Federal Bureau of Investigation
Director William Hedgcock Webster
The FBI's leader, a former U.S. Circuit judge.
- Hanging Judge: He talks openly about how he wishes he could have sent children to prison for life, just because he can see in their eyes that they're bad apples.
- Historical Domain Character: In contrast to other FBI members in the series, he is a historical character and even still alive at the time of his appearance in the show.
- They Call Me Mr Tibbs: He still goes by the treatment "Judge", because it actually takes precedence over his new title of Director, according to protocol rules.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Downplayed. He actually took over offscreen during Season 1, but the main characters only have to cozy up to him in Season 2. And he does not really afflict their work, although he obviously doesn't share the team's growing opinion that criminals are formed, not born.
Unit Chief Robert Shepard
Unit chief of the FBI National Training Academy. Stern and by-the-book, he has a rough relationship with Holden and Bill who have to work to convince him that their work has merit.
- Allegorical Character: Personifies the first generation of FBI agents raised under Hoover, with their Black and White Morality, focus on bank robbers and political activists, reluctance to use psychology, and treating swearing as Serious Business.
- Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: He's a close-minded jerk the first few times we meet him, and he only agrees to support Holden and Bill's research because of his friendship with Bill rather than believing it holds any value (and even then, only under the strictest of conditions). That said, Shepard grows more supportive of their efforts as the season develops, though he's still willing to call them on the carpet when they act out of line.
- Benevolent Boss: As humorless and lacking in imagination as he might seem to be, Shepard actually has a lot more patience than the BSU might expect from a higher-up in the time period. He doesn't have much belief in the BSU, sure, but he still makes sure their ship is running smoothly and doesn't impede them in any real way. He even risks a great deal to keep them running at Bill's urging.
- By-the-Book Cop: Would rather solve crimes the old-fashioned way, and prefers suspects dead or in jail without caring much about their motivations.
- Cluster F-Bomb: His final utterance of the word "pussy" in reference to Holden is all the more cathartic because it was one of the words he didn't want the agents to say in Season 1.
- Da Chief: The unit responds mostly to him.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: How he sees his forced retirement in-universe, which he equals to his death. He expresses his disbelief that he could survive World War II as a pilot, the Baltimore streets as a cop, and Hoover as a FBI agent, only to be involuntarily taken down by a Cloud Cuckoo Lander like Holden.
- Dude Where Is My Respect: The reason for his final tirade to Holden. He is flabbergasted that he could think a good idea to self-promote in his own retirement party, which he unwittingly caused.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Usually has a good reason for calling out Holden and Bill, though sometimes he simply seems to be mean. His outbursts also seem tailored to their circumstances. When the agents' actions serve a purpose (such as applying for funding without telling him), Shepard usually backs off after making a show of anger. When they cross an obvious line (especially in Episode Eight, when Holden ready to recommend charges against a school teacher without a formal investigation), he's much quicker and harder in coming down on them.
- Last-Name Basis: His first name is unknown until Season 2, when it's given as Robert.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: On his bad days. Usually, it's a result of genuine wrongdoing on the part of the BSU (specifically Holden).
- Put on a Bus: He moves to Montana after he is forced to retire at the beginning of Season 2 and doesn't appear again.
- Reality Ensues: He didn't just decide to retire and be replaced by the boss Holden wanted. Rather, he was forced to retire as a result of Holden's actions, and he is not too happy about it.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: He furiously lets Holden know what he thinks of him after the incident with the OPR forces him into early retirement. It's hard not to sympathize with him, since Holden's uncontrolled ego not only resulted in Shepard's distinguished career ending in private disgrace, but moments before Holden had tried to hijack Shepard's own retirement party to humblebrag about the work of the BSU.Holden: I just feel like—
Shepard: Oh, I can't wait to hear how you feel! You arrogant, self-serving twerp. I put in twenty-seven years. Went from brick agent to corner office, and I'm leaving everything I worked for with the giant stain of you all over it!
Holden: Sir, I—
Shepard: Do you honestly believe I'm retiring? You vainglorious little shit. I'm being forced out because somebody has to take the fall for your insubordination, reckless lack of judgment, and titanic vanity.
Holden: I took complete responsibility for—
Shepard: You really are incredible. Is all of that fresh-scrubbed earnestness just an act? Or are you truly oblivious to the wreckage you leave in your wake? I survived a war, the streets of Baltimore, and Hoover. And I'm finally being finished off by you?
- Reasonable Authority Figure: What he truly is. Shepard is a straight arrow who might not believe in the work Holden, Wendy and Bill are doing, but he doesn't actively hinder it. He makes no allowances for Cowboy Cops and prides himself on running a tight ship; he is understandably furious that Holden's careless indiscretions mean he has to withhold information from the FBI.
