Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Biggest Unanswered Questions From Criminal Minds

Long before gritty true crime shows like "Mindhunter" graced our television screens, CBS gave us "Criminal Minds." Showcasing the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) of the FBI, the network series debuted in 2005 and featured terrifying serial killers. From sexual sadist Frank Breitkopf (Keith Carradine) to "Mr. Scratch" (Bodhi Elfman ) –- a killer who injects victims with hallucinogenics and forces them to murder their loved ones –- "Criminal Minds" explores truly horrific spaces.

Due to the series' dark subject matter, original star Mandy Patinkin left "Criminal Minds" after Season 2. "The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do 'Criminal Minds' in the first place," Patinkin later told New York Magazine. "I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality."

Nonetheless, the series has continued to captivate viewers for years. The show resolves storylines quickly, and despite the darkness explored, flickers of hopeful light poke through in each episode. Although "Criminal Minds" ended after 15 seasons, Paramount+ has since picked up a reboot series, "Criminal Minds: Evolution" (per Variety). However, we still have some big questions left unanswered by the original "Criminal Minds."

The fate of Reid's love interests not named Maeve or Max

Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) joins the BAU in Season 1 of "Criminal Minds" as the resident boy genius. The youngest and (ostensibly) most intelligent member of the team, Reid is treated like a little brother by his fellow agents, and as a son by Jason Gideon. Throughout the course of the show, Reid often struggles under emotional duress in horrible situations. Among a plethora of tragedies that befall him, in Season 8, he watches helplessly as his love interest Maeve (Beth Riesgraf) is killed by her stalker Diane (Michelle Trachtenberg).

Although Maeve and Reid don't spend much time together, much is made of the bond they shared, and Reid is devastated by her death. In Season 15, when Reid dates Max (Rachael Leigh Cook), the show makes a big deal about the romance, and it seems like things might be looking up. However, Maeve and Max are hardly Reid's only love interests. In Season 2, he shares a kiss with movie starlet Lila (Amber Heard), but he never mentions her afterward. In Season 4, he woos a bartender named Austin (Courtney Ford), and again, the storyline is dropped. Perhaps these potential pairings just weren't long-term options for Reid, but the show makes such a big deal about Maeve and Max that it would make sense to at least give these other women some closure.

The omniscience of the Fisher King

On "Criminal Minds," the BAU often comes face-to-face with downright terrifying serial killers. One of the scariest unsubs (unknown subjects) tracked down by the team comes in the form of Randall Garner, AKA the Fisher King (Charles Haid in Season 1, Charley Rossman in Season 2). Garner was once a mild-mannered school teacher whose family perished in a house fire. He emerged from the fire horribly disfigured and out of his mind, later spending time in the same mental institution as Spencer Reid's paranoid schizophrenic mother, Diana (Jane Lynch), who told him stories about the Fisher King from King Arthur legends. Garner came to believe that he was, in fact, the Fisher King himself.

Garner proves both pitiable and a truly evil, creepy character. Variety dubbed the Fisher King's two-episode arc the fourth-best "Criminal Minds" storyline overall, calling the Season 1 finale and Season 2 opener "true highlights of the entire series." In his evil quest, Garner begins to stalk the members of the BAU and hacks into the team's personal files to learn more about his potential victims. 

However, Garner also knows personal information about each team member that he couldn't possibly have gleaned from FBI files. For example, he learns that JJ Jareau (AJ Cook) loves butterflies and drops off a box full of rare ones on her doorstep. While this reaffirms the Fisher King's creepiness, it's never explained and makes him seem omniscient. How does Garner know about the secret hopes and fears of the BAU team?

Why Hotch didn't leave after Haley's murder

One of the most heartbreaking moments in "Criminal Minds" comes in the Season 5 episode "100." Vicious killer George "The Reaper" Foyet (C. Thomas Howell) has launched a personal attack on Special Agent Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner (Thomas Gibson), and Hotch takes extra steps to protect his family. In a dark, shocking twist, Foyet murders Hotch's wife Haley (Meredith Monroe) while she's on the phone with him. Devastated, Hotch races to the scene and beats Foyet to death.

As noted by Outsider, the episode evoked deep emotional responses from fans. However, Hotch continued to lead the BAU and actively worked with the unit until actor Thomas Gibson was infamously fired from the show. Hotch's departure came after Season 11 -– six years after the murder of his wife. Even before Haley's death, Hotch knew she and their son Jack (Cade Owens) were in grave danger. After the tragedy, he isn't in the right frame of mind to continue his work. However, he remains a part of the team.

Wouldn't the FBI demand the grieving agent take a leave of absence? Wouldn't Hotch feel compelled to take Jack to start a new life? A Reddit poll shows Aaron Hotchner as a hands-down favorite character on "Criminal Minds," but his arc may have been better served by an earlier departure from the BAU.

