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This Is When Criminal Minds Fans Think The Show Lost Its Magic

Striking the right balance when it comes to the longevity of a TV series is a tricky thing. End the show too soon and you run the risk of your audience feeling left in the lurch, but let it go on too long and even die-hard fans might lose interest. Even shows that are meant for longer runs, such as network crime procedurals, have the potential to lose the magic that made them a hit once the number of seasons gets into the double digits.

That is very true of CBS' Criminal Minds, which ended its 15 season run in 2020. While fans of the series were no doubt sad to see it finally wrap up (and some already want it to come back), for many it was likely more of a bittersweet moment. That's because by the last season of the show, a lot of viewers think it simply lost the spark that turned them into fans in the first place.

In a thread on the series' subreddit, fans gathered to speak honestly about exactly when the quality of the show began to fizzle out. Despite a number of different users offering their opinions, there was a pretty general consensus that somewhere around seasons 6 or 7 was when the show began to dip in quality. And many fans have clear ideas as to why.

Some fans thought the investigations became generic

Criminal Minds follows a similar structure as other shows such as NCIS or Law & Order: SVU. What set the series apart in the beginning was that it focused on the agents in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), who used psychological profiling to hunt down some of the worst criminals in the country. In the early seasons, the emphasis on profiling often led to the characters taking a unique path to finally solving the crime. However, as the show went on, some fans began to notice that the series relied more and more on generic patterns to crack the investigations.

User Hiiiiiiiiii_10, who started the thread, described the formula that emerged in the later seasons of the show: "characters are just able to look a few clues, cross check, then somehow make a completely accurate prediction [...] one character just casually mentions something, and the team starts pursuing without doubt even though there are other possibilities [...]"

Another user, masterbaiter9000, pointed out a similar issue related to the simple solutions to the crimes. They wrote, "I think over the years they shifted the focus to the crimes and the unsub instead of focusing on the process to investigate said crimes, which turned [Criminal Minds] into a sort of police series rather than showing the day to day of the BAU as it was in the beginning."

According to many viewers, that shift in the way the show portrayed the investigations didn't just make the plot aspects of the show less compelling, it also flattened the characters.

Fans love the characters on Criminal Minds, but felt the show didn't know what to do with them in later seasons

A big appeal of Criminal Minds has always been its characters. From the bubbly and determined Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) to everyone's favorite former boy genius, Spencer "And it's 'Doctor'" Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), each brought their own unique backstory and skills to the table. However, several fans complained that as the show began relying more on formulaic solutions to the crimes, the unique traits of the characters fell by the wayside.

User buildingaboat pointed out, "in the first few seasons, they emphasized each team members specialty— Reid with geographic profiling, Elle with sexual assault, Morgan with robberies..." But as kiwanis23 noted, that fell away at a certain point. They wrote, "honestly I feel like after season 5 [Criminal Minds] lost its spark, along with the characters who lost their main quirks."

And as Hiiiiiiiiii_10 wrote in the post that kicked off the thread, "The new characters they bought in barely utilize their special skills [...] old characters are losing their quirks [...] and overall the show just feels so generalized."

Many fans think Criminal Minds suffered a noticeable dip in quality halfway through the series

Picking at what changed with the plotting and characters is really just dancing around what's at the core of the issue with the latter half of Criminal Minds: the show had an overall dip in quality. User petrichorblues said bluntly, "I feel like the acting deteriorated and the mystery aspect completely died. This is why I only rewatch seasons 1-7..."

Other fans also complained about the lackluster writing and acting in later seasons, as well as what they saw as a reliance on cheap shocks, as opposed to genuinely captivating crimes. Criminal Minds has always been known for having some of the grisliest content of any crime procedural, but later in the series, many fans felt that the subject matter wasn't handled well. As User kattvp noted, "I feel like after season 6/7, things started to really be for shock value? I know it's a show about serial killers but some of it is really over the top." Meanwhile, the_scientist52 categorized some of the content in later seasons as "torture porn" and said, "I'd never had a problem with any crime show in that regard and could handle the sad/scary scenes just fine–until the later seasons of [Criminal Minds]. I got the impression that they'd run out of ideas to keep the audience interested so they used more disturbing unsub scenes to get attention."

One silver lining to Criminal Minds petering out, quality-wise, is that even if you are one of the fans who feel that the show lost its way halfway in, at least you'll always have the first six or seven seasons to enjoy.