- Reluctant Retiree: His unfortunate fate. He tells everyone that he's simply retiring and keeps a brave face for the most part. However, when Holden tries to hijack his retirement party, Shepard angrily reveals that he's been forced out as a result of Holden's reckless and insubordinate actions with the OPR.
Assistant Director Ted Gunn
The new Assistant Director at the FBI, and seemingly the supportive boss the team has ever wanted.
- A Father to His Men: Subverted. While he seems genuinely interested in the unit's work (even a little too interested) and willing to give it whatever they ask for, the airport scene in the Season 2 finale (where he comes in a private jet to spin Williams's arrest as a success for himself) implies that he was actually not giving everything he could. And then there is that incident at the party with Wendy...
- Allegorical Character: Represents a generational change in the FBI leadership at the beginning of the 1980s, and how new management was more open to apply psychology in active cases.
- Ambiguously Evil: There's something just a little off about Gunn. He's a little too smooth, a little too good to be true. He's willing to give the team whatever they ask for and Holden falls under his spell, but Bill and Wendy are quietly wary of him. It's implied here and there that he might view the BSU as a tool to serve his own ambition rather than as a genuine preventative measure.
- Bald of Awesome: He's as bald as he is charismatic and clever, which is to say very.
- The Charmer: Ted is capable of winning over virtually anyone due to his easy way with people, adjusting his approach depending on who he's speaking to. With arrogant, visionary Holden, he feeds his ego and affirms his belief in the value of the BSU, with down-to-Earth Bill he has an approach that's chummy yet professional (using racehorse analogies and the like), with clinical Wendy he comes across as logical, educated and appreciative of academia, and with the egotistical Webster he's pretty much just a kiss-ass.
- First-Name Basis: He tells the unit to call him "Ted". Hilariously, Holden grabs this full, while Bill and Wendy stick to "Sir".
- Foil: To Shepard. He loves Profiling and wants to make it standard, whereas Shepard is skeptic and a traditionalist in what the FBI should be. On the other hand, Shepard values Wendy's contributions and makes her the unofficial chief of the unit, while Gunn cannot see past the fact that she is an academic outsider and a woman. Finally, Shepard forces Gregg into the unit and hates Holden, while Gunn cannot stand Gregg and loves Holden.
- It's All About Me: He loves the spotlight and is not above claiming the unit's success as his own.
- Manipulative Bastard: A somewhat heroic version, thus far. He knows how to play to an audience, and quickly helps to ensure that he's everybody's friend.
- Prince Charmless: A non-romantic version. He's introduced as everything the team would want their boss to be (supportive, interested, educated in the classics, etc), but he has a questionable side that emerges in later episodes.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's a genial, charming man who's willing to give the BSU whatever they need.
- Unequal Pairing: He tries to set up Wendy with a liaison in order to get more financing for the unit, going as far as unzipping her dress.
Behavioral Science Unit
Special Agent Holden Ford
A special agent in the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. After several years working as a hostage negotiator, he's reassigned to Behaviorial Science where he works as an instructor, and becomes intrigued by the idea of understanding criminals' actions and motivations.
- Admiring the Abomination: To hear him explain it, he simply finds serial killers interesting, and his actions show that he finds their deeds abhorrent. However, as time goes on, other characters find it creepy how eager he is to conduct interviews, how easily he can connect to his interviewees, and how talking to them doesn't seem to damage him.
- All Take and No Give: What his relationship with Debbie devolves into; he wants her unconditional support, but is himself not particularly attentive to her needs and interests.
- Alone with the Psycho: Despite being warned by Bill and the prison staff, he finds himself at the mercy of Kemper at multiple points.
- Ambiguous Disorder: He seems to be on the autistic spectrum to some extent, considering his difficulty with social interactions and his specific focus on a singular goal. Also, while he's clearly not a psychopath, he does display some psychopathic tendencies, such as poor impulse control, a diminished capacity for empathy and remorse, and a talent for emotional mimicry during the interviews.
- Anti-Hero: Holden's goal in the BSU is to study criminals in order to prevent crime and does genuinely find the minds of the criminals he interview disturbing. However, it doesn't stop him from committing morally dubious actions, which his colleagues criticize him over. He also has a selfish, shift-blaming, uncaring attitude.
- Ascetic Aesthetic: He has a dull, colorless, impersonal apartment, and a dull, colorless, impersonal dress sense.
- Attention Whore / It's All About Me: He basks in the attention his work in the BSU receives, pays little heed to his girlfriend's interests while insisting she be devoted to his, and manages to hijack his boss's (forced) retirement party with a humblebragging speech.
