Wheels up, Unicorns. Today, we're delving into the reboot of one of my cherished crime dramas, Criminal Minds (2005-). The show, centered on solving serial murders through behavioral profiling, originally aired from 2005 to 2020, spanning fifteen seasons before concluding. After numerous plot twists and years of putting our beloved cast in jeopardy, it seemed the show had reached its conclusion. However, in 2022, the show was revived for another season, and branded as Criminal Minds: Evolution.
Given that the Unicorn Scale doesn't delve into the show's plot but instead centers on bisexuality, let me briefly outline Evolution's non-bisexual storylines. The team operates amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, unraveling a network of serial killers. These murderers utilize identical DIY kill-kits nationwide, orchestrated by a lead psychopath sending these ominous packages to fellow players willing to engage in his dubious game. Just a heads up, SPOILERS are coming your way from now on. If you're not familiar with our rating system, you can check out the original article here.
The beauty of this season is that we get an update on many of our favorite mains, but we also get two other invaluable gems throughout the entire season:
- David Rossi dropping F bombs like a madman (thank you, streaming gods, I didn’t know I needed this).
- Doctor Tara Lewis gets a girlfriend, making her canonically bi.
What I Liked:
While we are thrilled to see (most) of the team reunited and working in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), we see a quick update between Prentiss and Lewis. A woman from another department has popped in to assist the team who seemingly knows Lewis, once she leaves, Prentiss immediately turns to her friend and accuses her of being an item with the woman, Rachel Wilson (Nicole Pacent).
I froze, y’all. My mama, who, bless her pea-pickin’ heart, whenever she sees a bi person in the wild on a TV show immediately makes sure to report to me, turns to me and says without missing a single beat, “I knew watching Criminal Minds all these years would pay off. Now you can write about it, right?”
This moment stunned me. This cast I had been raised with was suddenly retconned to have been bisexual this entire time before my very eyes! Nah, I’m sure it was decided in the reboot and hadn’t been fleshed out in the prior seasons. But we had a history of her with men, and she cherishes and values those relationships, so we are clear that she isn’t a lesbian discovering her attraction late in life. In fact, while talking to Emily, she even mentions that this isn’t the first time she’s dabbled in womanly waters.
To be fair, Tara Lewis should probably just be workosexual. That woman’s toxic trait is that she is married to the job, heart and soul, and never gives her relationships the love and attention they deserve. We know so little about Tara outside of the BAU because it is so intrinsically tied to her as a person. We know that whatever her job is, it overtakes her and consumes her world.
So if they want to retcon a little bisexuality in, I don’t necessarily hate it or think it goes against the character. We know close to nothing about her dating history in the several seasons we’ve had her. If there was a girlfriend she had, I’m sure she would not bring it up unless absolutely necessary. Among all the characters to suddenly reveal their bisexuality, Tara seems to be a fitting choice.
This scene is also delightful because there isn’t a big coming out. Her friend quite obviously doesn’t care if she’s dating a woman. She's more concerned about her friend dating anyone than having the audacity not to tell her. It’s adorable. They very quickly acknowledge that Emily didn’t know she was into women, which Tara confirms, and then they immediately fixate on the details of where the relationship is and find out how serious they are.
It’s refreshing. Not that anyone would assume Prentiss is a closeted homophobe, but seeing such a genuine reaction of suddenly finding out your long-time friend is queer and she didn’t bat an eye. This is the perfect illustration of the ideal coming-out scenario that many of us envision for the future — a world where people can date someone of any gender, and it goes unnoticed or without much concern.
While this relationship is fairly short, we do get to see bits and pieces of it outside of the office. We get to see what it is like when they go home, and we even see the strong and intelligent Tara fall flat on her face metaphorically when Rachel suggests moving in together.
Overall the show treats their relationship like any other, and even highlights how healthy and normal this is for our Tara. Tara likes women and is now dating someone. Full stop. The focus is on her relationship struggles, not whether or not her partner is male or female. It felt good.
What I Didn’t Like:
I know we barely talk about Tara’s sexual orientation, but c’mon, she could have so easily slipped in the word bisexual at any point. We often talk about her relationship and it would have been so simple to just throw in a small phrase naming it directly instead of having the audience piece it together. I think there is a lot of value in representation that names itself. People watching who don’t know the word for what they are seeing could really benefit for an extra 4 seconds of audio of Tara having said, “Yes, Emily, I am bisexual.” For stans of the show who might not be as hip with the LGBT community, since Criminal Minds has a wide range of viewers, I think that could have really went a long way to show a normal-looking bi woman to a lot of people who have this idea that bi people are weirdos with blue hair incapable of sitting in chairs properly.
While I loved this strange twist to the revival, I do think they had plenty of opportunities to naturally add in the word bisexual or further clarify Tara’s sexual orientation. I know I’m getting down to the nitty-gritty here, but with as much attention we give her relationship this season, at no point did my ears hear the word bi. I’m no writer, but it could not have been that hard. I clocked so many different spots where it could have ebbed and flowed like a babbling brooke of bisexuality, but no. Nothing. So for that, I will be docking it and only giving it 3 of 4 unicorns.
On that note, I highly recommend season 16 to fans old and new, but only if you really like talking about fictional murder incessantly, while also piecing together nation-wide mysteries suddenly connecting, then tossing in a dash of personal gossip to keep it spicy.
If you’re still unsure if this show is right for you, I shall leave you with these words of the incredible Penelope Garcia:
I kept flashing in and out of consciousness and everything was really bright and I remember thinking, "wait...Is David Bowie really God?"