When I heard that Criminal Minds had gotten cancelled, it was very bittersweet. The show is nothing like it used to be, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. There were so many emotional, intense, and breathtaking moments that will never be duplicated on another show.
Of course, main characters leaving is always sad, but there were some moments from the show's 15-season run that we'll always remember. And yes, most of them are from the earlier seasons...because those are the best ones.
1. Derek Morgan Reuniting With Ellie
Derek Morgan was basically the big teddy bear of the team. He would do whatever it took to protect those close to him, and Ellie Spicer was no different. Ellie's father was a local police officer who was held at gunpoint by a murderer, all while Morgan is in the room completely unarmed. Spicer makes Derek promise to save Ellie, and he agrees. Spicer is executed on the spot.
The killer knocks Derek unconscious and makes off with Ellie, and the team has to track her down. Eventually, the team catches the killer and gets Ellie back safe. She and Morgan share an emotional hug, and you can tell that Morgan's life is forever changed.
The duo has a few more emotional scenes as the season goes on, but this was the one that touched me the most.
2. J.J.'s Husband Strapped With A Bomb
Jennifer Jareau is a complete and total bad-ass, but even strong women can be shaken to their core when their boyfriends are strapped with a bomb. Not to mention, her son was also abducted...so a bit of a stressful day all around.
This episode we really got to see the Mama Bear side of J.J., as she literally kicked her way through the bad guys to rescue her son. Little does she know, her boyfriend Will is ladened with an explosive vest, with her best friend Emily Prentiss working hard to disarm it. Once J.J. finds out Will and Prentiss are in danger, she rightfully loses her mind.
Everything works out in the end, with Prentiss disarming the bomb, but when I watched this episode for the first time, I was sure someone wasn't going to make it out alive. J.J.'s sheer determination to save her family is totally invigorating, and it's an episode I won't forget.
3. Dr. Spencer Reid's Drug Addiction
Admittedly, this wasn't a moment so much as it was an over-arching storyline, but it was still one of the hardest things as a fan to watch. Reid gets abducted by an unsub and ends up being shot up with pain killers while he's held hostage. Even after his release, the young doctor has become addicted to the drugs and now must struggle with this, along with the stress of his abduction.
Reid's personality totally changes, and the members of his team are trying hard to get him help. Sadly, he keeps pushing everyone away, and it's not until almost a full season later that Reid finally gets clean.
Reid's drug addiction is referenced a few times over the course of the series, reminding us that it wasn't just a one-off thing. I think what made this storyline so emotional is that first off, Reid was so young. He was like a child you wanted to protect at all costs, but the evil of the job had taken him. It was also hard to see him push away the people who loved him the most.
4. Morgan Revealing His Sad Past
Morgan always gave off a hot-shot vibe, but it wasn't until he returned home to Chicago that we really got a look into his tragic past. After Morgan is accused of three murders in his hometown, the team has to dig deep into his childhood to find out what really happened.
The team ends up questioning Morgan's former coach Carl Buford, and eventually connect the dots that no one wants to believe are true. Buford had sexually assaulted Morgan when he was a teen, but much like Buford's other victims, Morgan had kept it a secret out of humiliation.
Buford tries to tell Morgan he's relying on false memories, but Morgan is absolutely certain the coach assaulted him. Eventually, Buford admits what he did, realizing the statute of limitations protects him in Morgan's case. He is the killer of the three boys Morgan was accused of murdering.
This episode opened up the door into Morgan's past, and watching Morgan confront his abuser was something I won't forget. It was a powerful, strong, yet extremely vulnerable moment that the show handled beautifully.
5. Penelope Garcia Getting Shot
Penelope Garcia is the light in an otherwise dark show. She brings color and zest to the team, who is constantly bogged down by serial killers. Sadly, Garcia's love of life was taken advantage of by a man who had what was described as "Hero Syndrome." He would shoot people, then call for help and be the first on the scene, making everyone think he was a hero.
Garcia met the unsub, Jason Clark Battle, while at a coffee shop, and she felt an instant spark. Morgan warned her not to move too quickly with the guy, but she got mad and said that Morgan should trust her more. At the end of Garcia and Battle's first date, Battle pulls a gun on Garcia and shoots her in the chest.
Thankfully, Garcia was okay, but it was so hard watching her deal with the aftermath of her attack, not to mention seeing her team members feel like they had failed her but not being able to protect her. I think what made Garcia such a great character is that she always saw the good in people, but it was that beautiful quality that almost cost her her life.
6. Woman On Death Row Taking The Fall
When I first saw this episode, I couldn't help but feel like there was a reason I loved the woman on death row so much. It's odd, right? Why did I feel so connected to someone who was about to be executed for murder. Then, her story got explained.