- Awesome by Analysis: Played with. He makes good calls most of the time, but he also makes mistakes and can be very blind about some obvious stuff right on his face. At the very least, he needs some guidance to keep himself grounded and not believe too much into his own talent.
- Bastard Boyfriend: Downplayed. As Holden becomes more arrogant and tactless, he also becomes more dismissive towards Debbie. Examples including how he subtly slut-shames her for apparently sleeping with a number of men, not paying attention to her work but expecting her to give undivided attention to his, and then sarcastically but truthfully answering her question that he would like for her to be a "good girlfriend by shutting up and always supporting him"; meaning he never wants her to rightfully criticize him for his morally dubious actions.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: He wants to understand outcasts, ends being an outcast himself because others can't understand how he thinks.
- Becoming the Mask: Several characters worry about the effects of him saying seemingly anything to make the interviewed killers comfortable with him or even consider him a kindred spirit.
- Break the Haughty: After the very uncomfortable experience with Kemper in the hospital near the end of the first season, Holden is rather traumatized and spends quite a bit of the second season suffering from occasional panic attacks. The experience humbles him somewhat.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He has difficulty with normal human interactions, but he is (bar some bad decisions) an excellent agent.
- Casual Kink: He and Debbie engage in mild knifeplay at one point (with Holden on the receiving end).
- Character Development:
- Over the course of Season 1, he grows noticeably impulsive and terribly arrogant.
- He then lowers it and becomes more empathetic in Season 2.
- Commonality Connection: His main strategy to get interviewees talking. At first it's fairly harmless, like an anecdote about his mother catching him masturbating, but with time it degrades into Holden saying things that his colleagues find downright disturbing.
- Cool Shades: Holden normally a very conservative dresser dons a pair of these for his interview with Charles Manson, whose crimes he is obsessed with. (Manson takes notice.)
- Cowboy Cop: He's not rabid or Hot-Blooded, but he does go above the heads of his superiors multiple times.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Downplayed. Holden becomes irritated at Debbie's relationship with a male classmate, suspecting cheating.
- Creepy Good: Whenever he goes too far interviewing killers. (Shepard notes that he had a hard time distinguishing the killer from the agent in some of the tapes).
- Defective Detective: He has good instincts for the job, but he's friendless, dateless, and Not Good with People.
- Disaster Dominoes: The Season 1 finale delivers one after another: Debbie breaks ups with him, he's at odds with his colleagues over his methods, he will likely be suspended or fired for lying to the FBI, and he finds himself at the mercy of a serial killer.
- Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help:
- Holden takes the investigation of Principal Ward personally, even though he has not committed any crime.
- Again, but more justified, when he visits Atlanta in Season 2 and discovers a likely serial case that has not reached to DC because the victims are black.
- Establishing Character Moment: The series opens with Holden negotiating a hostage situation which ends in the perpetrator's death after Holden makes a bad call. Holden is visibly sickened both by the outcome and by his superiors' reaction to it (they are happy no hostages died). This showcases several facets of his personality: an excessive confidence in his abilities; an ability to empathize with the criminals; willingness to challenge the status quo; and a lack of desensitization to violence.
- Fatal Flaw: Arrogance, and an excessive reliance on his instincts.
- Freudian Trio: He's the Ego, with Bill and Wendy as the Id and Superego respectively.
- Freudian Slip: Of the non-sexual variety. After being subtly bullied into picking a certain sandwich from the prison commissary by Kemper, he orders an "Ed salad sandwich" in a restaurant with Debbie, proving Kemper is still on his mind.
- Friendless Background: He has no friends, and no support network outside of the BSU (and even Wendy and Bill only begrudgingly put up with him). In the season 1 finale, after his breakup with Debbie and while facing the threat of being fired from the BSU, he can only think of going to Kemper for company.
- Heroic BSoD: After finding himself at the mercy of Kemper, he has a panic attack, collapses and thinks he's dying.
- He Who Fights Monsters: The investigation of the serial killers starts to rub onto him after a while.
- Incompatible Orientation: He has an awkwardly blatant schoolboy crush on Dr. Carr, who unbeknownst to him, is a Lipstick Lesbian. Bill is irritated by the whole thing while Wendy either doesn't notice or pretends not to.
- Insufferable Genius: He genuinely is quite smart in spite of his arrogance.
- Jerkass: Downplayed at first before being played straight. Earlier on, Holden could be a jerk but that was due in part of his Ambiguous Disorder and he still was tolerable. However, over the first season, he transforms into an arrogant, thoughtless jerk who his colleagues and girlfriend can hardly stand to be around.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As unpleasant and self-serving as he is, his heart is (mostly) in the right place, shown with his involvement in (and emotional reaction to) the Atlanta murders investigation.
