Every season has at least one episode that is just brilliant! Like more brilliant than any other episode in the season. Which for some seasons is quite difficult. The reason it is not called the best episodes is due to the fact I have a similar list published already called "Criminal Minds Most Memorable Epsiodes" so go give that a read. It would be too similar and for that I have picked different episodes from each season to be more diverse. This is a list, starting at season 1 going all the way to season 14 of a truly great episode in each season.
Season 1: The Fox
This was a brilliant episode. It was really the first fully developed unsub we has seen with the show. Carl Arnold provided the show with an unsub fully developed in his methodical thinking. The Fox, would target victims encountered at work, though through a different doctor to avoid suspicion. The Fox was the first unsub to not only stalk his victims, but also invade their homes as well as be a family annihilator, which made him a very sophisticated unsub compared to the others seen so far. What made the episode so great was how Gideon managed to trick him into admitting the murders were caused by him, as well as The Fox's confession. His whole reasoning behind the murders was a way for him to kill himself over and over again as he was a failure as a father. This was the episode that brought the more intense and interesting class of unsub. Hence why it is a great episode, the complexity of it all was different than the ones before it and set a bench mark for others to meet.
Season 2: No Way Out Part 1
Now I understand that I said these episodes are not those that involve the cast, some may be confused as Frank did target Gideon, but it should be noted that it was in No Way Out Part 2 was focused on their rivalry. In this episode it had nothing to do with Gideon. In part 1, the team first encounters Frank, one of the best killers the show has seen to date. From the difference in how Frank acted, to how the episode was filmed as kind of a recount of the past events was new and exciting. It was interesting to see the episode recounted from Gideon's "story telling" of it. Also, instead of that being the entire look of the episode, they brought it up to the present moment which was very interesting and made it that much more interesting and new. Everything about Frank and his persona made the episode that much better, as well as the support role that Jane played. It was truly a great, great episode in the season.
Season 3: Limelight
This a very important episode during the season, because it gives us a little more into the past of David Rossi. At this point we know a little more about him, but not a lot about his past, and in this episode he opens up, saying how he was self-centered and took serial killers mass market. And in this episode, we meet a detective who is a young Rossi 2.0. Back to the episode, the beginning was shown to us in a new way. Being that there was no victim, there was no body, there was a storage locker with a journal sort of thing documenting torture fantasies. Similar again to the later episode "In Heat" but better, the unsub was forcing the team to create a time line of all his murders and his life essentially, starting from way back and going until the present. What made it so great of an episode was the detective involved. She wanted to capitalize on the fame of this serial killer in a sense, I mean she was coming up with names for him after all. So to have the unsub really be targeting her as his end game made it so much more personal and really tied in the Rossi angle since after she still went straight to the news reporters.
Season 4: Soul Mates
This is one of my favorite episodes in the show really. I think that it was such a fresh look into a team dynamic and was done so well. How they created the episode was unusual as well. Being that they had captured one half of the team and still needed to find the partner. It created a new dynamic to a classic killer trait. Also, having the flash backs to when the partnership started, etc was a nice touch as well since we did not really get to see their partnership in action so to speak. What was really interesting was how both men were offenders before as well. They each had an arrest or conviction before hand but just for rape or sexual assault. Both did not start murdering the girls they assaulted until after they became partners. What really put the episode over the edge was how the one partners daughter became involved and taken by the other, causing the capture of both to occur. Just a great episode.
Season 5: Mosley Lane
If you don't get the creeps from this episode, then I don't know what to do for you. To sum it up nicely in way, this couple was abducting children from public places in order to make them their own. Later on, they would use those children to help abduct more. When they are done with the children or the children misbehave etc, they simply take them to their funeral home, which has a crematory and burn the children to ash. What is even more insane, is that they've gotten away with it. This episode was just well thought out, you also had this mother who was unreliable and an alcoholic and at the same time she was absolutely obsessed with finding the people that took her son and took other kids in a similar fashion. She turned out to be the one who broke the case! It was a great episode with so many twists that it just has to be a favorite.
Season 6: Today I do
I think this episode is just every woman's nightmare. This new friend you meet who is helping you become a better you and is giving you all this encouragement ends up being an absolute psycho. What this woman did was pretty much look for broken down women, begin to help them better their lives, and then kill them. The creepiest part of it all was that she thought that she was really helping these women and that they were too weak to find help with anyone else. The very creepy part of it all as well was her mantra that she recited and had her victims believe in as well. Today I do, tomorrow I will is now the creepiest self-help mantra in the world if you ask me. To make it worse, with her more recent victim the fact that she breaks the woman’s leg, tries to spoon feed her like a baby and even goes as far as buying her diapers is just so disturbing. Just rendering her victims helpless so that they need her, they can’t function without her. Also, in the episode, she literally tricks her victim’s boyfriend into sleeping with her to prove that he is a horrible man is just strange. Basically, the reason this was a great episode was just how strange it was, seeing how twisted one woman’s view point of being a nurturing figure is.
Season 7: Hope
This was another very well done episode. Namely, because it was new and different from any others we have seen before. Which after 7 seasons can become difficult for some shows. One of the better facts was that it was essentially a cold case the team was working on with a fresh twist. In the episode the mother of a girl named Hope was abducted by the same man who took her daughter 8 years previously. He takes the mother from a support group which he also attends and took her through the motion of how he took her daughter from her. And he brought her to the same house where he kept her daughter all those years. Skipping over the episode so that no spoilers are really given, pretty much at the end of the episode when Garcia confronts him, he tells how the story he has been telling at the support group is really about her daughter which is just even more creepy. The uniqueness factor with this episode and just how emotional it was, because not many of them show this much emotion or mean this much to the cast unless it directly affects them, makes it one of the great episodes in the show.
