Criminal Minds: An Insight on the Insane

Photoshoot “Criminal Minds” season 3 cast

The human mind is a concept that has been studied throughout history and it is a concept of which humanity has studied so much on, yet knows so little about. There have been many different methods in which society has tried to understand psychology, varying from the horrific 1950s mental institutions to the awareness of psychological disabilities in the 21st century. 

As the understanding of the human mind developed, as did the curiosity on it. All of a sudden individuals became more interested in criminology, not just law enforcement or licensed therapists. 

In a way, psychologically speaking, it became a form of entertainment. Thankfully, this form of entertainment has now developed, and thanks to “Criminal Minds” producer, Jeff Davis, our understanding and curiosity on the mind of a killer has now become fictional.

“Criminal Minds” is an American CBS crime drama television series that consists of an elite group of FBI agents who have been placed in the Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU) to profile the most dangerous criminals in the country to anticipate their next move before they strike again. 

The BAU consists of multiple main characters, which include SSA Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) the unit’s supervisor, Dr Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) an intellectual genius, SSA Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) a young agent, SSA Jennifer Jareau (AJ Cook) a liaison officer, SSA David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) a retired supervisory agent, SSA Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) a supervisory fixation specialist agent, and Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) a tech analyst. 

The BAU team on a case

How the lives of the main characters are showcased in the show create a realistic portrayal of the agents and how their jobs affect their lives and personal relationships. Extreme cases of personal issues have happened multiple times throughout the show, however, every episode showcases how each character is affected by the case, giving the audience an insight into the characters and their personal lives.

The insight into the characters’ lives is reflected, for example, in season 3 when liaison officer Jennifer Jareau gets pregnant. Whilst working on a case of a paedophilic Christian cult leader, her disgust towards the leader is much more evident than the other agents.

Season 4: Dr Spencer Reid and a pregnant SSA Jennifer “JJ” Jareau

This is only a small example of how each of the agents’ lives is incorporated into the cases. In other moments in the show, full episodes are dedicated to one of the main characters’ traumas and how it is linked to the case in which they are working on. 

For example, in season 2, SSA Derek Morgan is wrongfully arrested for murder and to get him out, they need to profile him. The team ends up finding out what he had been hiding, which is a long history of trauma from sexual abuse at a young age. The extremity of how the case was connected to the agent created credibility, allowing the audience to understand the character to a greater extent.

The show’s success is not only based on the depth of the characters. How the character is played created each episode’s mood and allowed the characters to come to life. They add a new level of depth to the character, focusing on showcasing the trauma that the character faces.

Matthew Gray Gubler’s performance of young genius Spencer Reid is an example of how the actor allows the character to come to life. Halfway through season 2, Gubler’s character faces torture and kidnapping which later provokes his drug abuse. 

Gubler highlights the struggles that Spencer goes through, accurately portraying the four steps of drug abuse: experimentation, regular use and abuse, dependency and tolerance, and addiction. As well as the 12 steps of drug addiction recovery. Every time Spencer falls off the wagon, Gubler does a fantastic job of portraying a heroin-dependent character.

Gubler’s portrayal of Spencer Reid in a drug scene

The acting behind the scenes that bring the characters to life is truly fantastic, however, the writing is what truly creates the plotlines that hook the audience in. The main writer, creator and producer of “Criminal Minds”, Jeff Davis, accurately depicts each process that the BAU team must go through, carefully paying attention to minor details. 

This is highlighted in events such as case recruitment, psychological, litigation, law enforcement, and medical terms as each case is explained in gory detail, successfully creating a credible setting and plot.

Despite the show’s success, many other shows have been made that also focus on true crime, such as “Law and Order” and “CSI”, yet statistically speaking, “Criminal Minds” is the most successful of the three. This is due to not only the credibility behind the portrayal of the characters and the show’s plot but also the behavioural aspect that it provides.

Law and Order

On the contrary to the other shows, “Criminal Minds” is constantly analyzing serial killers in order to understand the depth of the human psychosis, which is a constant that has always piqued societies interest.

The show gives an understanding of what goes on in the human brain by using real-life and fictional examples of the criminally insane, allowing the audience to understand the depth behind psychology to a large extent.

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