Criminal Minds Season 1 Recap!

First, a brief message from our sponsors - interested in the real science and areas of academic study underlying the show Criminal Minds? Perhaps you should consider looking into Criminology Education, perhaps even a BS in Criminology! - And now, on to the subject at hand:

As much as I’ve enjoyed watching and reviewing these episodes, the entire purpose of this exercise has been to see just how frequently and effectively psychology is used to solve crimes in the show that purports to be about crime-solvin’ psychologists. So let’s look at the scores from season 1!

Let's start with a mathematical breakdown:

There were a total of 22 episodes, but one of them didn't feature a serial killer, one didn't involve an investigation, and the last episode was a cliffhanger. This means that the season's score can expressed as a number out of 200.

That number? 48. Yup, 48/200, or exactly 24%. It was only an average of one quarter of the time that the criminal minds team actually used psychology to solve crimes.

Seems a little low, huh? Imagine if the CSI team only used science to solve one-quarter of their crimes - it would be pretty hard to sell the premise of the show. Or if Allison on Medium only let her dreams tell her exactly what happened, thus eliminating the need for investigation or thought just one quarter of the time? Or if the CSI: Miami only solved a quarter of their crimes by just asking everyone if they did it until someone says yes?

And yet here Criminal Minds is, having only the most tangential relationship with the putative subject of the show, using psychology to gain the insight into the criminal's minds necessary to catch them.


The high point of the season from a psychological standpoint was 112 "What Fresh Hell", which actually provided an excellent, if utterly simplistic, depiction the search for an abducted child.

The low point was, of course, episode 109 "Derailed", in which attempts to use psychology to resolve a hostage situation with a crazy person made the situation worse, getting an additional person killed and needlessly escalating things. The day wound up being saved by a random hostage who happened to have a gun on him, because the hostage situation had interrupted his plan to murder his ex-wife by turning him to a hero. Truly a heartwarming story, but in no way what the show is supposed to be about.

Hopefully the second season will take the show in a new, more psychologically relevant direction. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Hence the slow typing of late.


Noah said...

Which one didnt have an investigation?

The Hidden Object Guru said...

I think it was riding the lightning, the 'did she kill her child or not' episode with the married serial killers. No crime to solve that week, really.