Through 13 seasons of Criminal Minds, there has been a number of insane episodes that have shaken viewers to their core. In watching them it was never understood how there really could be people that evil in the world, or to think of these methods of killing. From the beginning until season 9 here are the top 10 most memorable episodes, not in any specific order, (excluding the episodes with anything to do with a member of the BAU team, as those episodes deserve their own list, which will come shortly).
Also, note I did my best to pick an episode from every season so some episodes may be left out, as well, the only episode that is in its proper sport is the #1 spot, "To Hell... And Back," the rest have been placed in order from season 1 on. "To Hell and Back" is a two part episode, but please read why I have it as number 1 and you will see my reasoning...
10. "Riding the Lightning" - Season 1
This season was by far the hardest to write an episode about, being the first, there is nothing to compare it too and all the writer, actors, directors, were just getting a feel for the show. All the episodes were well done without saying, but it was extremely difficult to find one that stood out. There were a few that were good enough to make the list, but the one I kept returning two was "Riding the Lightning." This episode was great in its season as it took us on a journey, to prove one member of the couple was a sole killer, and the other was innocent and did not kill her son. The race against the clock the team had to get past, the whole ordeal with the son being alive still but the mother wanting them to let her be convicted and executed. It all was thrilling, also the whole back story of the event and the man, Jacob, wanting nothing more than to bring Sara-Jean down with him. It was a great episode, also, the first one we see Garcia out in the field so extra bonus there. There is not much to compare this episode too as there were only 13 episodes before it. Still the most thrilling in season 1 however.
9. "Legacy" - Season 2
This episode was a memorable one at the sheer gruesomeness of it. Never before (or after) have we experienced a house cleaner in the show. For those unaware, a house cleaner in this sense, refers to someone who gets rid of (kills) all the prostitutes, drug users and homeless individuals in a certain area. They are mission based killers and will not stop until they are found. In this episode, by the time the BAU got involved 83 individuals of this style of living had gone missing/been murdered. What made this unique though was the fact that the unsub gave his victims the chance to survive. He ran them through a maze of a building, saying if they reached outside by sunset, they would be released. Sad enough, no one made it. What made the episode interesting as well was the fact that the, let's call him helper, of the unsub indicated that he was the last one, that his family always worked for the unsubs family. It gave you terrible gut feeling in how long had this really been going on for, how many people were tortured in this manner and then cut into pieces for no real reason. Easily, the most memorable episode of season 2 that does not involve one of the main characters. Before this, we had never seen a house cleaner or someone with this same nature, different than that of a hit-man, as this man truly believed that he was doing the city a service by killing the victims he killed.
8. "Lucky" - Season 3
This episode is one for the books, hence making this list. The music that plays with all the satanic artifacts at the beginning just lets you know how twisted of an episode it will be. Never before had there been an episode involving the unsub eating his victims. There had been moments where it was thought to be the case but never like this. The fact that he believed that Satan was allowing for him to be so lucky, in getting released from a mental facility, his records be burned, avoid getting pulled over by the police explains the naming of the episode for sure! How it made the list was for the simple reason, he was not only eating his victims, he was creating recipes out of them. Anything from ground beef to steak. Saying that sentence has me gagging and almost becoming a vegetarian knowing that he is using human "meat" for this. The topper for this episode really, is the ending. When the unsub is in the interrogation room with Morgan and the priest, there is a line the priest said about how God is in all of us, to which the unsub replied saying how so was one of the victims. Turns out, he was in charge of the food station for the volunteer search party, making everyone, involuntarily become a cannibal by eating his food.
7. "Masterpiece" - Season 4
This episode to say the least was a Masterpiece. It gave viewers everything you wanted in a great single unsub! It have plot, backstory, twists and turns. And most important, it showed an episode like never seen before. Usually, the episode begins with us knowing the victim but not the unsub. This one was reverse. Besides the current kidnapped victims, we had no idea about the other women this killer had taken. It was refreshing to watch, having to reverse profile from the unsub to the victims as he claimed that there was no physical evidence of the original seven missing women being gone. Also, the back story in the episode, where the unsubs brother was arrested by Rossi however many years ago, provides an interesting personal touch to the episode. Having to motive of revenge, as Rossi tore his family apart, so he was going to do the same to his (a.k.a. the rest of the team). What made it so interesting was the fact that until the very end you did not know what was happening, to the team, to the current victims, it through you for a loop as it did not follow the normal episode guideline!
6. "Hopeless" - Season 5
This episode is best remembered for just how violent and brutal it was. Not many times in the shows history do we see this pack mentality and not at all as brutally violent as this one. The pack mentality of this group was unseen before, unlike the episode "The Tribe" this pack had no goal; as the one member said, they did it cause it was fun. It was not the plot line or the additional characters that made this episode memorable. It was the sheer brutality the unsubs showed that has rarely ever been copied in another episode. These unsubs were brutal in their murders, even using a nail gun to secure one of their victims hands to the bar top. It also was memorable for a different reason, in that the location where these murders were happening were in areas that the city was trying to change the demographics of, building homes for richer individuals and flushing the poorer neighbors out. This hits home for a lot of individuals as we see this happening more with new condos being built where social housing could go etc. With this episode, there is not much else to say in regards to why it is on this list. To this day, it is one of the only episodes that I cringe to when the beating occur. Also, you know the brutality was bad in this episode 'cause it is one of the only ones, in all the seasons, where the victims bodies are not fully shown.
