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

The Season 12 Criminal Minds Episode Fans Think Fell Short

For 15 seasons, the CBS crime procedural, "Criminal Minds," haunted our nights with some of television's most disturbing murderers, kidnappers, and serial killers. Several of the series' most chilling "unsubs," AKA unknown subjects, had us double-checking window and door locks before turning in for the night.

Of course, with over 300 episodes to its name, "Criminal Minds" sometimes missed the mark. Some viewers, for instance, still scratch their heads over the episode in which, out of the blue, the happily married Jennifer "JJ" Jareau (A.J. Cook) professes romantic love for Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler). According to a recent discussion on Reddit, another episode that let viewers down was Season 12, Episode 2, titled "Sick Day," which saw the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) head to California to catch a sadistic pyromaniac who targets teen girls and young boys. Both the episode's structure and resolution differed from previous episodes, which may have contributed to the audience's negative reaction to it.

Sick Day left Criminal Minds viewers feeling ill

Unlike most "Criminal Minds" episodes, "Sick Day" is told largely through flashbacks. The story focuses on A.J. Cook's JJ, who has returned home after working a case that left her physically injured and emotionally traumatized. Her husband, Will (Josh Stewart), can sense her pain and, after she snaps at him, he reminds her that she can talk to him about work. The episode then goes into flashback mode, detailing the BAU's hunt for a killer who recently abducted and killed a teen girl and young boy in California. 

Flashback episodes are always a bit tricky, as some viewers enjoy the structure of such episodes, while others detest the style. However, in addition to the different story structure, the episode also opts out of giving viewers any kind of happy ending as well. Indeed, as the team closes in on the killer, John David Bates (Eric Murdoch), he abducts another young girl, her younger brother, and someone he'd been obsessed with killing since he was 12 years old: his own sister. JJ and Luke Alvarez (Adam Rodriguez) track Bates to a warehouse where he's holding all three captive, finding the victims bound and doused in lighter fluid just as flames are beginning to engulf the entire building.

Criminal Minds viewers struggled with the flashbacks in Sick Day

After Alvarez apprehends a fleeing Bates, the FBI agents work to free the prisoners. JJ uses her gun to break the lock holding the young boy's chains, and he escapes to safety. Alvarez uses a bolt cutter to release Bates' sister, and carries her out of the building, leaving JJ to free the young girl. As the fire spreads, the gas drums in the warehouse begin to explode. Before JJ can free the girl, Alvarez rushes back in and drags an unwilling JJ out of the building. Just as the two agents get clear, the entire building explodes, killing the young girl as she screams for her life.

When it comes to "Criminal Minds," viewers are prepared to accept that its killers will kill and that some victims will live, while others will die. We also accept that some victims will, unfortunately, be children. But "Sick Day" had a young victim, who had already been kidnapped, tortured, and burned, die a violent death while screaming for her life. The scene is incredibly brutal, and in the Reddit conversation about the episode, some users commented that the scene was too graphic, especially the girl's final scream. Others agreed that the episode was emotionally painful, but thought that it effectively reflected the hardships of real life. 

With all that said, given the episode's atypical story structure and horrific ending, it's no surprise that "Sick Day" didn't sit well with "Criminal Minds" fans.