Who isn’t fascinated by serial killers? The answer is no one, especially Criminal Minds fans. Everybody loves hearing stories about the worst humanity has to offer — and the people that bring the worst to justice, like the brave profilers at the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Criminal Minds. According to IMDb, Criminal Minds first aired way back in 2005 and went on to have a 15-season run, with the finale airing in February 2020. With more than 300 episodes, three spinoffs, and countless unsubs (unidentified subjects, for any newbies out there) brought to fictional justice, it’s safe to say that Criminal Minds was a huge success.
But where did it all start? The pilot centers around the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) team searching for a Seattle killer who’s kidnapped yet another woman. The team, made up of Aaron “Hotch ”Hotchner (Thomas Gibson), Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore), Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), and leader Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin), set out to find the unsub and save his latest victim. The pilot is a true gem, so bearing that in mind, here are the memorable moments you missed in the first episode of Criminal Minds.
The title of the first episode of Criminal Minds isn't random
Oftentimes, the name of a TV series episode has a specific meaning to the show or that specific episode’s plot. That’s the case with the pilot of Criminal Minds; the first episode is titled “Extreme Aggressor,” a phrase that has several possible meanings in the context of the plot. The most obvious meaning is that the episode’s unsub, or killer, is very aggressive — violently killing women left and right. The other meaning? Dr. Spencer Reid says it in the episode.
About halfway through the pilot, the agents discover that the suspect they have in custody plays a game called “Go”. For some context, Go (according to the American Go Association) is an “ancient” Chinese board game that uses black and white stones that move in lines and circles. The game is incredibly complex and, as stated in the episode, was favored by Chairman Mao for its strategic applications. Reid says that, “Go is considered to be a particularly psychologically revealing game,” and is able to deduce that the subject is an “extreme aggressor” in the way he plays the game. Three cheers for Reid!
There are Easter eggs in the first episode of Criminal Minds
The pilot episode of Criminal Minds introduces the audience to Agent Hotchner and his wife Haley. At this point in the timeline, Haley is pregnant with her and Hotch’s child. One of the opening scenes depicts Hotch and Haley trying to come up with baby names for their soon-to-be-son. While this scene is helpful for context and character development, it’s perhaps most fun because it’s full of Easter eggs that pop up again throughout the series.
The first name that Hotch offers up, Sergio, ends up being the name of another agent’s cat. Haley then suggests Gideon, claiming that it’s perfect because of its ancient origins. As per Behind the Name, the name means “feller,” in reference to heroes in the Old Testament. But, despite the name’s deep meaning, Hotch immediately vetoes it saying, “Not a chance,” probably because his boss at the BAU has the same name. Spoiler alert: Hotch and Haley end up naming their son Jack, as listed on IMDb.
The first episode of Criminal Minds has lots of bookend quotes
Criminal Minds set itself apart from the multitude of other crime shows out there by beginning and ending almost every single episode with famous or meaningful quotes from cultural, philosophical, or historical figures. These quotes have been lovingly dubbed the “bookend” quotes, and were used to frame each episode’s thesis and to help viewers get into the mindsets of the fast-thinking characters. Even the pilot episode has bookends — four of them, in fact. This is noteworthy because almost every other episode of the entire series had just one or two quotes. Maybe the writers really wanted to draw people in?
What were the bookends from the pilot? All four were read by Mandy Patinkin as Jason Gideon, and they varied from dark to super dark. Like the first one: “Joseph Conrad said, ‘The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.'” Or the final one: “Nietzsche once said, “When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks into you.” Yikes.
The final quote in the first episode of Criminal Minds was used in two other episodes
While most Criminal Minds episodes use new bookend quotes, several were repeated throughout the show’s 15 season run. Perhaps the writers had to reuse some because there are only so many deep, famous quotes in the world. Or, perhaps they recycled the most meaningful quotes when the characters faced their harshest challenges. This might be the case with the last bookend from episode one, “‘When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks into you.'” This quote was repeated in two additional episodes, each one depicting serious trauma for one of the show’s main characters.
Agent Hotchner opens season 5 episode 9 with the longer version of the quote: “He who fights with monsters might take care, lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” That episode goes on to show Hotch losing his wife to a serial killer. Then, Agent Jennifer Jareau finishes season 9 episode 14 with Gideon’s version after she’s rescued from being held hostage. Talk about dark stuff.
Garcia's character wasn't developed in the first episode of Criminal Minds
Any Criminal Minds fan probably adores Penelope Garcia. Played by Kristen Vangsness, the adorable, chipper, and crazy-intelligent Garcia appeared in every episode of the show — except for one. Vangsness told Parade that she only missed out on that episode because she wasn’t originally going to be a main character, but since she had so much chemistry with Shemar Moore, the writers decided to make her a series regular.
