This Criminal Minds Character’s Best Season Was Surprisingly Early


Criminal Minds revolves around a team of profilers from the FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit as they actively engage in solving the most difficult serial crimes. Among all the main characters, whom fans have come to be familiar with since Season 1, Penelope Grace Garcia is the only character who wasn’t slated to be part of the main gang. Her character shone in the show’s early seasons, which became the reason for the character being worked into the show’s main storyline.

Throughout the entire initial run, Garcia has received many changes to her backstory, personality, dressing style and even the way she speaks. While the changes add layers to the character, not all yield a positive portrayal of Garcia. Instead, she was angled more and more into being the most bizarre character in Criminal Minds. However, the intention behind having Kirsten Vangsness’s Penelope Garcia in the show is to have her as a ray of sunshine to lighten up the mood of the more depressing content that some viewers might find too much at times. Her presentation a normal, nerdy girl with a tender heart also grounds a group of heroes who all seem to have nearly superpowers when it comes to crime-solving — especially in the show’s earlier seasons.

Garcia Goes Through Significant Changes Over Time

Penelope Grace Garcia is one of the characters who have managed to stay on the show since Season 1 of Criminal Minds. Her appearance changes significantly throughout the show as her backstory gets more developed and her character becomes more complicated. However, it doesn’t always mean that the character is getting better. On the contrary, sometimes, the development can damage a fan-favorite character when pushing too hard.

There are so many sides to Garcia, but Season 1 has her most relatable looks and personality. As a technical analyst for the BAU, Garcia is like the backbone of the team. Whenever someone needs some technological support in the case, Garcia is their go-to person. She’s not a field agent. She only works from her computer, which makes her have more humanly relatable reactions when coming face to face with the more disturbing crimes. No other agents share her sensibility, which makes Garcia a very special character, who doesn’t appear enough in the show.

Things take a different turn when diving into Garcia’s past as the show starts to actively develop the character, but that’s where she starts to derive from the Penelope Garcia fans have come to know. It’s revealed that Garcia was one of the country’s best hackers, who went by the code name, The Black Queen. She used to dress in Goth style and hack into systems and places she wasn’t supposed to. She eventually was caught by the FBI, who offered her a choice to either work for them or rot in jail. Garcia chose the first one and dedicated her skill to solving crimes. However, adding a criminal record and Goth aesthetic to Garcia’s backstory isn’t truthful to the character. It merely offered an explanation for Garcia’s change of clothing style.

Did Garcia Change For the Best?

The humanly relatable side of Garcia becomes further as the character is developed. Many viewers have noticed how much time Garcia spent on bragging about her skills instead of feeding the team useful information. As a hacker, Garcia also doesn’t respect other people’s privacy. When Emily Prentiss started to act differently prior to faking her death, Garcia confronted Prentiss and told her that she wasn’t going to stop digging until she got some answers. Compared to the early iteration of Garcia, where she was the person whom the team came to when it comes to disclosing personal matters, Garcia slowly became the person everyone should avoid when it comes to sharing secrets.

Over the years, Criminal Minds has introduced a few Garcia’s love interests, which all ended horribly and pushed Garcia further in the direction of her being the quirkiest character on Criminal Minds, instead of being the most relatable one. The change to her storyline not only alienated fans who initially fell in love with the sensitive and human side of the character, but also created a distance between viewers and the character. Garcia’s storyline also becomes more unpredictable throughout the latter seasons.


Season 1 Has the Least of Garcia But the Best of Her

Garcia isn’t part of the main gang in Season 1. She only appears in a handful of episodes, helping the team with technical needs whenever called upon. She isn’t as pretty dressed and flashy looking as Jennifer Jareau. Instead, she’s the easily overlooked nerdy girl, who wears glasses. However, Season 1 also happens to give Garcia the best treatment by making her more relatable and humble looking.

Garcia in Season 1 is easy to overlook, but she catches viewers’ hearts through details. She’s humorous when on the phone with Derek Morgan. In a show that heavily tackles the troubled minds of serial killers, she brightens the show almost every time she shows up. Garcia has a naughty way with humor. She would incorporate nicknames and dirty jokes into her phone calls with other agents. Her most famous line is to “work her magic,” lifting other agents’ spirits while working on difficult cases. Garcia draws a safe space around her, and her uplifting energy affects everyone.

In Season 1, Garcia and Derek’s work flirting hasn’t gotten to a place where HR needs to interfere. Their conversation is fun and natural, not overly explicit as Garcia starts to appear in more episodes in Season 2, nor is it dull and strictly professional in later seasons. Season 1 has Garcia’s best flirty phone calls.

Why Fans Prefer the Earlier Iteration of Garcia

Garcia also changes her clothing styles throughout Criminal Minds, which the show works into part of her storyline. In Season 1, she’s dressed in an ordinary professional manner, just like the other main female characters. However, due to the nature of the crimes she has to deal with along with the team on a daily basis, Garcia starts to protect herself by making a colorful cocoon and surrounding herself with things that she likes. Her dressing style starts to shift toward more cartoon-like and overly flamboyant. She wears butterflies and bright colors. While Garcia eventually worked through her problem of having a faint heart, her dressing style remains the same. It never resolves along with her. She stays a brightly dressed cartoon-like character, which some fans also find to be a little bit too much.

There’s no doubt that Garcia has a gentle heart. She’d avoid looking at more explicit crime scene photos in Season 1 and stay away from the ugliness. Instead, she focuses on information and connection — finding out everything she can about the unsubs. Her almost non-FBI behavior and attitude toward horrific crimes strikes among all the other agents, making her a very humanly relatable and unforgivable character, which is also the reason why Garcia, though initially not a part of the main cast, receives the most development and eventually becomes one of Criminal Minds’ fan favorite characters.

However, as the show progresses, her feminine side becomes a little too much when she takes over JJ as the Media Liaison Officer, who is in charge of bringing in new cases for the team. Garcia’s choices can sometimes be too curated to her personal taste, making the show seem off-balanced — Garcia is the one who brightens the work at BAU, which also determines that she won’t be able to take over the center stage of the investigations, overshadowing the more dominant Thomas Gibson’s Aaron Hotchner and the genius Dr. Spencer Reid. The latter stage of her character development struggles a little after she becomes the Media Liaison Officer before landing in a desired position. However, compared to the early iteration of the character, where she quietly shines through the intense, thrilling process of crime solving, the later iterations of Garcia simply can’t compete.