Sarah Jean Mason was accused of murdering a dozen women with her husband, and the BAU was called in to review the case before her death and try to find out what happened to Mason's son, Riley.
As the review moves forward, it becomes evident that Mason had no idea what her husband was doing until he was caught, and that Riley, though presumed dead, was actually alive. Being the loving mother she was, Mason had given Riley to another family where he was completely unaware of his birth parents' crimes.
Gideon and the team are able to prove that Mason didn't deserve to die, but she wanted to in order to protect her son. She asks that Gideon is the last face she sees before dying. I don't think I need to explain why this episode was so emotional.
7. Emily Prentiss 'Dying'
Emily Prentiss was one of my favorite characters, and when I thought she had died I was a wreck. I watched her get shot! I watched her funeral! I watched her coworkers grieve and struggle after her death!
Little did we know, it was all part of a master plan to protect her from Ian Doyle, the man who was trying to kill her. Prentiss's return was something no one expected, least of all the BAU (well, except for J.J.) The emotions that ran through the team felt raw, almost as if they didn't tell the actual actors that she was coming back.
Morgan was mad at Prentiss for breaking his trust, and Reid was mad at J.J. for allowing him to cry to her about missing his friend when she knew all along that Prentiss was alive. Thy dynamic this brought to the team was something we hadn't really seen before, but in the end it only brought them closer together.
8. Three Girls Deciding Who's Going To Die
Whenever I think about this episode, I feel sick to my stomach. Three teenage girls are abducted and locked away in a cellar, where the kidnapper makes the girls which one of them has to die. Oh, and they have to be the one to kill her. When they make their choice, the other two girls will be released.
The friends are left to argue about who should die, with two of them suggesting they take out the one who is already falling ill. In a shocking turn of events, the girl who is sick takes a brick to the head of her friend, making the decision for everyone.
Watching the two surviving girls walk down the street to the police station, wrapped in blankets and covered in their friend's blood, gives me chills every time. Just imagining what they had to go through just makes me ill. And yes, I'm aware the show is fictional!
9. Reid's Girlfriend Getting Murdered
It seems that Reid is always being targeted. He's got such a heart of gold, and always stumbles his way through personal and social situations, but when we found out that he was dating someone (albeit via the phone), everyone's hearts melted.
Unfortunately, Reid's girlfriend Marve ends up getting kidnapped by her stalker, and the team has to race to find her before it's too late. Reid and Maeve never met face to face, because her stalker was so dangerous, and the team quickly learned just how true this was.
When the BAU finally makes it to Maeve, she is being held by her stalker, Diane. Diane taunts Reid, Maeve, and entire team, before killing herself and Maeve in front of them. The first time Reid ever got to see his girlfriend face to face was also the last. If that doesn't make your heart hurt, I don't know what does.
10. Gideon Leaving
Okay, so I know I said that characters leaving were sad regardless, but this departure was too much to deal with. Gideon's exit was one of the first big ones of the series, and it meant more than the team losing their leader.
Gideon and Reid had a special connection that Reid never had from his own father. The doctor constantly looked to Gideon for advice, and treated him like a mentor. Sadly, Gideon's girlfriend was murdered by a serial killer, prompting Gideon to leave the team. He left a note for Reid, saying he wanted to "believe in happy endings again."
For a few seasons, we were able to hold out hope that Gideon would return one day, but then in season 10 we find out he was murdered, and the team was sent to work on his case. For so many reasons, Gideon's departure will forever be one of the saddest moments of the show.
11. Hotch's Wife Dying
Thinking about this scene gives me goosebumps. Aaron Hotchner and his wife Haley had their ups and downs, eventually leading to their divorce, but they always did what was best for their young son Jack. But when noted serial killer George Foyet decides he's coming for Haley, there wasn't much Hotch could do to protect his family.
Foyet shows up at Haley's home while she has Jack, posing as a U.S. Marshal sent to protect them from...well, him. It's only when Foyet calls Hotch that Haley realizes the danger she's in. Foyet makes Haley say goodbye to Hotch, while the agents all race to the home. An emotional Hotch tells Haley not to show Foyet any fear, and Haley tearfully asks her ex-husband to tell Jack that she loves him.
Hotch apologizes to Haley for putting her in this position, and then Foyet shoots her through the neck. When Hotch arrives at the home, he finds Jack in a special hiding spot only the two of them knew about. He then goes and craddles Haley's corpse, while sobbing.
Again, if I have to explain to you why this moment was emotional...then maybe you don't have any feelings at all.