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Did Jordan Todd Deserve A Bigger Character Arc In Criminal Minds?

One of the strengths of "Criminal Minds," beyond the captivating cases and crazed unsub of the week, is its core cast of characters, which remained relatively consistent throughout the series' 15-season run. The creative team smartly avoided a character list filled with the clichéd hard-nosed, grim-faced detectives common to other crime procedurals. Instead, they balanced the more stereotypical characters in the Behavioral Analysis Unit with offbeat choices like a quirky hacker, a boy genius, and an athletic flirt.

To the show's credit, even interim characters were given more depth and layers than are typical for temporary replacements. For instance, when J.J. Jareau (A.J. Cook) went on maternity leave, audiences were introduced to Jordan Todd (Meta Golding). Though the character only appeared in eight episodes, the series' writers provided her with a personality and background that shook up the BAU. While Agent Todd's character arc was compelling, the limited number of appearances made it feel somewhat truncated. Could the show have given her more?

Jordan Todd crossed a line with Aaron Hotchner

Jordan Todd is introduced in Season 4, Episode 5, "Catching Out," as the BAU's replacement media liaison while J.J. is on maternity leave. Though she arrives with impressive credentials earned at the FBI's counterterrorism division, Todd is very much the "new gal" attempting to fit in with the close-knit BAU family. Unlike J.J., who has a distinctly softer side, Todd is significantly more dominant and self-possessed, which has a tendency to rub her BAU colleagues the wrong way.

In one of her early cases, Todd creates a false personal narrative in order to compel a victim's family to cooperate with the BAU's investigation. Immediately after the interview, Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) takes Todd to task, sternly telling her that the team doesn't lie to get the job done. Initially, Todd pushes back on the reprimand. She unabashedly defends herself by pointing out that the tactic worked and the family is now cooperating. Not used to backtalk from his subordinates, Hotch reminds her that she works for the FBI, an organization that relies on public trust; if that public ever caught her in a lie, it would seriously damage the Bureau's credibility.

Jordan Todd also clashed with Morgan and Prentiss

Todd doesn't only clash with Hotch during her brief tenure with the BAU. On different occasions, she also exchanges some heated words with Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) and Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster). Not getting along with roughly half your colleagues isn't the best situation, but in many ways the character was designed for that very dynamic. Todd was introduced as and always meant to be a temporary character, which meant the show could use her to experiment with infusing some conflict into a tightly bonded team. That aspect of Todd's character arc is relatable to any viewer who has been the new kid on the block and struggled to find their niche within a clique.

The other main aspect of Todd's storyline focuses on her emotional and psychological readiness to work the cases for which the BAU is known. Though she comes to the team with a background in counterterrorism, Todd has no experience with serial killers. It becomes clear quite quickly that her work in counterterrorism did not prepare her for the depravity of serial killers and the horrific crime scenes they leave in their wake.

The horrors of the BAU haunted Jordan

In one of Todd's final cases with the team, the BAU is on the hunt for a California spree killer dubbed "The Road Warrior" (Mitch Pileggi). During the investigation, Todd holds a press conference detailing the BAU's profile of the killer. Spooked and angered by the public profile, the killer strikes again, causing Todd to feel responsible. That guilt is compounded after she holds another press conference, which reveals much more detailed characteristics of the unsub and subsequently pushes The Road Warrior over the edge. Though the BAU eventually catches him, they discover a gruesome scene at the man's home: At the start of his killing spree days earlier, he shot and killed his wife and two young daughters.

Finding the bodies sends Todd into a tailspin. She tells David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) that she doesn't understand how the BAU can see such horror day after day and keep their sanity and humanity. Two episodes later, Todd informs Hotch that J.J. is returning from maternity leave early, which means Todd will head back to counterterrorism. She also tells Hotch that in the time she's been with the BAU, she's seen some of the worst things in her life, and she hopes Hotch appreciates just how good and strong J.J. is.

In 8 episodes, Jordan Todd's arc covered a lot of ground

This second and larger story arc for Todd served two purposes. The first objective was to show audiences that not everyone, even someone who deals with terrorism, is cut out for the BAU. However, true to the strength of her character, Todd understands her limitations and knows what's best for her mental health. That's a stark departure from Lola Glaudini's Elle Greenaway, who succumbed to the rigors and pressures of the BAU and left in disgrace.

The other goal achieved by Todd's arc is to highlight how essential J.J. is to the team. While it'd be easy to dismiss a media liaison as a secondary position within the BAU, Todd's arc helped remind both viewers and the team itself that the kind-hearted J.J. is anything but secondary.

So, did Jordan Todd deserve more on "Criminal Minds"? Meta Golding certainly turned in strong performances, and her character brought a new dynamic to the team that was previously absent. In that regard, it would have been interesting to see Todd have a longer run with the team. However, given that the character was created only for eight episodes and that the series is an ensemble, it would have been a challenge to expand her character arc beyond what the writers crafted. As it stands, Todd's brief time on the show saw her struggling to fit in with the BAU family, clashing with colleagues, trying to cope with the horrors of the job, and ultimately making the proactive decision to protect her emotional well-being. That's not too shabby for an 8-episode arc.