The identity of Stephen Gideon's mom

Jason Gideon leaves the "Criminal Minds" team at the beginning of Season 3, and although his loss is deeply felt, the BAU falls to the capable hands of Dave Rossi (Joe Mantegna). However, Gideon has paternal instincts toward his team, and he's mentioned by various team members throughout the rest of the series. Gideon deserved closure on the show, and he received it through his tragic murder in the Season 10 episode "Nelson's Sparrow." Although actor Mandy Pantinkin did not return to reprise his role as the former FBI agent, Gideon's estranged son Stephen (James Lentzch) plays a central role in the episode's plot.

Stephen Gideon's relationship with his father is touched upon. We learn that the elder Gideon left Stephen and his mom early in his son's life. However, his mother isn't even given a name. Even on the "Criminal Minds" Fandom page for Stephen Gideon, his mother's name and backstory aren't available. Although the younger Gideon's mother doesn't appear on screen, her presence in Jason's past makes her identity a vital part of his backstory. The powerful flashbacks between a young Gideon (Ben Savage) and Rossi (Robert Dunne) could have included a scene with Stephen's mom, but alas, her identity remains a mystery.

Garcia and Kevin's breakup

In Season 3 of "Criminal Minds," quirky, lovable computer geek Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) meets quirky, lovable computer geek Kevin Lynch (Nicholas Brendon). Sparks fly, declarations of love are exchanged, and the two date off-and-on until Season 9. In an interview with Indie Mac User, Brendon called Kevin his favorite role after Xander Harris on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," even referring to the character as "Xander 2.0." In the Season 7 episode "I Love You, Tommy Brown," Kevin proposes to Garcia, who turns him down. The two are dating again (or still dating?) in Season 8 and seem to be doing well. However, in Season 9, it becomes apparent they've broken up, as Garcia randomly dates her ukulele instructor Sam (Stephen Simon).

Kevin briefly appears in Season 10, although he and Garcia don't share screen time. Much attention is given to building the couple's relationship, especially before Kevin proposed. Nonetheless, the relationship fizzles out sans fanfare. We feel like the affable Kevin deserved closure, and a hashed-out breakup between the characters would have made sense. After Brendon suffered debilitating paralysis in 2021 due to exacerbated back issues, he pulled out of promotion for his Amazon film "Wanton Want" and has focused on getting healthy since. Thus, the chances of a Kevin and Garcia reunion on "Criminal Minds: Evolution" are slim to none.

The faked death of Prentiss

On "Criminal Minds," Special Agent Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) proves a vital part of the BAU team. She rises through the ranks quickly, and as the daughter of a diplomat, she has many international friends in positions of power. That makes her decision to fake her own death head-scratching at best. In Season 6, Prentiss hunts down Ian Doyle (Timothy V. Murphy), an IRA terrorist who she helped put in prison. Doyle escapes and begins to murder his enemies, and when he threatens the BAU team, Prentiss decides to fake her own death to protect her fellow agents.

Only JJ and Hotch are privy to the truth, and the rest of the BAU team truly believes their friend is dead. Reid and Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) grieve Prentiss and validly have a hard time grappling with her apparent passing. Was the faked death necessary, given that Prentiss causes undue trauma for her team?

Doyle doesn't represent a large group coming after the BAU. He's just one man. Why was it okay for JJ and Hotch to be in on the plan? Wouldn't they place themselves in danger too? Emily Prentiss enjoys a network of highly powerful friends who could've offered her protection, and she's an FBI agent. Witness protection may not have translated to riveting television, but it certainly would make more sense than the faked death of Prentiss.

JJ loves Reid but marries Will

In "Criminal Minds," the emotional and often traumatic situations endured by the BAU agents forge deep, loving bonds between them. From the beginning of the series, JJ and Reid share palpable chemistry. They truly love one another, and Reid even asks JJ out in the Season 1 episode "Plain Sight." The friends understand each other's work, bond through the tough situations they endure, and share a mutual love. Yet, a romance never sparks, and JJ ultimately marries New Orleans police officer Will LaMontagne (Josh Stewart).

In a heartbreaking moment during the Season 14 finale, JJ and Reid find themselves held hostage. JJ believes her death may be coming and confesses to Reid that she's always loved him. The emotional scene left fans and publications like Marie Claire shipping a JJ and Reid romance for Season 15. Unfortunately, that relationship is never explored.

Will and JJ seem to have a solid marriage, but if JJ has always loved Reid, why did she marry Will in the first place? Will doesn't appear on "Criminal Minds" until Season 2 — long after a true bond had formed between JJ and Reid. To be fair, romances between central characters don't always end well on television shows. However, for every ill-fated, annoying on-screen relationship like Jon Snow and Daenerys in "Game of Thrones," there's a healthy and watchable one, like David and Patrick on "Schitt's Creek." We would have loved to see JJ and Reid have a chance to explore their feelings.

Rossi's writing career

Before Dave Rossi rejoins the BAU in "Criminal Minds" Season 3, he's almost a decade into retirement. In his time away from the team, Rossi hit the lecture circuit and wrote best-selling true crime books. Apparently, he's a well-known author. He returns to the BAU to solve a case that's long haunted him, which he reveals in the Season 3 episode "Birthright." However, with such a lucrative writing career, he has no reason to stay with the team. Yet, he does. Rossi remains a BAU agent for the remainder of the show.

