Jason Gideon (played by the incomparable Mandy Patinkin, with whom I can claim that I went to college [don’t ask if I ever met him] and I can say definitively that he was a phenom even at 18 or 19): Senior Supervisory Special Agent Gideon is the “elder statesman” of the team, whose special talent seems to be drawing out people’s deepest secrets. Remarkably perceptive, he is saved from breakdown by a rigid code of honor and a place to get away. He battles guilt when things go wrong, but reminds the others that crime is the criminal’s fault, not theirs for not catching him.
Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson): Unit Chief Hotchner is the team’s leader with Gideon and often the show’s moral compass. He is the only married agent, with a young son – Hayley is supportive and the marriage appears stable, but the job creates inevitable (though always sideline) tension at times. Hotch’s integrity is unimpeachable and he tolerates nothing less in his agents – for whom he would gladly give his own life. He is a serious man whose rare smiles deepen a character who might otherwise be seen as overly melancholy.
Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore): Supervisory Special Agent Morgan is a younger team member who seeks Gideon’s approval, rebukes Reid’s tendency toward self-imposed, undeserved guilt, and flirts shamelessly, for sheer fun, with Garcia. His cheerfulness with the team serves to accentuate his intense hatred of evil and revulsion towards evildoers. He would never hesitate to put his life on the line.
Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler): Supervisory Special Agent Reid is the genius, and the youngest team member. At 24, with a photographic memory, he holds 3 PhDs; besides being a walking information bank, he seems especially adept at discerning patterns, visual, verbal, or behavioral. He is prone to blurting out information, but not, it seems, from arrogance – more like an eager kid who happens to know the answer. Compassion, perhaps surprisingly, is his identifying personal trait, and he fears the schizophrenia from which his mother suffers.
Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini): Special Agent Greenaway was shot during a case and became increasingly disturbed, cynical, and fearful. She resigned from the unit early this season after shooting a suspect in cold blood and covering it up to make it look like self-defense. Cleared by the FBI, she avoids Hotch, but he follows her to her father’s grave. When she asks why he believes she is guilty, he tells her, “Because you’re here, confessing your sins.” He can’t prove it, but he can’t let her stay in the unit because he can’t trust her.
Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster): Special Agent Prentiss is the newest member, replacing Elle. Assigned to the unit without the request or approval of either Gideon or Hotch, she is driven to prove herself. Hotch is still uncertain whether he can trust her or not, especially after discovering a family-friend relationship between Prentiss and a congresswoman – who mysteriously discovers their work on a case that affects a bill she is sponsoring and threatens Hotch’s career if he doesn’t handle it to her satisfaction. Prentiss knows Arabic and plays chess.
Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness): Analyst Garcia is the computer genius who finds any information that can be found, tracks cell phones, does any needed technological feat. A flashy character who loves to laugh, she adds comic moments, but also poignancy as she reacts to crime with revulsion and victims with compassion. She loves to harmlessly flirt and occasionally takes Reid under a maternal wing.
Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau (A. J. Cook): Supervisory Special Agent and Media Liason Cook sorts through the various cases brought to the team’s attention, reports initial information about requests for help to the team, and is the team’s competent and winsome media voice. Intelligent and sharp, when Hotch asks if she wants to become a profiler, she says no; she is content with the background role she plays doing groundwork for the team.
That’s the cast of characters. The actors are all excellent, and they avoid dropping into stock characterization, instead creating interesting people who react in realistic ways to the job they do.
If grading doesn't kill me, next time I'll look at the philosophical side of the show.