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The Most Heartbreaking Criminal Minds Episode From Season 9

The CBS drama "Criminal Minds" completely captured the attention of its audience during its glorious 15 season run and continues to engage veteran and new fans alike even now that the series has wrapped up. But while watching members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit use their excellent observational skills to catch serial killers is amazing, for many fans, it's actually the characters' own arcs that make the show so compelling.

That being said, it's not always easy to be a fan of the BAU profilers. Being a fan of any BAU squad member ultimately means you have to be prepared to watch them go through unspeakable horrors and traumas. Whether it's Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) being tortured by Tobias Hankel (James Van Der Beek) or Derek Morgan's (Shemar Moore) troubled childhood coming back to haunt him, it's never easy to watch.

The storylines in Season 9 of the series are no different. After all, this is the season wherein fans saw JJ's (A.J. Cook) abduction and torture while in Afghanistan and the emotional aftermath that followed. But there is actually another episode that rehashed a past tragedy suffered by an integral member of the team, and when combined with a particularly moving case of the week, it takes the spot as the most heartbreaking installment of Season 9.

Route 66 reopened old wounds from Aaron Hotchner's past

The death of Aaron Hotchner's (Thomas Gibson) ex-wife Haley (Meredith Monroe) in Season 5 is one of the most heartbreaking moments of "Criminal Minds." That tragic storyline is revisited in Season 9, Episode 5, titled "Route 66." Hotchner, who is recovering after surgery, dreams about Haley and George Foyet (C Thomas Howell), the serial killer who murdered her. His moments with Haley, while scattered in bits throughout the episode, make for the most tear-jerking scenes, with a conversation the two have about their son being especially moving. Eventually, when Hotchner replays her murder, the hurtful memories are relived all over again. 

Redditor u/definitely-not agreed. In a thread dedicated to the series' saddest episodes, they wrote, "one of the saddest episodes IMO is season nine episode five, route 66. the way he was trying to help her and though the wound wasn't real, he still tried. it breaks my heart. and at the end when he's like i don't want to leave you."

Moreover, the case at the heart of the episode, which involves a father abducting his own teen daughter to take her to a better life, is also brimming with sadness. The emotional conversation between the father and the daughter at the end makes the episode a particularly painful one for many. On another thread, u/caitlynat specifically cited this heartwrenching moment, writing, "... when the daughter went back in to talk her dad out of what his father did was so sad." 

This double whammy delivered a strong punch of emotions to the fans, making it the most heartbreaking watch of Season 9.