at the time.

In her first appearance, she recognizes Hotch from one of his first commands: security clearances for her mother, Elizabeth Prentiss, a U.S. diplomat. Her arrival surprises both Hotch and Gideon, as neither of them had signed off on the transfer. Prentiss insists her parents have not pulled strings for her. Ultimately, she joins the team at the end of “The Last Word” on a probationary basis as a replacement for Agent Elle Greenaway.

She is a graduate of Chesapeake Bay University, where she earned her B.A. in Criminal Justice (“Annihilator”) and the University of Yale and has been working for the FBI for a little under ten years, primarily in the Midwest. Due to spending her early life with her parents on diplomatic missions to the Middle East, she speaks fluent Arabic and is familiar with that area’s local culture. She also speaks fluent Spanish, French, and Italian and some Russian. She appears skilled at chess, and it is possible that she is better at the game than Reid. 

JJ once asked Prentiss how she could handle the stress from being with the BAU, especially since her last position was a desk job. Hotch concurred that she had “never blinked,” and Prentiss could only reason that she “compartmentalizes better than most” (“Revelations”). After a bad date in the following episode, she admits to Morgan that she is a “nerd,” despite how much she tries to hide it. For this reason, she hasn’t had much success romantically. She discovers that she and Morgan share similar tastes in books when they begin discussing Kurt Vonnegut, particularly Slaughterhouse 5.

3. Jennifer Jareau

Jennifer “JJ” Jareau is a Supervisory Special Agent who was the BAU’s former liaison with police and media officials. Upon her return in Season Seven, she officially becomes a profiler while her original position has gone to Aaron Hotchner (until his departure from the BAU) and Penelope Garcia. For a time, she was the acting unit chief of the BAU, taking over as Emily Prentiss was placed on suspension, pending an investigation by Assistant Director Linda Barnes and was briefly terminated.

JJ grew up in the small town of East Allegheny, Pennsylvania. She graduated from East Allegheny High School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she was the captain of the varsity soccer team her senior year and earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. She also attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she was inspired to join the FBI in her senior year after hearing a lecture made by Rossi.

It is also noted in “Risky Business” that she had a sister who committed suicide when she was young; the sister’s name was revealed to be Roslyn in “In The Blood.” In Season Two, it is stated that she has an eight-year-old niece. She is a fully qualified federal agent but stated in Season Two that she does not want to become a profiler, even though she later took training to become one.

Even though she wasn’t a profiler for the first six seasons, she often participated in the profiling process with other members of the BAU.

4. Penelope Garcia

Penelope Grace Garcia is the BAU’s Technical Analyst and also the team’s Media Liaison Officer since Jennifer Jareau’s promotion to Supervisory Special Agent; the latter is a job that she formerly shared with Aaron Hotchner before his departure from the BAU and now shares with Emily Prentiss.

Born sometime in 1977, Garcia’s parents died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver when she was eighteen. They were out looking for her, as she still hadn’t come home by her curfew. She has stated that after her parents died, she dropped out of the California Institute of Technology, went “underground” but continued to teach herself computer coding to keep herself together, and became a Goth. She had been placed on one of the FBI’s lists that concerned a small handful of extremely talented yet dangerous hackers in the world, and the FBI recruited her from there (“Penelope”).

Prior to her recruitment, she was a vigilante hacker mentored by Shane Wyeth, who would hack into companies and other businesses whom she felt were engaged in criminal activities, which attracted the attention of the FBI. Her hacker nickname was “The Black Queen”, likely due to her habit of dressing in black, Gothic clothing and makeup.

She was arrested by the BAU in 2004 while they were investigating the case of John Nichols and Sam Russell, and she was given a choice to either work for them as their Technical Analyst (as Hotch deduced a kind and loving nature from her cyber-protests) or serve jail time; she decided to accept the job. According to Shane, she did so because she wanted to do something more useful and noble than violating and vandalizing websites.

5. Derek Morgan

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 on June 6, 1973, 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).

6. Jason Gideon

Jason Gideon was a criminal profiler, formerly the Senior Supervisory Special Agent of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. At the beginning of Season Three, Gideon abruptly retired from the BAU due to emotional issues brought on by the murder of his girlfriend. His position is now held by his former partner and best friend David Rossi, who has held it to this day. In the Season Ten episode “Nelson’s Sparrow”, he was murdered by Donnie Mallick.

