In an interview in New York Magazine from September 2012, Mandy Patinkin railed against the show Criminal Minds, which he starred in from 2005-2007: “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place,” he says. “I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.”
Six years after his departure, the show continues to rack up an unspeakable body count, finding the most gruesome, novel ways for murderers to kill their victims. Often, these methods involve some sort of sexual violence. It’s a formula has kept the franchise on the air, no matter which actors cycle in and out. And it’s also a formula that has earned it the title of Worst TV Show of the Week for the episode that aired on February 20th.
The episode opens with women celebrating a bachelorette party - downing shots, delivering shots (of the “body” variety), and hitting on men dressed in cowboy outfits in the parking lot. One of the women ends up in the backseat of a cowboy’s truck, her legs wrapped around his waist. He drops his jeans, but he can’t follow-through.
Woman: Uh…Houston, I think we have a problem.
Man: Must’ve had too much to drink.
She tries to leave, but he punches her and stuffs her into the vehicle.
She turns out to be the third in a series of abduction-murders in a week. The first victim was a man, brutally bludgeoned to death. Gruesome crime photos of his body are shown. The second victim was a woman whose genitals were mutilated. The third victim is eventually found dumped along the side of the road. According to the coroner, she was stabbed 40 times and her genitals were also mutilated. Eventually, a fourth victim emerges – once again, a man, brutally bludgeoned to death, stabbed, but this time his genitals were mutilated as well.
As the title of the series suggests, each episode delves into the twisted pathologies of the criminals in question. Their past experiences invariably reveal deep-seated traumas – physical, emotional, and – of course – sexual.
In this episode, the serial killer is a closeted homosexual man whose father paid a prostitute to molest him as a youngster as part of an abusive conversion therapy program. In a series of flashbacks, the killer is shown as a teenager in bed with the prostitute, who apparently specialized in this particular service. But to ensure that the parents wouldn’t rat her out, she forced them to watch. In one flashback, the father angrily tosses his son – Paul - off of the prostitute. “Damn it, Paul!” he screams, “That’s not the way. Here, let me show you.” He unzips his pants and dives into bed.
Paul eventually seeks revenge against his father, forcing his companion to rape his father at gunpoint. His companion had also been traumatized by the conversion therapy program. Paul reasons, “They all thought that they could rape us straight. I think it’s time we see if it works the other way around.” Stripped down to his underwear, the father grabs the gun and it accidentally fires, killing the companion. Paul shoots his father as the FBI arrives on the scene.
Arguably, Criminal Minds is one of the most twisted shows on television, but since it’s a crime procedural, a false sense of justice prevails, masking the show’s true sadism. Patinkin saw through this, and so do we, which is why it has rightfully been named Worst TV Show of the Week.