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Criminal Minds Fans Weigh In On The Most Iconic Team On The Show

With a 15-year run, it's not surprising that the crime solving procedural Criminal Minds changed its cast multiple times, but that doesn't mean it made fans happy. Actors left the series for a variety of reasons, although sometimes they came back to rejoin the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. Only Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) was in every single episode, with Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) coming in close second — she was in all but one

Now, with most shows, it's the first season that fans feel nostalgic for — but the BAU dream team didn't properly assemble until season 3. And while Criminal Minds had a crime-of-the-week premise, it was always the characters that kept fans coming back to the gruesome murder solving. 

A refresher: Back in the very first season, the intelligent Reid and Garcia were the ones who charmed fans, along with Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore), Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner (Thomas Gibson), and Jennifer "JJ" Jareau (A.J. Cook). Originally, they were also joined by Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini) and Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin), but neither of them lasted past the second season. Elle was replaced by Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) in season 2 and then Gideon was replaced by David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) in season 3. The latter team, who kept more or less together through season 7, is the one that many fans think is the best of the show. 

The latter half of the series, though, saw many fan-favorites leave, including Morgan and Hotch, and new faces arrived that never quite lived up to this roster.

Fans mostly agree on the dream team, with some contention over Gideon or Rossi

Over on Reddit, user ChocolateTeapot003 posted the above photo, stating that this was the "Best version of the team!!!" and adding in the comments that they didn't think it was the same without Prentiss (who left after season 7 but later returned). Although in the past, fans haven't been able to agree on Prentiss, most commentators in this thread agreed with the above team being the best version of the BAU.

User wendz1980 summed it up with a simple: "Without a doubt!" Another user, kitten451, proclaimed this to be the show's "golden age." 

The biggest point of contention, however, seems to be over Gideon and Rossi, which has been a recurring debate among fans. User lukcypher felt that Gideon sometimes hogged the investigation, pushing others to be side characters, while user TheJadedJester disagreed and was very pro-Gideon, anti-Rossi. They replied, "See I felt that way about Rossi, not Gideon. I always felt Gideon was always teaching and helping the rest of the team, albeit subtly." For TheJadedJester, Rossi ruined the show and they never grew to like him. 

In the middle was user iracethesunhome, who said, "Those few episodes after Gideon leaves / before Rossi joins are my absolute fave."

However, one common thread was that no one piped in to say that any particular team compositions following the "golden age" team were better. There's a sense of sad nostalgia, as the fans wish they could have kept this cast for the rest of the show. At the very least, they can binge-watch only their favorite episodes now, as the show is available for streaming on Netflix.