- Kangaroo Court: The way he sees the FBI's internal affairs commission. He points that while this started with a complaint from Speck about feeling disrespected by Holden, the investigating board itself has nothing but contempt for Speck and doesn't care about what he says.
- Knight In Sour Armor / Unscrupulous Hero: It is easy to see why he is the main character, but he is rarely the favorite one.
- Lack of Empathy: A part of his Ambiguous Disorder and gets worse throughout season 1. Holden is notably detached to the emotions of others and doesn't feel guilt or shame for his less than heroic actions. The Atlanta Murders case in season 2, however, demonstrates that he does have a capacity for empathy.
- Like Parent, Like Spouse: Debbie implies she's attracted to Holden because he looks like a Mormon... and her dad. Who is not a Mormon, but also looks like one.
- Limited Wardrobe: Wears suits even when off the job.
- Magical Database: He can name and describe a lot of serial killers and other violent offenders, even when not targeted by the study.
- Married to the Job: Debbie was his first girlfriend since high school, and even that didn't last long.
- Meaningful Name: Shares his name with Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye, whom he is named after according to Word of God.
- Moment Killer: After watching Brudos masturbate to a pair of high heels, he can't bring himself to have sex within sight of a pair.
- Naïve Newcomer: Despite being an agent for a while and an expert in his field, he's still young and getting used to how the FBI bureaucracy and other law enforcers work.
- Further amplified with the Atlanta investigation in season 2; as an out-of-towner, he's completely clueless as to the city's racial and political situation.
- Nervous Wreck: He suffers from a panic disorder throughout season 2.
- Never My Fault: Whenever someone tells him he's gone too far, he refuses to accept it and feel guilty about it. He believes himself to be right but misunderstood.
- Nightmare Fetishist: He's a little too interested in the gruesome details of the murders, although he claims it's all an act. Most notably, he is a Charles Manson fan, even going so far as to wear his coolest sunglasses and bring a book to autograph to the interview.
- No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Based on John Douglas.
- No Social Skills: He doesn't understand sarcasm and consistently misreads obvious social cues.
- Not Good with People: As a result of having No Social Skills. He can, however, adopt personas that make serial killers like him.
- Not So Stoic: He shows eerie nonchalance and detachment while interviewing serial killers, but it all catches up with him at the end of season 1, and he develops a panic disorder due to the stress of the job.
- Odd Friendship: Serial Killer (and rapist) Kemper is quite taken in with Holden; while the "relationship" is ostensibly one-sided, Holden is clearly fascinated (and easily manipulated) by the man, and goes to visit him for company after Kemper's suicide attempt.
- Old Cop, Young Cop: The Young Cop to Bill's Old Cop.
- Opposites Attract: He's instantly interested in Debbie, despite having little in common with her besides their mutual interest in psychology.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Holden displays sexism towards women. First, Debbie notes how he doesn't like women smarter than him. Second, he is uncomfortable with the fact Debbie has apparently slept with a number of men.
- Precocious Crush: Downplayed. Both he and Wendy are grown adults but it's shown that Holden does have something akin to schoolboy crush towards her. Bill and Debbie are quick to point it out.
- The Profiler: He's the original.
- Punny Name: While in Atlanta, he says that his name is a bad joke in Australia. He was given that name as a play on Ford and Holden's rivalry in the Australian and New Zealand market.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The impulsive, tactless red to Bill's calm, empathetic blue.
- Sarcasm-Blind: He tends to take sarcasm and the like at face value.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Played with: physically and in his outward demeanor he is the sensitive guy to Bill's manly man, but in terms of their actual relationship and handling of suspects (being more detached with the victims vs. Bill's emotional and empathetic nature), the dynamic is inverted.
- Mostly averted in Season 2 during the hunt for the Atlanta child killer. Holden obstinately remains focused on finding a suspect who meets his pre-established criteria to the exclusion of other possible suspects. Unlike Tench though, Holden feels directly responsible to the mothers of the victims and is left unsatisfied and unhappy when they catch only one suspect who they can only pin two of the 29 murders on. His parting visit to the STOP group makes it clear he deeply cares about the promises he made to the mothers.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Tends to wax eloquent when addressing his students or fellow police officers, to their bafflement or annoyance.
- Sherlock Scan: He gives one to Debbie (at her own request) and decides that her intention is to break with him. She does not confirm nor dissuade him of the notion.
- Tears of Fear: When he's at Kemper's mercy.
- This Is Going to Be Huge: Criminal profiling. He knows it will revolutionize the field, the only problem is making others believe it.
- Thoughtcrime: His zeal for profiling makes Shepard concerned that he may actually be aiming for an unacceptable level of crime prevention.
