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Understanding the Key Characters of ‘Criminal Minds’

If you’re a fan of thought-provoking, soap-opera styled, criminal dramas, you’ve probably stumbled upon the show, Criminal Minds. Besides the crafty crimes, serial killers, rapists, kidnappers, and complexity of each story line as the seasons go on, each main character (during one of their prime-time casts) in the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) each hold their own sense of charm. Let’s delve into what crafts the main cast into alluring characters, and why they add to the obsession of the show.

1. Aaron Hotchner

A stern-faced, collected individual who just happens to run the FBI-BAU’s team in Quantico not only pulls the whole team together and keeps them grounded, he also happens to have his own set of traits that make him highly loved among fans. Seeing his son, Jack, and his ex-wife Haley’s storyline all unfold before the audience forces the audience to understand that there is a heart under the hard-pressed exterior Hotch displays. Compassionate and warm, which may take viewers by surprise, he sticks to his team and leads them in progressive directions time after time again. Hotch’s loyalty to the team and the consistent amount of times he sicks up for him make him hard to dislike, as we end up empathizing with the complexity of his character and love he has for the BAU.


2. David Rossi

If you thought Hotch was on the cold side, David Rossi gives him a good run for his money. The emotional detachment and lack of empathy he seems to have is all with good intention, though. Rossi happens to know that he must separate his emotions from the victims in order to successfully go about the tasks and goals of finding whichever suspect they are looking into. Goal oriented, Rossi’s motives are more to find the criminals and bring overall justice, even if it means feelings may get hurt in the process. Though his approach is much more different than the other characters, he keeps the BAU fighting to the end and always working on being the most efficient team. Rossi’s contribution and persona helps balance the team as he is well respected and overall, an acclimated agent.



3. Emily Prentiss

Emily Prentiss, easily one of the best characters and it’s only right to have to watch her in action so therefore I will keep this short: she is simply a badass bitch.


4. Jennifer Jareau a.k.a. JJ

Besides being a pretty face and the communications liaison for the BAU unit, JJ is one you can easily fall and stay in love with. Compassion and a strong will come together to bring about JJ’s character as she uses her communication skills publicly and privately to talk down or talk about criminals and to strengthen relationship ties around her. JJ’s care for her teammates is profound as we see her constantly prioritize the ones she loves and stands her ground not only for herself but her family and the rest of the BAU unit. Her character faces many challenges throughout the seasons and forces us to keep fighting for her as her wholesome heart is essentially sacrificed for our entertainment. Agent Jennifer Jareau is one to keep your eye out for, as her character develops and surprises you all the time.


5. Derek Morgan

The “jock” influenced and “daddy complex” influenced persona is all wrapped up in a protective, loyal, and empathetic character — Derek Morgan. Besides his badass reputation as he physically challenges criminals time and time again, Morgan knows how to charm the audience with his good looks and down-to-earth nature. His perfect complex only gets exposed as he opens up about his past life and we realize how much hardship he faced in his past and eventually shaped him into the Derek Morgon that is on the BAU team. Morgan’s character is complex in the sense he is a good mixture of Hotch and JJ (in my opinion at least). Nonetheless, Derek Morgan is one of the strongest personas on the show and one that captures our emotional sanctions.


6. Penelope Garcia

Penelope Garcia (or “Babygirl” as some of us may know her) is the data analyst for the BAU who seemingly happens to sit behind screens all day for the BAU and is always quick to find whatever information logged in the database to help her teammates; in which, she also helps display how she is an essential member to the team. But besides her credentials, her distinct sense of individuality with an abundance of quirky traits and one of the biggest hearts among team only captivates many viewers. You either dislike her or like her from the start, yet as the seasons progress the end, you grow a deep fondness for Garcia and only hope for the best for her. 


7. Spencer Reid

Lastly, we have a fan favorite – Dr. Spencer Reid, who also happens to be the youngest member. We may have fallen for his due to his model-esque looks or even his eidetic memory, but what really makes him such an alluring persona is his humbled fabrication of a character. Some might find Reid too awkward and geeky, but in all honesty, I believe this happens to work in his favor of charming the audience. His empathetic nature while working with victims and victims’ families alongside his rambling on about the most random facts is endearing to many viewers. Watching Reid garner a more mature character and “tougher” persona as the seasons go on, the journey he takes the audience on with his soft (comparatively) demeanor only adds to our love for Reid.

Essentially, each character has their own vulnerabilities. Each of them are humanized throughout the show. We adapt to their roles as their growth and development of their character keeps us hooked from season to season as we end up wishing for the characters to be our nation’s actual FBI BAU unit.


**Note: these storylines are all mentioned only up until around seasons 5 to 7 due to the nature of some of the most compelling seasons with just enough character reveals.

Kayla Ishisaki

Washington '21

Undergraduate student at UW Seattle.
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