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Why Criminal Minds Fans Get Nervous When Unsubs Get Caught Too Early

Few crime procedurals are as intense as CBS' "Criminal Minds." Week after week, for 15 seasons, we watched with knotted stomachs as the members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit tracked down serial killers, kidnappers, and murderers. With rare exceptions, the various unsubs — and the BAU's pursuit of them — were dark and unsettling. Who can forget Tobias Hankel (James Van Der Beek), the man who abducted and tortured Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gruber)? Or George Foyet (C. Thomas Howell), who made Hotch (Thomas Gibson) listen to his ex-wife's execution? And of course, there's Mr. Scratch (Bodhi Elfman), one of the series' most menacing unsubs. Yes, for 15 years, "Criminal Minds" loved making us squirm.

But, among the truly dedicated "Criminal Minds" fans, it wasn't just the unsub du jour that sped our pulse and whitened our knuckles. A Redditor recently highlighted another aspect of the show that often induced panic and dread among viewers: catching the unsub too soon.

An early solve means a twist awaits for Criminal Minds

Some months back, Redditor Taliarobless shared a meme on the platform featuring an image of Max Headroom with the caption, "Something's wrong. I can feel it." Above the image: "Me when the BAU catches the unsub but there is still 15 minutes left in the episode." The post generated dozens of comments, with almost all agreeing with the sentiment. Essentially, when the BAU apprehends the unsub long before the end credits, viewers know something is not right. The early catch could mean the BAU has the wrong guy, or that the unsub works with a partner, or that there's another victim out there whose location the unsub will use as leverage against the BAU.

These savvy viewers, who likely have watched each of the series' 300+ episodes multiple times (which is easily done given the number of cable networks and streaming services that aired "Criminal Minds" reruns), are well-trained in the genre. If a criminal is caught and there's still 20 minutes left in the episode, the chances are very good that the BAU — and the viewing audience — is in for a surprise twist.