- Token Evil Teammate: Downplayed. Holden isn't "evil" but he does develop into an arrogant, self-righteous jerk throughout season 1. And of all of his colleagues, he is the one most inclined to do morally dubious actions.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: The culmination of his Character Development in Season 1. He was always a bit of a jerk, but it was inadvertent due to his Ambiguous Disorder, but his growing success and victories turn him into an utterly repulsive egomaniac in the last two episodes of Season 1. He becomes a swaggering asshole who talks down to Bill and Wendy when he isn't ignoring their very valuable advice, brushes off all the damage he's doing as inconsequential and becomes so arrogant that he endangers the entire study just because he doesn't feel adequately respected and he can't own up to his own mistakes. It takes nothing less than a terrifying encounter with Ed Kemper to knock him off his high horse, and for Kemper, it's almost a Kick the Son of a Bitch moment.
- Two First Names: Season 2 even has a scene where he has to specify which of the two is his surname to a hotel clerk.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Despite his unscrupulous work methods, he has a very idealistic view of criminal psychology and its power to both prevent and solve crimes; by the end of season 2, real life has disengaged him of any such notion, and he's shown to be doubting his career path.
Special Agent William "Bill" Tench
A special agent in the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. Already interested in the subject of criminal profiling, he takes Holden under his wing, and despite their clashing personalities they generally work well together.
- Awful Wedded Life: Bill loves his wife Nancy deeply and they've been together for a very long time, but his work with the BSU and troubles with their adopted son put a great strain on the marriage. Both of them have to put a lot of effort into making it work.
- Badass Baritone: Has a low, gravelly voice, and is pretty badass.
- Busman's Holiday: In Season 2, he gets another worry after hours when a body is found in a house that his wife was going to sell. And their adopted son is involved in the death.
- The Cassandra: Despite being more experienced, his (often valuable) advice is rarely heeded by Holden. This is usually to Holden's detriment.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: He's tasked with "babysitting" Holden in season 2, monitoring both his interview conduct and his emotional state.
- The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: An especially dark case, as his son, Brian, is suspected of having sociopathic tendencies after an ill-conceived attempt to bring an accidentally killed toddler back to life by crucifying it.
- Deadpan Snarker: He just loves dishing out snarky, under-his-breath lines.
- Genre Savvy: In Season 2 a body is found on a property Nancy is trying to sell. He helps her understand the investigation, cooperates with the police, and the local detective investigating is clearly not experienced with homicides, so he's very open to Bill's insight on the case.
- Happily Married: Despite the aspects that make his marriage an Awful Wedded Life, he does still genuinely love Nancy, they're a partnership most of the time and it pains him that they're having problems for which he largely blames himself.
- Icy Blue Eyes: The show's dominant color palette tends towards the blues and greys, with an occasional splash of sickly yellow perfect for underscoring the icy blue of Bill's eyes, suitable for the character's cool, collected personality.
- In-Series Nickname: Dr. Carr's girlfriend Kay calls him "General Patton", due to his military look.
- It's Personal: Although he's far less detached than Holden, Bill is typically pretty good at staying professional during the interviews. However, two subjects get so under his skin that he can barely contain himself. The first is Jerry Brudos, who is personally obnoxious and needles Bill about his family; it gets so bad that Bill stops going to the interviews with Brudos altogether for the sake of his mental health. The second is Charles Manson, who knows nothing about Bill but by coincidence is able to strike at a very touchy subject regarding children, externalizing some of Bill's fears regarding his own family. Bill quickly loses it and resorts to insulting Manson.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Bill and Nancy cannot have children naturally, so they adopted a son, Brian.
- The Leader: A role in the unit he shares with Wendy. He has elements of both the headstrong and charismatic types, having the most commanding presence, but also knowing his way around internal FBI politics.
- Mangst: His adopted son is likely autistic, and despite Bill's best efforts, he has difficulty dealing with this. He can't get Brian to emote or open up to him or even hug him.
- Married to the Job: In Season 2, his ability to juggle job and family starts to break down and his marriage suffers.
- Must Have Nicotine: He's a chain smoker, and tries to get Holden to take up the habit as well.
- No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Based on Robert Ressler.
- Old Cop, Young Cop: The Old Cop to Holden's Young Cop.
- Papa Wolf: Downplayed. When Holden is investigating Principal Wade for tickling his students' feet, Bill tries to tell the former to let it go as no crime has been committed; Holden then asks how would Bill react if a grown man was tickling Brian's feet. Bill remains calm but is nonetheless irritated at Holden for using his son as an example. And before leaving, Bill replies his reaction would be to tell the grown man to take his "fucking hands off" Brian.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Averted for the most part, as Bill has shockingly progressive views for someone with that haircut, but played straight in other ways. He might have a keen eye on the future, but he's still a man of his time and as such still believes he needs to keep his feelings to himself and isn't averse to casually homophobic language.