Season 8: The Fallen
There are just so many good things to be said about this episode. From start to end it was interesting, well planned and something that I do not think fans were expecting. Everyone knew about Rossi being a marine as it was mentioned many times, but what this episode did to use that to also make somewhat of a political standpoint in showcasing how many veterans are now homeless. Getting ahead of the episode here. There are just so many good things to be said about this episode. From start to end it was interesting, well planned and something that I do not think fans were expecting. Everyone knew about Rossi being a marine as it was mentioned many times, but what this episode did to use that to also make somewhat of a political standpoint in showcasing how many veterans are now homeless. Getting ahead of the episode here.
Season 9: Rabid
This was a weird episode. Namely as it was all about a man who was intentionally getting individuals sick by giving them rabies. He would then record them as their symptoms got worse and slowly started to die. We have seen unsubs before target the mass public with virus’ before, but it is rare to have one specifically pick out individuals one at a time. That’s part of what made this so interesting. The other just being the amount of knowledge given regarding rabies. I mean, yes it is all just a google search away, but in today’s world, we do not really need to be concerned about it at all unless visiting third world countries. To also see the effects of it as the disease/virus progresses was also something interesting to watch as well because I have never seen it or known what it does. The fact that it was just so original and informational was a great attribute to the episode.
Season 10: Breath Play
Why this was such a great episode was that it took inspiration from a real-world phenomenon. This episode answered all the questions most people had when it came to the crazy of 50 shades of Grey. Seriously though how could people not get a serial killer vibe from it. The fact too that the killer in this episode was using the book as a gateway for his true desires, which was basically manual strangulation, through the book the whole idea of BDSM is more popularized and many people want to try it. This is where a lot of issues perhaps come up as there could be many people in real life dealing with this as well. Such a smart episode because it did hit on the real life concerns some people may have regarding this topic. How too it really was a conflict with the entire family was another interesting point it brought forward because it showed that many of these killers during the day lead a normal life. It was just such a smart placement for the episode as it pretty well aired right after the 50 Shades of Grey movie came out which we all know spiked the real life sales of bondage materials.
Season 11: Entropy
This episode was brilliant! All season long, we have felt bad for Garcia and the team as she was being targeted by the hitman group known as the Dirty Dozen, and this one was how they took down the remaining members. How they created a plan for this and executed it by understanding each team member as an individual made for a breath-taking episode. It did give us some scares, when Reid was discovered as an agent, Rossi and JJ flushed out as being his back up, and the threat of a bomb going off at any moment. How the tricked the team into being caught was great, as everyone thought they were untouchable. It really is one of those go watch now episodes. And the best moment of all is at the end when it is all over and Garcia can finally go home and not worry. It was also interesting because other than Hotch with Foyet and Prentiss with Doyle, we have not seen something like this. And for Garcia, who really did not even pull a trigger or threaten this team in any way to be hunted and targeted made it that much more exciting.
Season 12: Profiling 202
With Profiling 101 such a great episode back in season 7, there was a high expectation that this one would be equally as great, and it was. There was something great about one of Rossi’s demons coming back to haunt him. I think the beautiful thing with this was that Yates was the one, who still terrorized Rossi and seeing Rossi hunt him down after so many birthdays ruined made for a great hunt. Also, the fact that Yates was so difficult to catch the first time, you wanted to see how the team would go after him now. I mean they knew his killing style, they understood why he did what he did, the problem was that he evaded them from years before, so why can’t he do it again. The whole episode was well done, from the tiny detail of Yates calling on Rossi’s birthday reminding him that he is on the loose to Yates capture at the end. It is another go watch episode without a doubt.
Season 13: False Flag
This was another one that took real life situations as inspiration and made it into a brilliant episode! They took the craze of conspiracy theories made such a stellar episode about it all. Many of us know how there are people out there who are conspirators about almost everything, thinking that the government is spying on them all the time, etc, so to make an episode geared to it was so smart, cause I would guess there are conspirators who think that the FBI is specifically targeting them or watching them. I love how this episode, the majority of it takes place in an interrogation room with Tara and one of the theorists who is just making ridiculous claims. It showed just how stubborn I want to say that those people can be. With the entire episode based around this interrogation was really smart for this type of episode I found. It was new, but also, played into the idea of how conspiracy theorists operate. I would love to see more episodes done in a similar fashion to this one.
Season 14: Tall Man
Oh how we need this episode to be a thing! For years we knew about JJ's sister suicide. It was mentioned and the topic of many different episodes. But this episode explained it all! I won't give away too many spoilers as this is the newest season. How it was explained or figured out was genius if you as me. Bringing JJ's past into it as we don't usually see many family glimpses. How this story unfolded, and when JJ realized it all, it felt like the best feeling in the world for all fans. JJ mentioned before how it was weird about her sisters suicide because it was one moment everything was okay and the next her sister was dead. The discovery of the real reason I'm sure is just a great weight lifted off the families shoulders because I think one of the worst thing is the death of a young family member, but even worse when they take their own lives. Regardless it is another must watch episode. r