When I was 15 or so, I became completely obsessed with joining law enforcement. It wasn’t an obsession that lasted very long, but at the time, I felt like becoming a cop or detective or whatever would make me feel clever.
I loved mystery stories. Characters who would follow evidence wherever it led– who could determine the most unlikely circumstances from seemingly scant data.
And so, Criminal Minds attracting my undivided attention. The show follows the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, as they fly across the country advising local police departments on cases, most often serial murders. The twist is that the agents of the BAU don’t determine suspects just by studying how a crime happened, but also by looking at how the nature of the crime informs the psychological profile of the unidentified suspect.
For example, while Sherlock Holmes can determine the height of a murderer by studying how they might write a on a wall, the BAU considers why they felt the need to leave a note at the crime scene. By doing this, they are able to predict what kind of life the person leads, right down to previous criminal behavior, traumatic incidents, or even what their next move will be. Then, with the help of the bodacious and occasionally problematic Penelope Garcia, they find people whose lives and history match their profile. And then the episode ends, usually with alcohol as a means of self-medication for trauma that the characters are clearly deluded into thinking is normal and healthy.
The show started really dark, almost cold. Characters prioritized the job above all, and the motifs of loneliness and despair eclipse the more light-hearted moments of Seasons 1 and 2. But that changed really fast. And suddenly, the show became this bizarre conjunction of some of the worst low-stakes comedic and romantic subplots and some of the most depraved acts of violence ever put to network television.
But what sticks out to me in retrospect is the unwavering horridness of the beliefs this show is steeped in. In the many, many years since I was considered one of the youths, both leftist critique of the media and…