March 2nd’s episode of Criminal Minds, titled Valhalla, ended with Special Agent Emily Prentiss leaving the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, as her superior is telling a large amount of law enforcement agents in the room a profile of Ian Doyle. Doyle is a man from Agent Prentiss’ past who had escaped from prison and is tracking her down, taunting her along the way by killing others around her who knew about her past life, and threatening to target her new team.
As fans prepare for tonight’s episode of one of CBS’ most popular procedural shows, they must also prepare to say goodbye to Agent Prentiss, a character that joined the show in Season 2 and quickly became a fan favorite, thanks to her humor, humility, and bravery. Paget Brewster has played the agent who works for Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, just right, making her relatable, thoughtful, strong as well as a standout character in an impressive ensemble cast. Brewster’s Prentiss is a tough woman, but she is not stone cold by what she sees; she is still vulnerable and affected by her job, and it only makes her a better person and a better agent.
And while it would be nice to not have to say goodbye to Prentiss, it is unfortunately a must. Below is a look back at some of Prentiss’ best episodes on the show.
Season Two; Episode 9
The Last Word
Emily Prentiss first appeared on the show under mysterious circumstances – she had the paperwork to join the BAU but none of the supervising agents knew she was coming. This episode, which featured two serial killers in competition with one another and talking to each other through the media, was a perfect first episode to get to know her character, as we got to see how driven she was and how quickly she could catch on.
Season 2; Episode 20
Honor Among Thieves
When a Russian immigrant is kidnapped and held for ransom, Agent Prentiss’ mother, Agent Elizabeth Prentiss, comes to the BAU for help with the case. Seeing Agent Prentiss interact with her mother, and experiencing their broken and fragile relationship makes Emily have a richer back story and more human than ever before.
Season 2; Episode 21
The team takes on a case that involves two men who hunt humans. At the end of the episode the surviving victim of the men’s attacks asks Prentiss why men like this do what they do, and she responds because murders and other offenders don’t think like us. But later faces an existential crisis when she realizes that in order to do the job that they do, she and the other agents have to think like the criminals, forcing her to ask the question “what makes us different?”
Season 2; Episode 23
Season 3; Episode 2
No Way Out Part II: The Evolution of Frank
In Birth and Death
At the end of episode 23, Prentiss is essentially being blackmailed by Agent Erin Strauss – spy on her superior, Agent Hotchner, or Strauss will use the same strings that got Prentiss on the team to get her pulled off the team. Prentiss, never one for politics and fiercely loyal, is revealed in episode 2 of season 3 to have not taken the bait, and instead she resigns from the team briefly, until she is drawn back in by Hotch, and the two work what they think will be their last case, before they both realize they love the job too much to leave.
Season 4; Episode 3
When Agent Prentiss, and the brilliant Agent Reid (who is used on the team solely for his brains), go undercover within a cult, things get messy when the leader hears that a raid will be taking place. They are forced into the cults lockdown, and when news reaches that there is an FBI agent in their midst, the cult’s leader targets Prentiss and Reid, and Prentiss tells the leader that she is the FBI Agent, causing her to be beaten and locked away. Showing this strong side of her only reiterates everything we love about Prentiss, and having her take the heat so that the weaker Reid won’t have to, only makes her braver and more loveable than before.
Season 4; Episode 17
Prentiss deals with many personal and religious issues when she learns that a man from her past was killed in, what turns out to be, an exorcism. It also reveals more of her back story, about her feeling lonely and like an outcast when she used to move frequently due to her mother’s job, and how at 17 she had an abortion and gave up on her religious upbringing. The story was deeper than usual for Criminal Minds, and brought to light Paget Brewster’s incredible acting skills.
Season 5; Episode 11
After catching a suspect, and on the way to transporting him to the police station, the car with the suspect, Prentiss and another officer in it, is run off the road by a truck. It is a successful attempt of the killer’s partner to help the caught man escape from custody, but it also highlights Prentiss, as she bounces back quickly from her injuries and uses everything she has to hunt down the suspect all over again.
It is very rare to find strong female main characters on television shows, and Prentiss, during her almost five seasons on Criminal Minds has proven to be one of those strong women. She will be missed.