- Precision F-Strike: Bill isn't averse to harsh language at all, but knows how to read a room and reins himself in with his family. So it's a little shocking when he uses the word "shit" while talking to his young son, whom he always treats carefully. It really hammers home that he's at the end of his rope and is utterly desperate for Brian to just give him answers."Brian you and I have never talked about what happened. So I can only guess how confusing and strange this all must be for you. But I don't know because you won't talk to me. I don't know if you're mad or sad. I need to know that you're okay. Or whatever it is, I just need to know. Because this scares the shit out of me, Brian. And I don't want to be afraid."
- Rant-Inducing Slight: He pretty much loses it when Holden gets on his case for splitting time between Quantico and Atlanta.Holden: I'm sorry that you're having family issues, but you're either in or you're out.Tench: I'm doing the absolute best I can.Holden: Well, it's not enough.Tench: First of all, you may lean on me, but I don't work for you. And the family issue I'm dealing with happens to be that my seven-year-old son watched three other children murder a toddler! So when I'm not in Atlanta, I'm taking him to a child psychiatrist, dealing with the commonwealth attorney, enduring visits from social services, and trying to keep a marriage to the woman I love from crashing and burning.Holden: Bill, I'm sorry.Tench: I don't need your sympathy. And you're right. I should be out, taking care of my issues. But Ted Gunn sent me down here to make sure you don't do anything stupid to jeopardize our debut on the big stage. So you want to help me? Show some fucking professionalism so we don't look like we got off a plane with a suspect we're tailoring all of our insights to support. And you look anxious. Take a fucking Valium.
- Rated M for Manly: He has that build, that haircut, that baritone, that job, and a generally gruff, stoic disposition.
- Real Men Love Jesus: He goes to Church on Sundays and (albeit jokingly) states that there's no way BTK goes to Church.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's probably the only older guy at the FBI that could work with Holden.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The calm, empathetic blue to Holden's impulsive, tactless red.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: It takes a lot to convince him to "get in the mud with the pigs", as Holden puts it, and when he does, he tends to be more sensitive to the killers they interview. This becomes most evident when it comes to dealing with Jerry Brudos, whom Bill has a very particular and very mutual hatred for. The interview with Brudos affects Bill to the point that for the final interview, he straight up refuses to attend.
- Secret Keeper: For Holden. Not only is he always covering up for Holden's messes, he also keeps Holden's panic disorder diagnosis a secret from their superiors.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Played with: physically and in his outward demeanor he is the manly man to Holden's sensitive guy, but in terms of their actual relationship and handling of suspects (being more emotional and empathetic with victims vs. Holden's detachment), the dynamic is inverted.
- Standard '50s Father: Bill's appearance (including a shockingly square haircut) and gruff demeanor suggest a slightly more grizzled version of this, in contrast with younger and hipper Holden. However his relationships with his family are more flawed and also more affectionate than this trope typically evokes, and in action Bill actually has fairly liberal views. He makes the rather progressive (for the time period at least) point that a woman out alone having a drink might not be inviting company, shows a great deal of respect for Wendy, and champions Jim Barney for the position of the fourth BSU member.
- The Stoic: He is calm, gruff and reserved, and keeps his feelings to himself.
- Not So Stoic: Despite his veneer as a tough, old-fashioned agent, his personal life is a nightmare and his job weighs heavily on him. He has a troubled relationship with his adopted son and his constant travel strains his relationship with his wife.
- Team Dad: At least to Holden: a grumpy, reluctant Dad looking after a pretty difficult son.
- What the Hell, Hero?: He's as happy as Shepard to chew Holden out when he acts unprofessionally.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He freezes when he sees the finished memorial cross on the floor, because it reminds him of the cross Brian tied a dead baby to.
Dr. Wendy Carr
A psychologist at a Boston university. Longtime friends with Bill, who asks her to consult with the Bureau for their study.
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: She realizes how controlling Annalise is while working in Quantico, which makes her decide to stay and end the relationship.
- Adaptational Sexuality: Ann Burgess, the professor she's based on, is married in real life, with children, and very surprised that they took her character in that direction.
- A Day in the Limelight: Just as season one focused on Holdens personal life, season two focused on Carrs.
- Adorkable: The normally cool and composed Wendy gets flustered and starry-eyed when flirting with an attractive bartender.
- Audience Surrogate: As noted below, her thoughts on sexuality and gender are much more in line with modern day understandings of such things.
