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Gideon Vs Rossi: Who Do Criminal Minds Fans Like More?

SSAs Jason Gideon and David Rossi represent two major epochs in Criminal Minds' history. 

On the one hand, there are the first two seasons of the show, in which Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) reigned over a team of relative fledgling agents in a hard-boiled crime drama. Rossi (Joe Mantegna) arrived in season three, as part of a surprise cast shakeup, to begin a trend that, over the next twelve seasons, eventually relaxed into a less edgy and grim (but no less gruesome) production that began to focus more on the BAU team as a family dynamic. Patinkin would go on to famously and abruptly abandon Criminal Minds in 2007, claiming its depiction of violence against women to be too extreme and demoralizing, just as pre-production on the third season was to begin.

The years have worn on, but the debate over the OG cast member's quality versus his replacement has never really ceased. A recent Reddit thread — one of many iterations asking this question — put down a firmer opinion than the usual, with the heading "Rossi is better than Gideon," prompting discussion anew. The general concession within that thread, and others over the years, generally agreed with this stance, to varying degrees and qualifications. While that's a circumstantial snippet, the longtime popularity that Rossi's character enjoyed within the show meant he was never replaced, either (unlike certain other characters), and that speaks for itself as well.

What makes Rossi great

When people talk about why they like Rossi, it's often in terms of what Gideon wasn't — that is, funny, warm, and team-oriented. Comparing them is almost an apples-and-oranges argument, but the characters are joined by a shared history as former coworkers and the founders of the BAU as an institution.

All that aside, fans tend to appreciate Rossi because he's fun. He hosts dinner parties at his lavish home for his team members, offers his experience and wisdom with a distinct kind of sassy humor, and is wise enough to know when to step back and let the youths do what they do best. Rossi is much more flexible emotionally and professionally than Gideon, who hated cell phones and didn't always get along with others on the team, especially when it was predicated on the idea that Gideon might be wrong or unknowingly biased about something. All that adds up to a character that is going to naturally be more ingratiating to a larger audience. In general, he's just better at being a person interacting with other people than Gideon ever was, and Rossi has explained as much himself, within the show.

A question of luckier circumstance

Everyone in the aforementioned Reddit thread was willing to accept the relative pros and cons of both characters, which is the fairest thing to do when fans debate stuff like this. One respondent, in fact, made the most important qualification in favor of Rossi's popularity, and it deserves special acknowledgement: "Plus, just think about this, what if the roles were reversed? Like Rossi was in the first three seasons and Gideon were in the others. I think more of us would've liked Gideon because he would've had more time to grow and for us to like him. Since Rossi has been in more seasons he has grown as a character a lot and he has had bigger and more moments to shine than Gideon."

In truth, Rossi's character changed over his first couple seasons on Criminal Minds. At first, he was also pretty standoffish, and more than a little arrogant, often treating his coworkers as lesser-educated hooligans. He didn't evolve into "Dad of the BAU" overnight, and that's easy to forget over so many years and episodes. The things Rossi is loved for — his gentleness, humility, and real affection for all his younger team members — developed over time, and that was time which Gideon, as a character, was not granted.

The contrarian opinion

People have never really stopped missing Gideon's place in Criminal Minds, though a more substantial proportion of that interest isn't so much for Gideon himself, so much as the effect he had on his former protege, Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler). Reid is most people's favorite character, and the loss of the Gideon in his life defined his character in ebbs and flows over the rest of the entire series. There was even some minutiae of hope, as Pop Culture wrote, that Patinkin might show up for the series finale, despite having ghosted on the series over a decade earlier. That, of course, never came to be.

All that aside, Gideon does have his fans, particularly when it comes to the distinct skills, knowledge, and characterization he brought to the table. These preferences, of course, can mostly be defined mostly by taste — and Gideon's strengths were, in fact, a particular flavor that Criminal Minds let slip away over time, as the show evolved, changed, and found its own stride. That's not a value judgement, it's simply what happened, and opinions vary: in the end, it really depends on if you watched Criminal Minds as a semi-faithful examination of a real law enforcement technique, or if you showed up to watch the "BAU and Friends Murder Hour."