Criminal Minds was on the air for 15 seasons, airing from 2005 to 2020 with a total of 324 episodes. It became one of the longest running primetime shows on CBS. The action-filled TV series followed the members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, or BAU, of the FBI as they worked to catch some of the country’s worst killers. While the show is no longer on the network, the series finale airing in February 2020, there are enough stories (and episodes!) for a perfect binge-worthy weekend. To help with the heartache of the show no longer being on, the binge-watching party, as well as the anniversary of the first episode quickly approaching, we decided to look at a few of our top Criminal Minds episodes.
“Entropy” — Season 11, Episode 11
When thinking of top episodes it’s hard not to reference “Entropy.” Spencer Reid suffers his fair share of being the subject of hostage situations on more than one occasion over the long journey of Criminal Minds. This episode in particular though saw Reid having to outsmart Cat Adams (Aubrey Plaza), an assassin, by pretending to be a client. Seeing Reid turn extremely forceful and intimidating, the polar opposite of the soft and sweet Reid we’ve come to know, added to the suspense of the entire episode.
“Mosley Lane” — Season 5, Episode 16
This episode marked the Criminal Minds directorial debut for Matthew Gray Gubler. The episode follows a child-abducting duo who have been hiding and keeping children for eight years. Gubler captures the gut-wrenching and raw emotion perfectly in both the script and the casting for the episode. Ann Cusak, who plays Sarah Hillridge, draws viewers in right away. She particularly shines in showcasing her heartbreak, as well as the end of the episode when she is reunited with her son who had been missing for 8 years.
“Minimal Loss” — Season 4, Episode 3
Drawing inspiration from the 1993 Waco standoff, this episode is one of the very few episodes in the entire series that does not involve a serial killer as the antagonist. The episode saw Luke Perry as a guest star. Perry plays the role of Benjamin Cyrus, who is a leader of a cult. The BAU comes in undercover to investigate child abuse claims made against the cult, which leads to a standoff while Reid and Prentiss (Paget Brewster) are trapped inside of the compound. This episode is one of the most gut-wrenching of the season. Prentiss especially shines when confessing she’s the undercover agent to save Reid, which in turn causes a brutal fight between Cyrus and her.
“300” — Season 14, Episode 1
A decade after the cult leader Benjamin Cyrus was killed, his followers, now following a new leader who is married to one of Cyrus’ wives, are out to make a statement. With 299 victims, the plan was to make Reid his 300th victim. With members of the cult infiltrating the BAU, they capture Garcia and Reid. The emotional turmoil that ran rampant throughout this episode is almost too much to handle, that is until Reid finds a way to relay information to Garcia to find her a way out so she’s able to dispatch the team to Reid’s location.
“Penelope” — Season 3, Episode 9
Arguably one of the hardest episodes to watch, “Penelope” saw Garcia fighting for her life after she was a victim of the unsub, James (whose real name is Jason Clark Battle). In the previous episode, Garcia had a date with James that ended with him taking her back to her apartment and shooting her while staging it as an armed robbery. Fortunately, the bullet missed any vital organs and Hotch dismisses any other cases at the BAU so they can focus on finding James. This episode also pulls particularly hard on the heartstrings because of Morgan’s close relationship with Garcia.
“Profiler, Profiled” — Season 2, Episode 12
Very early on in the series, this specific episode is a top contender because it’s our first real look at one of the members of the BAU. The entire time Derek Morgan has been on the screen, he has been seen as this kick-down-the-door, strong FBI agent. With this episode, we not only get to see a glimpse into his personal life with his mother’s birthday back in his hometown (which is one of my favorite things of any episode we get tidbits in), but we also get to see how he became that way. It starts with Morgan being accused of murdering 3 boys, and the team is called in to help find the real killer and exonerate him. Unfortunately for Morgan, more of his past becomes an open book when the team finds out he was sexually abused by his mentor. In the end, they catch the real murderer, Derek is exonerated, and his mentor gets put away for his crimes.
“100” — Season 5, Episode 9
Typically, people don’t claim sad episodes as part of a Top 10 list, but this episode was such a key point in the series, seeing as how it was their 100th episode and it dealt with the death of one of the team’s own. This episode sees the storyline of George Foyet, otherwise known as “The Boston Reaper,” a serial killer the team had been after for a while, come to a chilling close. In this episode, the BAU is on a mission to catch Foyet before his endgame, which ultimately includes Aaron Hotchner and his family. Despite the team working their hardest, they were unable to get to Foyet before his final move, killing Haley Hotchner.
“Zugzwang” — Season 8, Episode 12
This episode played an important part in Spencer Reid’s character arc as the series progressed because while Reid has been kidnapped, drugged, shot, poisoned, etc., this was one of the first times the audience got to see Reid fully break. It is also one of the first times we were able to build a repertoire with his love interest. Previous love interests were only on screen for an episode, but Maeve and Reid’s storyline spanned several. They had never seen each other in person, due to Maeve having a stalker, and had only talked with one another over the phone, but in this episode, Maeve is kidnapped by said stalker. Reid and the rest of the BAU are put on the clock to find her in time. Unfortunately, as they were confronting the stalker, a woman named Diana Turner, who wanted everything Maeve had, killed both her and Maeve, leaving Reid heartbroken.
“Hashtag” — Season 10, Episode 12
With social media usage increasing every day, this episode felt only right to be in the top contenders. It also starts the storyline which leads to the finale of this season. When a famous social media influencer is killed and the killer uploads a selfie on the victim’s page, the BAU is called to find the unsub.
What they find is that multiple high-end influencers are having their photos edited to have a “mirror man,” the area’s urban legend, appear in them, which is the unsub’s MO. The team eventually figure out the unsub is a young adult who was trying to bring the myth of the Mirror Man to life for his mentor, and are able to bring him to justice, but not before he gets his 10 seconds of fame on social media. This episode shows just how dangerous social media can actually be.
“And In The End” — Season 15, Episode 10
The big series finale is one of the top CM episodes, because how else would we end this? The last episode of this series ties up loose ends for characters, and the show, but it also ties up a loose end from the previous season as the unsubs, Everett Lynch, is back to try to kill Rossi one final time.
The episode also sees Reid in a coma due to an explosion that Lynch used to escape and we get to see a few flashbacks with previous Criminal Minds characters, such as Derek, Hotch, and Gideon. Despite there being quite a few close moments where we start to worry our team won’t get the big, happy ending they deserve, Lynch is eventually killed and the team can celebrate Reid waking up and Rossi’s retirement. The series ends with Garcia shutting off her monitors, and saying goodbye to the team as they leave for another case after a heartfelt speech in the previous scene.
Criminal Minds seasons 1-12 are available to watch on Netflix and re-reruns are taking place every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET/PT and Monday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET/PT until Monday, September 7 as part of the Criminal Minds Summer Stakeout to celebrate 15 years of the show.