- Born in the Wrong Century: She's a gay college professor who's socially progressive by modern day standards. At one point when discussing Brudos's murders, she gets annoyed with her colleagues associating his tendency to cross dress with the fact that he's a serial killer who sexually exploited and murdered women, noting that most people who experiment with presenting as the opposite sex aren't crazed murderers.
- Brainy Brunette: She's easily the most intelligent character in the series, and most characters (particularly Bill and Shepard) have a certain degree of reverence for her intellect.
- By-the-Book Cop: She's not a cop, but as a scientist her interest is to gather data in a consistent manner so she can extract proper conclusions.
- Damned by Faint Praise: Gunn commends her for saving the Henley interview, but he thinks she was just mimicking Holden instead of being proactive.
- Date Rape Averted:
- Invoked in an early party in Season 2, where Bill advices her to get out as soon as she sees the attendees loosening their ties.
- In another party, Gunn tries to set her up with a liaison in the purse office so they can get more money for the unit, going as far as unzipping her dress and telling her to have a good time. The other guy keeps insisting on going somewhere else even after she tells him no several times.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Her claim that Nixon is a sociopath and that you pretty much have to be one to become The President has been taken universally as a jab against Donald Trump.
- Double Standard/Dude Where Is My Respect: Part of her arc in Season 2. Despite being a doctor and the resident psychologist, Gunn does not value her work much and assumes that she's following Holden's lead, just because she is female. He later advices her to stay in headquarters and not interview subjects, even though the other members are overworked or (in Gregg's case) not up to the task. And later on, he basically tries to pimp her to a liaison in the purse office to get more money for the unit.
- Gayngst: Downplayed; she is a lesbian, and a minor plot point in one episode involves her hiding her sexuality to ensure employment with the FBI. That said, she seems comfortable with being gay and there isn't much emphasis on it, at least until Season 2.
- Ignored Confession: She reveals her affair with a female teacher to Elmer Wayne Henley Jr., which everyone assumes was just a ploy to get him to open up.
- Incompatible Orientation: Holden seems to be interested in her, at least early on, and Gunn tries to pair her with a purse office liaison who is very much into her. All of them are unaware that she's homosexual, of course.
- Kind Hearted Cat Lover: After moving to D.C., she leaves food for a street kitten in the laundry room.
- The Leader: A role in the unit she shares with Bill. She is firmly of the levelheaded type, using her naturally calm nature and background in science to guide and inform the unit's decisions.
- Lipstick Lesbian: She has a girlfriend who is another example.
- My God, What Have I Done?: She's freaked out when a guy who confessed to Holden and Bill is given the death penalty. Both because of it, and because it could jeopardize her investigation by making criminals less willing to talk.
- No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Based on Ann Burgess, at least on the bare basics.
- Not So Different: After giving Holden much flack for going off script to connect with the interviewees instead of sticking zealously to her questionaire, it takes her a few seconds of conducting an interview herself to realize that sticking to the questionaire doesn't work and that using Holden's approach is more effective.
- Mythology Gag: In Episode 7, she's shown a cardboard box, and she asks what's inside.
- Only Sane Man: Of the entire team, she's the most level-headed. Wendy is intelligent, savvy, pragmatic and careful, as befitting a scientist of her renown. She's always the first to point out when Holden and/or Bill are potentially screwing up their work.
- Reality Ensues: She starts interviewing subjects herself in Season 2. But instead of becoming One of the Boys, these interviews are limited to men who killed other men and are not suspected of having issues with women.
- Rule of Cool: Her Real Life inspiration never left Boston for Quantico and just advised over the phone. Nor was she a lesbian.
- Quickly-Demoted Woman: Inverted. She's made unit chief upon her recruitment.
- Shameful Strip: Gunn unzipping her dress at Judge Webster's party.
- The Smurfette Principle: She's the only woman in the unit and the only one in Quantico (so far) that is not a secretary. It is somewhat justified due to the time period and the environment she works in.
- The Spock: She is the most controlled, levelheaded and, due to her scientific background, analytical member of the team.
- Teacher/Student Romance: She had one with her girlfriend, who was her professor. After they break up, Wendy can see with fresh clarity that it was a very unequal partnership.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: The treatment's Dr, not Mrs.
- Twofer Token Minority: A lesbian woman in a unit full of ostensibly straight men.
- Unequal Pairing: Gunn tries to set her up with a liaison in the purse office just so he can get more money for the unit.
- What the Hell, Hero?: In-universe, she criticizes Holden for going out of his way to investigate Principal Wade, saying that the attention he drew to himself reflected poorly on the project, as well as her and Tench. She later criticizes him for his increasing arrogance, his refusal to even try to use the questionnaire the entire team put together and his lack of sincere respect for her as a colleague.
