It may not generate the buzz and water cooler chatter of fellow drama series like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, but Criminal Minds has rode a loyal following to steady, consistent ratings across its 10-year run (so far) on CBS. Strengthened by compelling, pulled-from-the-headlines cases and a likable, well-defined cast of characters (who fans of the show are willing to fight for), the show has cruised along through over 200 episodes, numerous cast changes and even two spin-offs.
Yet, the force at the core of what drives Criminal Minds remains the same today as it did a decade ago when the show first debuted. The UnSub(s), or “unknown subject(s)”, are the often-complex baddies who commit the dastardly crimes that put the agents of the Behavioral Analysis Unit to work and spur the episode’s action.
Although no two UnSubs are quite the same, they all possess their own fascinating quirks, motivations, story arcs and personality traits. Some have been ruthless, some have been brilliant, some have been deranged psychopaths and some, like delusion US soldier Roy Woodbridge from season two’s “Distress”, aren’t even bad guys at all.
Not these guys, though. This list looks back at the UnSubs who made you cringe and squirm and got your hair standing on edge, even as you realized that they were a hell of a lot of fun to watch. These are the cream of the creepy crop over 10 years of Criminal Minds:
10. Adam Rain (Brad Dourif)
You know what’s creepy? Marionettes are creepy. Creepier, still, is an UnSub who remains a child mentally, traumatized by witnessing the murder of his father by a robber at a young age. Believing his dad’s marionettes to be real, Rain felt that they should have helped ward off the robber and save his dad, leading to his continued attempts to find real-life marionettes to make things right in his staged re-enactment of the murder. Rain’s makeup-layered face sends chills down the spine, especially as he dislocates his victim’s shoulders and bores holes in their hands to ‘help’ their transformation to marionettes.
9. Roger and Anita Roycewood (Bud Cort and Beth Grant)
Any Criminal Minds episodes where children are the targets can be particularly tough to watch, made all the more so when those doing the targeting are as unsettling as the Roycewoods, a husband and wife team of funeral home-owning kidnappers. Crazed Anita serves as the unpredictable ring leader, while Roger demonstrates some nervy, awkward Southern charm as the subservient, unassuming partner. They managed to abduct 12 kids, killing and cremating at least one, thanks to a ploy where Anita would claim to have lost her child to distract the parents of their target, whom Roger would then snatch.
8. Henry Grace (Jason Alexander)
Yes, George Costanza was a crazed – and brilliant – Criminal Minds baddie. Jason Alexander clearly enjoyed himself as Henry Grace, a supposed professor whose arrogance and obsession with David Rossi leads him to approach Rossi and Spencer Reid after a college lecture about a teacher and school children whom he had abducted. Grace maniacally leads the team through a ‘game’ to save the captives, all the while hiding a master plan that involves leading the BAU to a bomb site that would kill them all. Rossi ultimately catches onto the plan and outwits Grace, but Alexander’s psychopathic portrayal is hard to forget.
7. Dr. Stanley Howard (Michael O’Keefe)
The third episode of season three was appropriately titled “Scared to Death”. That’s a fitting label for an episode about a therapist specializing in phobias who kills his patients in the manner that matches their biggest fear. He “treats” a claustrophobic patient by suffocating her in a small box and later drowns a male patient whose afraid of the water, gaining their trust and encouraging them to face their fears head on before revealing his true intent. While I can’t say that I have any extreme fears of my own, I also can’t imagine anything more horrifying than dying as a result of the very thing that terrifies you.
6. Rhett Walden (Robert Knepper)
There’s some Norman Bates in the disturbed but undeniably charismatic Rhett Walden, whose obsession with his mother – a former actress – is matched only by his passion for the glitz and glamour of 1920s Hollywood. He abducts women whom he feels possess star qualities in an attempt to duplicate a former movie role of his mother’s. Hard to know what’s creepier about Rhett – his tendency to cut off his victims’ lips or the late-episode reveal that he had kept his mother’s long-dead skeleton with him and even spoke to it. Still, it’s a guilty pleasure to watch Rhett shut down the little girl in the train station.
5. John “The Replicator” Curtis (Mark Hamill)
It’s true – one of the toughest, most dangerous UnSubs in Criminal Minds’ history was Luke Skywalker. “The Replicator”, whose murders mirrored those of other BAU cases, was a former insider within the FBI and remains one of the few villains to successfully kill a series regular. After being shown stalking the unit over no fewer than eight episodes during season eight, Curtis poisons BAU Section Chief Erin Strauss to death, drugs Rossi and engineers the crash of a helicopter carrying Reid, Aaron Hotchner and Alex Blake before getting caught. You could say that the force is strong with this one.
4. Frank Breitkopf (Keith Carradine)
We first meet Frank under unassuming enough circumstances, as Jason Gideon enters a diner and sits down across from him as he sips on a milkshake. That, of course, comes before you learn that this milkshake sipper has a murder total that spans into triple digits. Frank becomes the bane of Gideon’s existence, particularly after murdering his girlfriend in the agent’s home, and serves as a primary cause of Gideon’s eventual departure from the BAU after never being brought to justice (he and love interest Jane jump in front of a train together when cornered). Frank is at his most unsettling when he poses as a BAU agent to survivors of past cases under the guise of following up with them.
3. Floyd Feylinn Ferell (Jamie Kennedy)
Best known as a low brow comedian, Kennedy was all but unrecognizable in the role of Floyd, a deranged, psychotic and cannibalistic serial killer who appears in season three’s “Lucky”. Confined to a mental institution after biting flesh off his infant sister, Floyd was released once he turned 18 per local law. It wasn’t long before he began his murder spree, which involved feeding the fingers of previous victims to his current one. Few scenes in Criminal Minds history are as haunting as when a local priest tells Floyd “God is in all of us”, to which he replies, “So is Tracey Lambert”, thereby revealing that the priest and his search party had unknowingly eaten the remains of the victim they were looking for.
2. George “The Reaper” Foyet (C. Thomas Howell)
Possibly the most famous UnSub in show history, Foyet became Hotchner’s arch-nemesis across a narrative arc that spanned four episodes and two seasons. No UnSub did more damage to the BAU family, killing Hotch’s ex-wife Haley, stabbing Hotchner nine times while deliberately keeping him alive and nearly killing Derek Morgan (Morgan was spared because he was unconscious at the time, leaving Foyet with little satisfaction). It’s no surprise, then, that Foyet remains one of the few to cause the typically staid Hotch to come unhinged, beating the Reaper to death after Foyet had already surrendered. No wonder Foyet lives on in references and the odd dream sequence.
1. Billy “The Prince of Darkness” Flynn (Tim Curry)
The Prince of Darkness, as he was known for his preference to attack during blackouts, earns the No. 1 spot for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his 200+ victims and his psychological torture of Morgan, the Spicer family and many of his other victims (he forces one young boy to watch as he rapes and kills the boy’s mother). And yet, Flynn is made significantly more objectionable through Curry’s portrayal as a slovenly and unrepentantly smug serial killer. He seems to have a sliver of good to him in his unwillingness to kill children, but he certainly takes great pleasure in destroying their innocence. Still, Curry is skilled enough in the role to actually make you sympathetic for him as he opens up to Morgan moments before committing suicide-by-cop.
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