20 Best Spencer Reid Episodes


  • Reid’s quirks, insecurities, and tough life before joining the BAU make him a well-rounded and complex character that stole fans’ hearts.
  • Some of the best Spencer Reid episodes showcase his vulnerability, growth, and ability to connect with others on a deeper level.
  • Reid’s episodes often feature his intellect, puzzle-solving skills, and willingness to put himself in danger for the sake of the team, making them some of the best in the series.

Throughout the 15 seasons of Criminal Minds, fans met and fell in love with Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), and many of the best episodes of the series double as some of the best Spencer Reid episodes of the show as well. Spencer Reid began his time on the show in the pilot episode as the youngest member of the Behavioral Analysis Unit. The team uses psychological profiles to analyze both victims of crimes and the unknown subjects who commit them. Reid became a valuable member of the team thanks to his eidetic memory, speed-reading skills, and puzzle-solving abilities.

Reid becoming a fan favorite might have seemed unlikely when he was a socially awkward and neurotic member of the procedural crime show in the beginning. However, out of everyone on Criminal Minds, no one was a more well-rounded and complex character than Reid, and he quickly stole fans’ hearts. Thanks to his quirks, insecurities, and tough life before ever joining the team, he was a perfect member of the BAU to put front and center in more episodes than other members. Whenever a Reid-centric episode arrived, fans knew they were in for something special. Though he hasn’t appeared in Criminal Minds: Evolution just yet, it’s likely the series will have some episodes to rival the best Spencer Reid episodes of the original show when he does.

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Somebody’s Watching

Season 1, Episode 18

Reid and Gideon aiming guns in Somebody's Watching.

“Somebody’s Watching” was a first-season episode with Reid still building a friendship with Gideon. This episode showed the two agents at a profiling seminar when they were asked to consult on a series of murders.

RELATED: The 20 Best Criminal Minds Episodes, Ranked

A stalker had targeted a Hollywood actress, and she developed an attraction to Reid that he reciprocated. This put Reid in danger when the stalker came for him. It is rare to find Reid crossing into a romantic situation, and his awkwardness is always charming when it does happen in the earlier episodes of the series.


Season 15, Episode 4

Criminal Minds fans will most likely think of the best Spencer Reid episodes as those that center him in the main story, but that’s not the case in “Saturday.” While the rest of the team was working, Reid was tasked by his psychologist to have a conversation with a person outside the dark subject matter of his job, and he struck up a conversation with Rachael Leigh Cook’s Maxine at the park when he encountered her nephew.

Max and Reid hit it off and end up spending the day together, which is unusual for Reid. The episode allows the audience to see a more playful side of Reid, something that hadn’t been present in the show for a long time as the weight of his job settled on his shoulders. Though his is the B storyline of the episode, it provided Reid with a new relationship and some growth for him near the end of the series.

Sex Birth Death

Season 2, Episode 11

Reid relaxing in Sex Birth Death.

In the second season episode “Sex Birth Death,” a vigilante was killing prostitutes to help clean up the streets. However, the more interesting part of this Criminal Minds episode about Reid was a young man who approached him to help him understand the murderous urges he has suffered throughout his entire life.

This made the young man look like he was the killer, but the truth is that he wasn’t. It seems that broken people gravitate toward Reid and in this case, Reid showed up in time to save him after he slit his wrists to try to stop the urges. It is a tragic episode and one that has developed Reid as someone who wants to help people, not put them away.

The Instincts

Season 4, Episode 6

Reid talking to his mother in The Instincts.

Reid’s biggest struggle in life is his relationship with his mother. In “The Instincts,” that relationship hit one of his biggest breaking points. A young boy was kidnapped and while the team is investigating, Reid begins having nightmares that start to pull up repressed memories from Reid’s childhood.

These nightmares are about a dead boy, and this reminds him of his childhood imaginary friend, Riley Jenkins. Morgan helps him understand this better when he reveals that Riley was a real missing child. That is when Reid dreams about the child again and this time sees his dad, which leads to some huge moments in later episodes that almost breaks Reid completely.


Season 4, Episode 24

For many of the Reid episodes of the series, Reid is the person focused on analysis and research, not the person in the field jumping in front of someone in danger and making big sacrifices. In “Amplification,” however, Reid did both – to a degree – which is why it’s one of his better episodes, even if the idea of biological warfare isn’t usually the style of episode that Criminal Minds fans are most engaged with.

Here, Reid ended up exposed to a fatal strain of anthrax while investigating just who could have released it in the park. Rather than allow the authorities to treat him immediately, he sealed himself in the unsub’s house and went through all of his research. Reid refused to wear any kind of protective gear since he was already exposed, and his work helped to make sure that the team found the right person and a treatment. His logical approach to the possibility of his death from exposure was offset by the more emotional reactions of the team members, making for some great team interactions as well.

52 Pickup

Season 4, Episode 9

Morgan talking to Reid in 52 Pickup.

The Criminal Minds fourth season episode “52 Pickup” allowed Reid to find another love interest, if only for one episode. In this case, it is a bartender that Reid hits on by using the magic trick of pulling a card with his number on it from behind her ear.