Gideon was the protege of Max Ryan, who taught him everything he knew about profiling, but he didn’t escape the hazing of being a new recruit. One of Gideon’s earliest cases was a bomber case, which was supervised by Max. As a prank for the new member, Max and the other investigators involved planted a list of the FBI director’s whereabouts over the next 48 hours in the bomber’s car for Gideon to find. When he found it, before Max could stop him, Gideon rushed up 25 flights of stairs and interrupted a meeting between the director and the U.S. Attorney General in an attempt to save him.

While investigating the case of Adrian Bale, a.k.a. “The Boston Shrapnel Bomber”, Gideon had reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown after he sent six men into a warehouse before Bale detonated a bomb inside. All six agents and a hostage were killed, and he was heavily criticized about the event. He took a six-month medical leave because he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Upon his return from medical leave, he was given the Senior Agent position, as Hotch was confirmed as Unit Chief. Not much is known about his personal life, other than he has a son named Stephen, with whom he was estranged because of his commitment to his job.

7. Aaron Hotchner

Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner is the former unit chief of Quantico’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the direct superior of all special agents, and the team’s Media Liaison Officer since Jennifer Jareau’s promotion to Supervisory Special Agent; the latter was a job that he shared with Penelope Garcia. He officially resigned from both positions in Season Twelve after being put into witness protection due to his son, Jack Hotchner being actively stalked by Peter Lewis, aka, Mr. Scratch.

At his suggestion, his position was taken over by his friend and former colleague Emily Prentiss. After the death of Scratch in Season Thirteen, they left witness protection but Hotch opted not to return to the BAU in order to be a full-time father.

Hotch was born on November 2, 1971. His mother was originally from Manassas, Virginia, and went to Mary Baldwin College. Hotch was a former profiler in the FBI’s field office in Seattle, Washington, before transferring to Quantico. Before that, he was a prosecutor after having earned his degree of Juris Doctor at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 1990. Hotch stated that his reason for joining the BAU was because he felt that, as a prosecutor, it was too late for him to do anything, but by joining the BAU, he has a chance to stop killers sooner.

His struggles to maintain his family life have been an ongoing theme of the show. In the episode “Natural Born Killer”, Vincent Perotta questions Hotch as to the meaning of “some people [from extremely abusive and violent households] grow up to become killers.” Responding, Hotch says, “And some people grow up to catch them.” This hints that Hotch might have been abused as a child, but the subject was never further elaborated on. In the episode “Ashes and Dust”, Hotch’s father was revealed to have died from lung cancer, though an earlier episode, “The Tribe”, states that he died of a heart attack at the age of 47.

8. David Rossi

Born in Commack, Long Island, New York on May 9, 1956, Rossi served in the U.S. Marine Corps and made it to the rank of Sergeant Major. While a Private, he served in the Vietnam War under Sergeant Harrison Scott, who he would later refer to as the person who taught him to be honest. During his military service, Rossi earned several awards, including the Purple Heart.

When he was younger, he had some association with a local mafia through a good friend named Ray Finnegan, but he severed his ties to them when he left town. He also knew a girl named Emma Louise Taylor ever since he was twelve years old. He loved her, but due to his career, they never married; Emma later went on to marry future judge and proxy killer Boyd Schuller. After leaving the Corps, he was recruited by the FBI. A few years later, he played a part in founding the BAU.

Rossi has been married and divorced three times. His first wife was named Carolyn. On July 16, 1983, following the conclusion of a case, Rossi discovered that Carolyn had packed his bags after he had forgotten their anniversary again as well as him forgetting other things. Following his first divorce, he made an agreement with Carolyn that they would still help each other out when the other needed it.

They had a son, James David, who was born on April 26, 1979, but died the same day. His second wife was named Hayden Montgomery, who was a U.S. diplomat for the French embassy. Their marriage lasted for only one summer in the early 80s, after which the two divorced due to the demands of their respective jobs. However, Rossi was unaware that Hayden was pregnant with his child, which she refused to tell him about because she knew he would never be fit as a father due to his job.

Rossi’s third wife was named Krystall Richards, and she was his shortest marriage. They met in Las Vegas when Rossi was on a winning streak playing blackjack and Krystall was the dealer. According to Rossi, he and Krystall got drunk and were married at a drive-in wedding chapel with an Elvis impersonator as the justice of the peace. The next morning, however, Rossi and Krystall had both sobered up and realized that their marriage was a mistake, immediately filing for divorce afterward.

