Keeping Sicarius For Another Season Was ‘Criminal Minds’ Best Move


“If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” Variations of this Nietzche quote have appeared three separate times across the prolific run of Criminal Minds. We first heard it from Mandy Patinkin’s Jason Gideon in the very first episode of the series, and later again in Season 5 and Season 9. While we have seen members of the BAU struggling with the metaphorical abyss before, Criminal Minds: Evolution sees the entire team simultaneously inching towards their breaking point, each character unraveling in the wake of Elias Voit’s, or Sicarius (Zach Gilford), darkness. We are finally witnessing the full knee-buckling effect of this recurring quote, and this is largely due to the show’s unprecedented decision to keep Voit around for two seasons, as a main character as well nonetheless. Though we may have loved the snappy and bite-sized cases of a cop procedural, extending Voit’s presence in the series allows us to venture further into the mind of a psychopath than we have done in Criminal Minds before, making Voit’s extended run a game-changer for the show.

Sicarius’ Presence Changes the Structure of ‘Criminal Minds’

Traditionally, Criminal Minds seasons have followed a typical cop procedural framework, where each episode focuses on a single case and occasionally, there is an overarching “big bad” that is briefly touched on until the finale. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this structure, as each case takes a life of its own in each episode while also allowing the show to flit through multiple creative and messed up cases throughout a season. However, Evolution Season 1 deftly starts moving away from this structure. More time is spent on Sicarius’ criminal network and trying to figure out who is the instigator of these crimes, yet this first returning season still tries to keep one case at the forefront with each episode.

Already more than halfway through Season 2, Evolution suddenly looks like a brand-new show, with Episode 6 not even having a case in there at all. Instead, the BAU’s resources and screen time are devoted to figuring out who/what the elusive Gold Star is, while having Voit calling the shots right beside them as well. Criminal Minds’ decision to retain Voit and expand his character across the following season became the catalyst for this structural change, slowing down the pace of the show for more deliberate storytelling and character development. Evolution certainly is not the show we have come to expect from this franchise — and that’s a good thing.

With more time devoted to untangling a single case, the stakes also heighten for the characters and for the potential victims of Gold Star. We are also exposed to a depth and clarity we haven’t experienced before, as the team slowly dissects the new potential network of Gold Star while also deconstructing Voit’s character after their sudden reliance on him. We can fully comprehend the complexity of the mind of a serial killer and psychopath as we see Voit arrogantly flit between innocent and malevolent, venturing further into the darkness than a single episode can contain. As such, with Voit’s presence inciting this structural change to the series, we may bemoan the comfort of before, but it is difficult not to feel unsettled by this new depth.

The BAU Unravels With Voit’s Presence in ‘Criminal Minds’

Criminal Minds doesn’t only depth deeper into the abysmal mind of a psychopath, but also the abyss that the BAU members have desperately tried to avoid during their career. Voit’s extended presence unravels each team member more drastically than we have seen before. Instead of the profound one-liners we got in the closing scenes of the jet after a case previously, we witness a gradual unraveling of the BAU’s values and ability to compartmentalize. The series shifts from “tell” to “show” regarding this aspect of the premise, that is, the effect cases have on the team. Usually, the show also focuses on one member of the team being affected, like when Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) unleashes his frustration and rage on George Foyet (C. Thomas Howell), The Boston Reaper, or when Gideon leaves the team after being deeply impacted by the horrors committed by Frank Breitkopf (Keith Carradine), including killing his girlfriend.

In Evolution, nearly everyone on the team is edging closer to their breaking point. Jennifer Jareau (A.J. Cook) vulnerably retracts into herself as she finds out via Voit that AI-created deep-fake pornography centering around her has been uploaded to an underground yet completely accessible website. Though she had known about this site for a while now, she hadn’t realized it had escalated from anime drawings to something more realistic, mainly targeting her due to her previous role as the media liaison. This storyline also affects Luke Alvez (Adam Rodriguez) as he is the one who delivers this devastating news while also being one of the main people to interact with Voit and his family.


Meanwhile, Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) completely throws out her sense of legal justice and tries to work with a conspiracy theorist on the run while also attempting to order a hit out on Voit even if he appears like he is about to make a wrong move. This also leads to the more touching yet pitiful scene of her getting high with Jennifer and wanting to quit the team. Even the BAU’s decision to have a consultant who was a former hitman and engages in criminal activity exhibits their desperation and the impact Voit’s abyss has on their ethics. The entire team is crossing lines like never before while also suffering from the consequences of having prolonged contact with the dark figure of Voit.

How Does Voit Affect Rossi in ‘Criminal Minds: Evolution?’

But the most prominent impact Voit has made is on David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), with their unexpected chemistry becoming the highlight of the season. Watching Rossi become obsessive and untethered isn’t anything new, particularly since his introduction to the franchise hinged on him becoming preoccupied with an unsolved case nearly 20 years ago. Even his return to the franchise in Evolution is rooted in his inability to move on from his wife’s death, but it is almost addictive to see Rossi fall apart. After Voit locks him in a bunker, Rossi begins hallucinating and talking to Voit, becoming an unwilling participant in inviting darkness to pervade his own mind. As Rossi claims he is unbothered by this, as it allows him to further understand Voit’s behavior, it is clear he is in some serious denial. But it also allows for more intoxicating scenes, especially as their imaginative relationship culminates into an extremely gratifying confrontation.

Mantegna and Gilford tell Collider that they had fun shooting these more ambiguous scenes, which certainly translates to their performance and the compelling chemistry between them. Gilford says, “I just say things to fuck with him,” a notion that completely captures the atmosphere between Rossi and his hallucination. It is interesting that the decision to extend a serial killer’s story would lead to moments of levity like this, but it is really attributed to the actors’ chemistry together. Gilford’s manipulative, malicious, and sometimes devil-may-care performance seamlessly complements Mantegna’s more confused and PTSD-driven one. This is heightened by Rossi’s grandeur and perceived arrogance throughout the show, as he is essentially famous in the Criminal Minds’ universe due to his profiling books and interviews with serial killers. Rossi and Voit’s cat-and-mouse relationship (roles which often become reversed as they both psychologically toy with each other) is an enthralling by-product of Voit’s lasting presence in the show.

Why Is It Scarier to Keep Voit For Another Season?

Keeping Voit around for this long also reflects how powerful bad guys in real life are, as they tend to stick around longer than what is desired, accentuating the show’s realism while making us more terrified by it. As we get to see more of the conflicting facets of Voit’s personality and see him getting off on the power he has, he becomes far more terrifying than he was in his previous season. It’s almost as if he is immune to the BAU’s profiling techniques, becoming simultaneously predictable yet unpredictable as a character. However, this unknowable aspect of his character isn’t necessarily akin to the glorification of serial killers, but instead he is rendered more human (with his love for his children) and thus more sickeningly terrifying. It is especially damning to see his power within the BAU, sometimes even calling the shots.

Voit’s longevity in Criminal Minds also deprives us of the comfort of knowing a serial killer is arrested or dead after a case. Though we know that the justice system sometimes fails, prolonging his story and inducting him into an FBI investigation taps into that horrifying realism. We no longer have that sense of closure and acceptance after a particularly gruesome or chilling case, and instead we are forced to acknowledge that bad guys sometimes overstay their welcome. As such, keeping Voit around completely upends what we have come to expect from our beloved series, wreaking havoc with the mainstays while instilling the fear of reality into us.

Criminal Minds: Evolution is available to stream on Paramount+ in the U.S.

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