It is quirky moments like this that made Reid such a fan favorite. As for the episode, there was a man gutting women and then forcing them to clean up the blood before he finally killed them. However, what made this such a great Spencer Reid episode was him getting a chance to flirt with the woman, even if it only lasted for the one episode.


Season 6, Episode 12

Reid sitting and thinking in Corazon.

In Season 6, “Corazon” was another important Criminal Minds episode about Reid. This was during the time when Reid’s headaches were getting worse, and they were getting in the way of his work. During the case of a serial killer in Miami, one of the suspects told Reid that he thought spirits caused the headaches.

This is a huge moment for Reid because he also learns his headaches are not caused by medical issues, and he worries that he might be developing the same issues that have affected his mother her entire life. Many of Reid’s later B storylines in the series focus on his own mental health, and this is really the start of that.

True Genius

Season 7, Episode 11

Reid spent most of this episode not in the field with his team, but in an office decoding letters sent by an unknown subject. The case the team took on was very similar to the unsolved Zodiac murders, complete with letters that didn’t appear to make much sense. While decoding the letters, however, Reid’s storyline focused on him turning 30 and having something of a quarter-life crisis as he wondered whether he was where he was supposed to be.

Reid turned to Prentiss to discuss the milestone age with her, and the fact that he could be doing more with his genius-level intellect. “True Genius” demonstrated a more vulnerable side of Reid as he considered whether he had done enough with his life, and it also showcased how much his team appreciated him as they celebrated his birthday after his momentary crisis.


Season 1, Episode 6

Hotch and Read at the shooting range in the Criminal Minds episode LDSK

After Criminal Minds got rolling, it was time for fans to get to know Reid a little better. While most of the team was adept at fieldwork, Reid was not ready for action outside of using his big brain to help solve crimes and figure out unsubs.

In “L.D.S.K.,” that was shown when he was trying to get his gun qualification and failing before he ended up killing his first unsub, saving a room full of hostages. It’s the first step in Reid being able to physically hold his own with the other members of his team in the field, and it’s also one of the earliest episodes to build his relationship with Hotch. While Reid and Hotch weren’t as close as other members of the team, Reid trusted him as a leader, and this episode proved that Hotch trusted Reid even when Reid didn’t trust himself.


Season 2, Episode 15

Tobias holding a gun on Reid in Criminal Minds episode Revelations

One thing that remains twisted about Criminal Minds is how the show works over Reid, breaking him down over and over again. The first time came in Season 2 when the terrifying serial killer Tobias Hankel kidnapped and tortured Reid.

RELATED: The Scariest Criminal Minds Episodes, Ranked

Tobias had dissociative identity disorder, with one of his manifesting personalities being the violent one. He forcibly injected Reid with the drug Dilaudid, which Reid ended up addicted to after his rescue. What hurt more was that Reid was unable to save Tobias, whom Reid felt bad for due to his inability to control his manifesting personality. Reid’s empathy shines through in this episode despite all the things done to him.


Season 3, Episode 14

Derek, Reid, Rossi, and Prentiss looking up in the office in the Criminal Minds episode Damaged

In Season 3, Reid was having a hard time dealing with the fact that Gideon left without saying goodbye and felt the same rejection he felt as a child with his father leaving him and his mom. However, Reid pushed himself into his work and ended up once again saving Hotch in the episode “Damaged.”

In the episode, the unsub had Hotch and Reid and planned to kill them both, but Reid started talking and delivered a 13-minute lecture on the medical reasoning for the unsub’s behavior. The delay helped them survive, although Reid admitted he might have made up some of what he was saying.

Elephant’s Memory

Season 3, Episode 16

Reid and Hotch arrest a young man in the Criminal Minds episode Elephant's Memory

In “Elephant’s Memory,” Reid was still affected by the fact that he couldn’t save Tobias Hankel in Season 2 and determined that he would help others who had been diagnosed with mental disorders like his, and those who hadn’t yet. When the team set off after an unsub that Reid connected with, in “Elephant’s Memory,” he jumped into action.

Owen was a high school student who was bullied by both kids in his school and his father, a Deputy Sheriff. He finally snapped and started to kill the people who pushed him for so many years. When Owen finally decided he would commit suicide by police, Reid stepped between him and the police and talked him down.

The Fisher King Part 1 And 2

Season 1, Episode 22 and Season 2, Episode 1

Two-part episodes aren’t as common in Criminal Minds as they are in other crime dramas, but these two make for some of the best early Spencer Reid episodes of the series. For starters, it’s “The Fisher King” that provided the audience with their first big dose of Reid backstory. It’s in these episodes that information about Reid’s relationship with his mother and his mother’s schizophrenia were first revealed, which definitely helped the audience to get to know the character a lot better beyond the “boy genius” label of the first season.

Likewise, this episode also marked the first time puzzles and riddles were used so heavily in Criminal Minds, primarily by Reid. While most of the episodes focus solely on the psychology behind particular crimes, this two-parter also gave the audience a new kind of puzzle that was used sporadically throughout the series as some unsubs preferred to communicate in riddles.

