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The Most Heartbreaking Criminal Minds Episode From Season 2

Not all crime dramas are the same, and CBS' "Criminal Minds" specialized in introducing viewers to brutal killers and kidnappers who were, often, once vulnerable people triggered and tormented by cruel twists of fate. The show examined each unknown subject — or "unsub" — through the lens of what could be deduced about their life experiences. Sometimes, this resulted in stories where the viewer sees the unsub not just as a victimizer, but also as a victim themselves. 

While many unsubs on the show were sadists who were entirely responsible for their gruesome crimes, several episodes made the viewers feel for the killer, as well. A classic example of that would be the character of Tobias Hankel from the episode "Revelations," who suffered from severe mental health issues and grew up with an abusive and religiously fanatical father. Sometimes, these conflicting plots made the episodes truly agonizing. But on the flip side, sometimes the brutal nature of the crimes overrides any empathy the viewer might have.

Season 2 of "Criminal Minds" arrived after a riveting first season, and it established several standards of disturbing content that viewers came to expect. But in a season that had everything from the aforementioned Hankel to an underage unsub, and even disturbing personal stories from the BAU team, there's another episode that takes the award for most heartbreaking.

Criminal Minds fans found North Mammon to be heartbreaking and disturbing

In the Season 2 episode "North Mammon," a small town obsessed with high school football is horrified when three teenage girls go missing. The case becomes even more upsetting when two of the abducted girls return. They reveal that their abductor forced the three friends to make the choice and kill one of their own, otherwise, all three of them would die in captivity. All of the elements of this installment make it a devastating watch. Not only is the BAU unable to save the eventual victim, but the two surviving girls clearly have lasting trauma, and watching them bicker over who should be the one to die is deeply sad. To make matters worse, the unsub's motivations are particularly petty given the brutal nature of his crimes. 

Among "Criminal Minds" fans, the episode has a reputation as one of the most upsetting. On a Reddit thread discussing disturbing episodes from the show, several Redditors pointed toward "North Mammon." On another thread, u/DansoRoboto shared the impact of the brutal episode. "It really messed me up too," they said. "I couldn't even begin to imagine how the sick girl felt when she overheard one of her friends was thinking of killing her because she was the weak one."

Another disturbing episodes thread saw the mention of "North Mammon." U/marcohcanada wrote, "Hands down the most disturbing S2 episode IMO. The way the unsub celebrated the crime being committed w/ his dialogue ('I never touched them') and body language (holding his hands up as if he was the second coming of Christ) was so sickening."

With a "Criminal Minds" revival in the works at Paramount+, the fans should once again prepare themselves to watch more of these devastating tragedies onscreen.