Rossi was in early retirement in 1997 for nearly ten years until his voluntary return to the BAU in October 2007. He had retired in order to go on lectures and book tours but returned to settle some unfinished business, which wasn’t immediately specified. Upon joining the team, it is obvious that he has had a previous working relationship with both Hotch and Erin Strauss, the BAU’s Section Chief. Unlike most of the other team members, Rossi is not intimidated by Strauss’s personality, and he often calls her by her first name (initially much to her chagrin).

9. Elle Greenaway

Elle was introduced to the show in the pilot episode, “Extreme Aggressor”, where she helped the BAU capture a possible suspect. She also shot the unsub in that same episode when he tried to kill Gideon who had taunted him. Following on from that, Elle joined the BAU, filling the vacant spot she had been hoping to get, although Gideon told her that she was very impatient and ordered her to correct it. Her father Robert was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when she was a child. She is half-Cuban from her mother and as seen in the episode, “Machismo”, she is also fluent in Spanish.

Her time at the BAU, which lasted for a year-and-a-half, was successful until an unsub shot her in “The Fisher King, Part 1”; the unsub broke into her home and awaited her arrival home from the BAU. He also stuck his fingers into her wound and wrote the word “RULES” on the wall using her blood. Paramedics found her a while or so later and eventually managed to get her heart beating again, and as later revealed by Agent Grant Anderson in a talk with Hotch and Gideon, they were unaware that Elle was an FBI agent until Anderson himself arrived at the house. While having surgery performed on her, Elle’s spirit, which hovered between life and death, had a heart-to-heart talk with Robert, which helped her resolve some issues and also inspired her to return to the real world.

Though she physically recovered by the end of “The Fisher King, Part 2”, the event still left her with psychological scars as she felt no longer safe in her home after her attack. She returned to the team in “P911”, where she and the rest of the team cooperated with the FBI’s Innocent Images Unit to track down the whereabouts of a missing boy captured by a pedophile, despite Hotch and Reid expressing their concerns that she had come back far too early.

Everything seemed to be going well for her up until the episode “Aftermath”, where the team was asked to help arrest a serial rapist. This triggered Elle’s downward spiral and she began acting more harshly, even laying into the local police department after they had failed to notice that a woman was being raped in her own home. In an effort to capture him, Elle went undercover, but her emotional attachment to the case blew the operation and she confronted the suspect, William Lee before he gave the BAU probable cause to arrest him.

The team brought Lee back to the station, hoping that he will confess since they don’t have a legal reason to arrest him. Before he is able to confess, his lawyer tells him to stop talking. Elle watched furiously as Lee is released from custody. Enraged, she began targeting her own team members with criticism, even blaming Hotch for sending her home which had led to her getting shot. She then followed Lee to his apartment and confronted him, and he thanks her for letting him walk. As a result, she kills him in cold blood and later cites self-defense for her actions. 

In “The Boogeyman”, Elle missed a psychological evaluation, forcing Hotch to stay behind to find her while Gideon and the rest of the team headed to Texas to work on a case. She eventually returned to the BAU but handed in her badge and gun to Hotch, saying that it was not an admission of guilt. With that, Elle officially resigned from the FBI for good and was eventually replaced by Emily Prentiss until her departure at the end of Season Seven.

Her job is then taken over by Alex Blake until her own departure at the end of Season Nine. The position was then taken over by Kate Callahan in Season Ten, who then left the show at the end of the season due to her pregnancy, after which she was replaced by Dr. Tara Lewis in Season Eleven.

10. Ashley Seaver

Played by Rachel Nichols, Ashley Seaver is an FBI cadet assigned to the BAU. Her father, Charles Beauchamp, was a horrific serial killer from North Dakota known as “the Redmond Ripper” who killed 25 women over the course of 10 years before Ashley was a teenager. He was caught by David Rossi and Aaron Hotchner. Because North Dakota does not have capital punishment, he was sentenced to life in prison. She has not been to see him. Though he writes to her sometimes, she never reads his letters, though she does keep them and admittedly still finds herself unable to hate him for what he did.

In the episode “What Happens at Home”, the BAU investigate a series of murders in a gated community and bring Ashley along because of her understanding of the family dynamics of a serial killer. In the end, the suspect commits suicide by cop in front of her. In the next episode, she requests that the rest of her remedial training be done with the BAU and is attached to the team. In the season seven premiere “It Takes a Village”, it was revealed that Ashley transferred to the Domestic Trafficking Task Force, which is led by Andi Swann.

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