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Reid And Ethan's Tension In Criminal Minds Season 2 Explained

As "Criminal Minds" fans know well, Season 2 is a rough time for everyone's favorite genius and youngest member of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler). He's just a few years into his career when he's kidnapped, tortured, and drugged by James Van Der Beek's serial killer Tobias Hankel in the episode "Revelations."

It's not entirely surprising that in the aftermath of his rescue, Reid struggles to cope. He becomes addicted to Dilaudid and is tense with his coworkers, particularly Emily (Paget Brewster). It isn't until he meets up with his childhood friend Ethan (Rhys Coiro) in the episode "Jones" that he begins to open up. However, the tension between the old friends is remarkably different from the iciness between Reid and Emily.

At this point in the season, Reid is trying to decide if he wants to stick with the FBI after such a traumatic experience, which is why he seeks out his old friend and rival for direction. Growing up, he and Ethan competed with each other at science fairs and spelling bees. They were both set on joining the FBI but lost touch when Ethan quit after his first day of training. When they meet up, Ethan sees that Reid is grappling with addiction, but fans see something else between the two: Reddit user u/Mammoth-Dig-8276 posted to r/criminalminds, wondering if anyone else had picked up on sexual tension between Reid and Ethan, writing, "They had like 5 scenes together and it was, well, tense? Haha."

Fans speculate that Reid and Ethan dated in the past

In the comments, plenty of other fans knew exactly what u/Mammoth-Dig-8276 was talking about. Redditor u/sunnirays noted that there are dozens of fanworks created for the pairing and wrote, "In the very first scene they have, you could cut the sexual tension with a knife, I swear to God." When the two first meet up, it's framed to make the audience worry for Ethan's safety as he walks alone in an alley. Then Spencer appears from around the corner, smiling and bragging that he's "always been one step ahead" of Ethan. On YouTube, the scene has several comments calling out the presumed sexual tension between the two friends. 

User Gracelyn Walker wrote, "The way Spencer looks him up and down. Boy has a crush or they used to be a thing." Meanwhile, user kåii luv argued, "you can't tell me nothing happened between them. don't lie you can't sit here and tell me NOTHING happened." Still, some fans didn't see it that way. Back on Reddit, user u/melraespinn wrote, "Meh, seemed like that kind of tension that you have with a friend who went a different way in life. That understated we would still be besties if things turned out differently."

For many fans, the chemistry between Reid and Ethan is another reminder of the fact that Spencer Reid was originally going to be written as bisexual (per ET). Reddit user u/sunnirays brought this up: "I think MGG still played that at least in the first two seasons." It's become something of a sore spot, considering fans' desire for LGBTQ+ representation on "Criminal Minds." Well, no matter how it was written or acted, Ethan was never again seen on "Criminal Minds" — but neither was he forgotten.