5. "Reflection of Desire" - Season 6
Finding a great episode in this season was difficult because all the really amazing episodes involved Prentiss and her past, which is excluded from this list. This episode is the one I remember the most from the season. It brought the old school episodes back and made the whole thing feel like a movie. Also, it is one of the episodes that Garcia joins the team in the field which is always special. In this episode, what is special is the fact that the unsub is seeing his dead mother everywhere, and that recreating a star like her is why he is doing this. What makes it so memorable is that he believes the entire thing is a play, a movie. He cuts off their lips or some other body part to fit this idea of the perfect actress. The really weird part, is that afterwards, he paints the lips, and puts them on his dead mothers corpse. Not creepy at all. At the end, when he comes out holding his dead mother, almost like the two of them are at a movie premier and that they are on the red carpet just shows how delusional he really is. There was something very memorable about how they brought the old Hollywood glamour into the episode because it was new. We never had an episode where it had brought another time period in before this one hence why it made the list.
4. "Profiling 101" - Season 7
If asked which episode is my go to, this would definitely make the top of my list. Now I know it borderlines being involved with one of the main characters, but at the same time it does not until the end. This is a short and sweet critique because I just want you to go watch the episode and see what I mean! Similar to "Masterpiece," this episode did not follow the Criminal Minds format we are all used to, it switched things up for us, telling a story of one of the worst serial killers ever, Thomas Yates. It tells the process on how over so many years, they finally caught Yates which was very different from usual. This took us on a story, a back track of Rossi's life as a profiler, and seeing the team we know come into play with one of their longest open cases. Seeing the evolution is what made this episode one of the best in season 7. If you want more about the episode, go watch it. It is the last episode before the finale!
3. "#6" - Season 8
This episode was an interesting one for sure! The spin on this episode was amazing! It started off very slow, picking up once the team realized that the unsub was making the couples stab each other. And from there did it ever take off! After the 6th victim never showed up, the team just assumed, like the rest of us that the unsub was taking him hostage, and only taking women now instead. Hence why the next person taken, was only a wife, no husband. What was not expected was that as this new woman tried to escape, that the help she was getting was from the unsub himself! Such a twist I don't think anyone was expecting. Also, who was expecting a guy who enjoyed stabbing himself, was making others do it so that he could justify his reasoning behind it. Super twisted. Can we also take in that he was doing all of this to get his "ex" wife back? He was getting couples who lied to each other in some way to stab and kill each other because he and his wife met while she was still married to another man. So weird so so weird, but in a great way to make a great episode.
2. "Mr. and Mrs. Anderson" - Season 9
The second killer couple on this list, but so different from the last because this time the wife was involved! This episode sees a killer couple going through marriage counselling, which is very strange. Turns out the wife wanted to be more involved in the killing. Who said romance is dead... What makes this episode memorable is that the husband has 2 lives almost, where he is killing with this wife and without. Hauntingly enough, the wife admits that its not the cheating that bugs her most, its the killing without her that she cannot forgive him for. No wonder they need counselling. This episode was also memorable in season 9 because it changed things up, we got a killer we had not really seen before, someone who gets off on the act of watching alone, not participating in the act, just watching. Fairly strange really. This couple is also one of the first married couple killers we have seen, there have been six others all together, but this couples dynamic is unique compared to the others. In my opinion they rank at the top of the list in the killer couples, only to be compared with the couple from season 5 who kidnapped children and cremated them when they did not listen.
1. "To Hell - And Back" (2 Part Episode in Season 4)
This two part episode, aside from the episodes involving drama with a main character is by far the most memorable episode in the show for all the wrong (yet right) reasons. This episode made me want to become a vegetarian, and of course it happened in my home country, Canada. The episode was creepy from the start to the end. Being a 2 part episode made it even worse. Starting from the beginning, where we see the person being taken, brought to the farm, and then dismembered with an axe. That was not the worst, the worst was seeing all the pigs eat the remains. It then became more memorable, as part way through, they found the wooden box, full of shoes, all different sizes for different genders.. over 100 pairs. Add to that the fact the evil, paralyzed brother was influencing is mentally challenged brother to conduct experiments on these victims, in order to try and "fix" himself makes it all the worse. This episode(s) is very taxing on your heart strings, as you feel for the brother, who is being used to conduct theses experiments since he is mentally handicapped and does not know anything other than the pig farm. The other brother, is everything you hate in a character , as he views on others being worthless compared to him, turning his brother into a monster, all while he claims he did nothing being bed ridden. What made this episode so memorable was the ending. Finding all those shoes, the mentally challenged brother being shot repeatedly when he shouldn't of, the discharged solider who began it all shooting the other brother and surrendering... As Hotch ended the episode with a quote I will here as well because it just fits. "Sometimes there are no words, no clever quotes to neatly sum up what's happened that day. Sometimes the day just ends."
Let me know which episodes you think are most memorable!