Minimal Loss

Season 4, Episode 3

Luke Perry and Matthew Gray Gubler in the Criminal Minds episode Minimal Loss

In Season 4, Criminal Minds took on the idea of a polygamist cult-like church in “Minimal Loss.” In this episode, Luke Perry starred as Benjamin Cyrus, the leader of the church and one of Criminal Minds’ most memorable unsubs. While the BAU was there to infiltrate the church and free young girls, it turned into a hostage situation when the members refused to leave.

Reid and Prentiss were inside when the state police show up, and a Branch Davidian-styled siege took place in one of Criminal Minds’ best Spencer Reid episodes. The episode was also a great one for Prenitss as she and Reid hadn’t been paired up much at this point in the show. The two developed a great rapport largely because of their work together here.


Season 4, Episode 7

Jane Lynch and Matthew Gray Gubler in the Criminal Minds episode Memoriam

It took Reid a long time to open up to his teammates at the BAU about his personal life and problems, and that included his mother. Diana was a person with schizophrenia who was institutionalized. Reid had a fear that he would develop the same symptoms due to genetics.

In “Memoriam,” one of Criminal Minds’ weirdest cases introduced Reid’s father, William. When Reid believed his dad might have killed someone, he learned something about his mom that changed everything. The episode built on the backstory for the character the audience already knew and made the family dynamic of the Reids even more interesting.

God Complex

Season 8, Episode 4

Reid pointing his gun in the Criminal Minds episode God Complex

In Season 6, Reid started suffering from headaches and was beginning to feel ill. He even started having hallucinations and believed that he was starting to lose his mind, the long-standing fear that mental illness was hereditary, and he was beginning to break. This lasted for a long time.

RELATED: The Best Character In Each Season Of Criminal Minds

By the time Season 8 rolled around, it looked like Reid was finally going to get help. In “God Complex,” he learned that there might be a treatment to help him. The woman offering to help him was Maeve, and the two of them ended up in a romantic relationship.


Season 8, Episode 12

Reid thinking about Maeve in Criminal Minds episode Zugzwang

It seemed that Reid wasn’t allowed to remain happy for very long in Criminal Minds. Many of the best Spencer Reid episodes demonstrated that with tragedy. Just eight episodes after Maeve told Reid that she loved him, the woman that she was worried about stalking her attacked in “Zugzwang,” one of the best episodes in Criminal Minds history.

This was Diane Turner, played by Michelle Trachtenberg, who ended up killing herself and Maeve at the end of the episode despite Reid doing everything he could to save her. This broke Reid for the rest of Season 8, sending him on a path to learn how to deal with his grief.


Season 11, Episode 1

Cat Adams, played by Aubrey Plaza, is a fan-favorite character and her interactions with Reid are part of the reason why. While Plaza is primarily known as a comedic actress, she plays the cold and calculating Cat very well. Cat and Reid are evenly matched when it comes to intellect and manipulation, so when the two are pitted against one another in this episode, it makes for an incredibly fun watch.

“Entropy” is the first time that Cat challenges Reid, but not the last. This episode sets her up as a recurring villain who personally challenges Reid, and that’s what makes it so fun. Her return later in the series might be a surprise to the audience, but it shouldn’t be because “Entropy” is such a standout episode, and one of the absolute best Spencer Reid episodes.

Red Light

Season 12, Episode 22

Reid sitting across from Cat in an interrogation room in the Criminal Minds episode Red Light

Moving ahead to Season 12, Reid became the center of attention for much of the season. In this season, Reid was arrested and ended up in prison. The charges were drug possession and intent to distribute, and he ended up behind bars, where his life was in danger.

In “Red Light,” it turned out that Reid’s old enemy Cat Adams set him up. What makes this one of the best Criminal Minds episodes is that Reid spends this episode in a battle of wits with her. It’s rare for anyone to be able to keep Reid on his toes.


Season 14, Episode 1

Reid kidnapped by a cult in the Criminal Minds episode 300

The Season 13 finale had a significant cliffhanger where Reid was forced to help a double agent inside the FBI break a cult leader out of custody, or they would kill Penelope Garcia. This led to the Criminal Minds Season 14 premiere.

The cult kidnapped both Reid and Garcia, and it turned out the leader and cult was an offshoot of the one led by Benjamin Cyrus a decade before. They wanted revenge against Reid for his part in destroying it, and what resulted was one of the best Spencer Reid episodes of the entire series. This Criminal Minds episode combined backstory for the character, connective tissue between seasons, placed Reid in very real danger and examined his relationships with his teammates – all the hallmarks of the best Reid episodes.

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    Criminal Minds

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    shemar moore, Kirsten Vangsness, Paget Brewster, Thomas Gibson, Joe Mantegna, Matthew Gray Gubler, A.J. Cook, Mandy Patinkin, Lola Glaudini, Rachel Nichols, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Aisha Tyler

    Mystery, Drama, Crime



    Criminal Minds centers on cases of the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), a group of elite criminal profilers who analyze the country’s most notorious criminals as they look to anticipate their next moves before they strike again. Starting in 2005, Criminal Minds ran for 15 seasons before getting a revival show, Criminal Minds: Evolution, in 2022.

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    Criminal Minds

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