Rossi's presence is pivotal to the team's success, and he often dispenses needed wisdom and compassion. He fills the gaping space left by Jason Gideon, and "Criminal Minds" wouldn't be the same without him. According to IMDb, Joe Mantegna, the actor who portrays Rossi, has amassed over 150 credits in film and television. No matter how you slice it, an aging, retired FBI agent with a successful career as an author who chooses to return to the field seems like a fantasy. Rossi's incredible success and tremendous wealth are even referred to on the Paramount+ character page for Rossi. His return to the BAU makes great sense for the show, but it isn't necessarily realistic. While an unsolved case may have prompted his return, why does Rossi choose to stay for years afterward?

Max's absence from the last dinner scene

In Season 15 of "Criminal Minds," Spencer Reid finally has a romantic relationship that appears healthy and destined to continue. Reid meets art teacher Maxine "Max" Brenner (Rachael Leigh Cook) while in line at a food truck, and the two have instant chemistry. Max isn't a part of the dark world Reid is forced to inhabit, yet, like everyone in his life, she's unwittingly pulled into the darkness. Imprisoned hitwoman and Season 11 "Big Bad" Cat Adams (Aubrey Plaza) later sends her former prison cellmate, Juliette Weaver (Jamie Sara Slovon), after Reid's loved ones. Weaver takes Max's sister and father hostage, and Max's relationship with Reid seems doomed.

However, Max and Reid's love survives to see another day, and they share a kiss at the end of the episode. In the last scene of the series finale, the BAU team gathers together at Rossi's home for one last shared dinner. The agents with significant others bring them to the dinner, yet Max is conspicuously absent.

TV Line asked Matthew Gray Gubler about his character's romance and wondered why Max wasn't at the dinner. "I know, dude. I have no idea. I'd like to know as well!" Gubler said. "I don't know, and I hope that they resolve that someday. Because I'd like to know." According to Variety, Gubler isn't confirmed to appear on "Criminal Minds: Evolution," but we hope his character found lasting happiness with Max.

How Reid beat his drug addiction

Through no fault of his own, Spencer Reid loses a bit of his innocence in Season 2 of "Criminal Minds." In Episode 15, "Revelations," serial killer and psychopath Tobias Hankel (James Van Der Beek) abducts Reid. The killer spends two days injecting the young agent with the highly-addictive painkiller Dilaudid. Reid begs Hankel to stop, and his pleas are painfully emotional. Although Reid is rescued, he develops an addiction to the drug.

Eventually, the rest of the BAU team recognizes Reid's problem, and they urge him to get help. Yet by the end of Season 3, his addiction issues are magically gone. Some fans hated this dark "Criminal Minds" storyline, which may explain its abrupt end. The show does Reid a disservice by not providing real closure to his struggles. Matthew Gray Gubler spoke to TV Guide about the storyline, saying, "He's wondering whether he can even still function at his job. I usually try to make Reid lovable, so this is killing me. I think fans are going to hate him, but [the addiction] makes him human."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Garcia and Morgan's lack of romance

In "Criminal Minds," Penelope Garcia and Derek Morgan become uniquely close. Morgan is Garcia's protector, and he calls her "baby girl" in a non-creepy way. The two become flirtatious confidants and share one of the closest relationships in the show. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, and their relationship feels authentic. Although sparks of romance seem plausible, Garcia and Morgan remain platonic throughout the series. The characters never even broach the subject of dating one another.

Kirsten Vangsness spoke to Parade about her unique chemistry with co-star Shemar Moore, remembering their first days on set together. "Shemar and I had talked on the phone, but I had never seen him," she said. "We were like, 'Oh, my gosh. We have chemistry.' Neither one of us knew it until we were doing it and it just built from there." Vangsness called the dynamic between Garcia and Morgan "the yummiest, delicious, coolest male/female relationship."

According to a thread on Reddit about the possibility of the characters dating, fans felt mixed about the prospect. However, exploring a possible romance seems like a natural step for the characters to have taken.

The team's lack of support for Elle

During her short tenure at the BAU, Special Agent Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini) proved one of the most hated "Criminal Minds" characters among fans. In Season 1, Elle is shot by the Fisher King and begins to crack. Ultimately, she's ousted from the BAU when she confronts serial rapist William Lee (Jason London) and kills him. Hotch accepts Elle's resignation sans any pleading to keep her on the team.

Elle absolutely crosses the line when she kills Lee. However, she isn't the only BAU member to do so. For example, Hodge beats his wife's killer to death and Reid sneaks into Mexico to purchase drugs. Yet, Elle is the only agent forced to stand alone and face the consequences of her actions. According to CinemaBlend, Glaudini may have chosen to leave the show because she wanted to remain on the East Coast, and "Criminal Minds" shot in Los Angeles. Regardless, on screen, the team's lack of effort to keep Elle Greenaway in the BAU doesn't make sense in light of others who stayed after grievous transgressions.