But that decision came after the first episode, and it shows. When the audience first sees Garcia in “Extreme Aggressor,” she’s missing all of her trademark brightly colored clothes and eye-catching chachkies. Instead, she’s dressed in a bland button-up shirt and sweater vest, and her office is full of boring FBI techie junk. She still shows some of her sass, though, as her first line is, “You’ve reached Penelope Garcia in the FBI’s office of the supreme genius.”
Even though Garcia took some time to develop, we’re so glad she stuck around. Vangsness is too, as she told E! News that her costars are “her family” and making the show was a “wonderful, joyous, friendly and creative experience.”
The bad guy at the end of Criminal Minds' first episode originally auditioned for the role of Spencer
The first episode of Criminal Minds did a great job of setting up drama for the rest of the series. Take, for example, it’s delightful cliff-hanger ending with thick ties to new, unsolved cases. When Jason Gideon is first introduced in the show, he’s in front of a class lecturing about an unsolved case in which the killer most likely has a stutter. This detail comes back at the end of the episode when Gideon stops for gas and the cashier (played by Luke Haas) speaks with a stutter. The FBI agent leaves the gas station full of aroused suspicions, and the show’s final image is the cashier taking aim at Gideon with a shotgun.
Don’t worry — Gideon ends up being OK, and the team figures out that the shotgun cashier is the killer Gideon was lecturing on. Interestingly enough, Haas originally auditioned for the role of Spencer Reid. According to the DVD commentary (as per Looper), Haas was offered the role but turned it down because he didn’t want to commit to a series. Wonder if he regrets it now…
The tech really dates the first episode of Criminal Minds
It’s been quite a while since Criminal Minds first premiered. And while 2005 might not feel like a long time ago, the outdated tech from the first episode makes it clear that 2005 was practically the dark ages. Take, for example, the show’s cold open in which we see a woman IMing (that’s instant messaging for all the youngins out there) someone to ask about buying a used car. These days, it would be all Craigslist and DMs. Next, there’s the moment where Hotch gets a fax alerting him about the missing woman, and the subsequent scene showing Morgan pulling out a cell phone that’s so chunky and outdated it actually shocks.
Finally, there’s a large piece of plot that centers around CDs. When trying to hack into an unsub’s computer, Morgan takes a gander around the bad guy’s bedroom and finds a portable CD player right next to the bed. He gets the genius idea that maybe the password is related to the unsub’s favorite music — so the team spends time going through CD after CD. This plot wouldn’t have been possible in our modern world of Spotify and Apple Music.
In Criminal Minds' first episode, "Enter Sandman" isn't on the killer's CD
Speaking of the CD plot, the first episode of Criminal Minds has a pretty big goof regarding a certain Metallica song. While Reid and Morgan are trying to hack into the suspected killer’s computer to see if they can find any clues about the missing women, Morgan has the idea to use the killer’s CD collection for password inspiration. However, after looking through all the CDs, they don’t find anything worthwhile.
Then, Reid, being the genius that he is, decides to look in the killer’s computer CD drive. He pulls out Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster. Bingo! Morgan then wonders out loud, “I’m an insomniac who listens to Metallica to fall asleep at night. What song could possibly speak to me?” Reid guesses, “Enter Sandman” and it works! But, interestingly enough, the song “Enter Sandman” isn’t on the Some Kind of Monster album. That song is on the Metallica album, as per Songfacts. It’s OK, Criminal Minds, we forgive you.
The first episode of Criminal Minds had a few geography goofs
The federal agents in Criminal Minds that work in the BAU are all geniuses that rarely make mistakes. The Criminal Minds editing team might be geniuses, but they do make mistakes, specifically geography goofs. The first episode is supposed to begin in Seattle, Washington with the killer kidnapping a woman by having her climb into his car. While the overhead shots in the first few scenes are definitely of Seattle, the closer shots are not. In fact, the shot in which the victim gets into the bad guy’s car is clearly in Vancouver, because it shows a street sign that reads “Burrard St.” According to Google Maps, Burrard St. is downtown Vancouver.
The last few scenes of the episode have a geography goof, too. Gideon is supposed to be driving in Virginia, where the BAU is headquartered. However, when he stops for gas at a small gas station, there’s a detail that shows it was actually filmed somewhere in Canada: the “No Cigarettes Under 19” sign. (40m5s) The legal smoking age in Canada is 19.
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