- Women Are Wiser: Between Bill, Holden and Wendy, she is easily the most intelligent and levelheaded.
Special Agent Greggory Jay "Gregg" Smith
An FBI agent who joins the Behavioral Science Unit in episode eight.
- 0% Approval Rating: Without Shepard, nobody in the unit wants to have him around anymore, and the interviewees and citizens aren't coming to his rescue either.
- Ambiguously Gay: He touts the 'deviancy' of homosexuality without being called for and gets uncomfortable with the subject, but at the same time he treats it like something that should be kept in check rather than erradicated. He could be heterosexual, but those attitudes are often used in media to paint someone as a Transparent Closet or Armoured Closet Gay.
- Bad Liar: He admits that he hates lying, isn't good at it, and feels so guilt-stricken about lying to the Office of Professional Responsibility about the Speck interview that he ultimately mails them the unredacted tape behind his colleagues' backs.
- Butt-Monkey: The characters don't want him there, they almost tell it to his face, and the writers put him in several humiliating situations.
- By-the-Book Cop: To a fault.
- Epic Fail: His first interview with Elmer Wayne Henley, where he keeps reading off the questionaire before making sure if the questions fit (e.g. about employment and military service to a man who was jailed for life at 17) or if Henley is willing to answer.
- Good Shepherd: While not a priest, he is nicknamed "The Padre" and other agents seek him out to confess.
- Happily Married: And with two little girls.
- Hidden Depths: He is the one to point the obvious solution to why Hance killed a white woman first despite being black - both were soldiers at the same station and saw each other as part of the same group, regardless of race - and also takes Carr's side when discussing to concentrate on criminals more relevant to the study over the more famous ones. And he knows his Plato and Aristotle.
- Jerk Ass Has A Point: He believes that the study will be worthless if they pursue famous criminals only. Although the moment he says this could be interpreted as talking back at Holden for accusing him of disloyalty earlier and taking the easy, management-approved route... he is entirely right.
- The Millstone: After he joins the unit, he does nothing but create problems for them.
- The Mole: Holden and Bill fear that he's this for Shepard. It's not the case — he's simply too honest for everyone else's good of his own volition.
- Nepotism: His dad is an old friend of Shepard's and he's assigned to the unit despite Bill preferring a more qualified candidate. That said, he is a perfectly competent and hardworking agent; his faults lie elsewhere.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Holden has the idea of making him listen to the Bittaker & Norris torture tape to desensitize him. We don't get to hear much of it, but Smith is obviously having a strong reaction. The jury's out if desensitization was Holden's real intention or if he just wanted to bully and hopefully make him resign.
- Papa Wolf: His reason for joining the team was because he wanted to make a safe world for his daughters.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: The least sympathetic member of the group, the one that just happens to call homosexuality a pathology onscreen. Then again, this is the seventies.
- Raised Catholic: Maybe, maybe not. His wife and mother are Catholics, but his father is a Quaker. In any case, he identifies as "Christian" and is religious, which is why he has a problem lying.
- Spell My Name with an "S": His first name is Greggory, with two G's.
- Training from Hell: Holden makes him listen to the Bittaker and Norris tapes as an excuse to "toughen him up" and see if he can work in the unit.
Agent Jim Barney
A black Atlanta FBI agent who applies to join the BSU in Season 1 but is turned down because of his race. He collaborates with Holden when he comes to interview subjects in Season 2 and ends becoming the local liaison with the unit during the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-1981.
- The Ace: He's the top of Bill's list for the BSU for a reason: he's intelligent, adaptive, even-tempered, gets along with everyone and has enjoyed a distinguished career. The only reason he doesn't get the job is because he's black, and with so many of the interview subjects likely holding racist viewpoints, his very presence could corrupt the data.
- Ascended Extra: Jim appeared for only one episode in Season 1, for a very brief scene, but becomes a recurring character in Season 2.
- Composite Character: He takes after FBI agents Judson Ray and John Glover (head of the Atlanta office), both of whom were black.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Applies to join the BSU in the first season, but he is passed over due to his race. Becomes recurring in the second season.
- Establishing Character Moment: His first appearance is his interview with the BSU, when he's telling a story about how he caused a member of the KKK to incriminate himself on the stand by simply catching his eye and pretending to flirt with the KKK member's girlfriend, demonstrating that he's a quick-witted agent who's capable of thinking outside the box.
- Secret Test of Character: When a white man is arrested as a suspect for the Atlanta child murders, he brings him coffee and pretends to drop something in the cup, then dips his fingers to retrieve it in order to determine if the guy is a racist hiding it or not. He isn't.