The team are called to an Arizona college when an arsonist who operates in a very unusual way kills a student.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
... Jason Gideon
... Aaron Hotchner
... Elle Greenaway
... Derek Morgan
... Dr. Spencer Reid
... Jennifer Jareau
... Clerk (The Footpath Killer)
... Dean Ellen Turner
... Clara
... Penelope Garcia
... Arson Investigator
... Jeremy
... 1st Chem Student
Kristen Caldwell ... 2nd Chem Student
... Professor Wallace


Jason Gideon's FBI profile team is called to an Arizona College campus where students and teachers fall victim to arson. However the pyromaniac profile doesn't quite apply: the culprit didn't make sure (s)he could enjoy the crimes by observing the victims perishing. Dr. Spencer Reid finds a better way to fit the facts with a rarer serial killer logic: a 'religious' compulsion, in this case both triggered and given form by a boundless obsession with the number three- if this theory holds true a third, possibly triple, arson is at hand... Written by KGF Vissers

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Release Date:

28 September 2005 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


First appearance of A.J. Cook (JJ). See more »


During the evacuation / rescue at the burning building midway through, emergency crews and students are seen hurriedly fleeing the harrowing disaster. Yet, as people are shown descending an outside stairwell, one student is clearly grinning from ear to ear while he runs for his life, an unfitting expression for the circumstances. Not a speck of soot or sweat or singe anywhere on him, either. See more »


[the team arrives at the college]
Jason Gideon: No badges. I don't want to satisfy the unsub's need for attention by letting him know we got the FBI here. Try not to look official.
Jason Gideon: [looks at the team's clothing]
Jason Gideon: Try to look *less* official.
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References Star Trek (1966) See more »


Criminal Minds Theme
Composed by Mark Mancina
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User Reviews

Absolutely enthralling...and only the second episode
12 September 2016 | by See all my reviews

"Extreme Aggressor" was a great start to 'Criminal Minds', and indicated a show with fantastic potential if the high standard was maintained. Which it was, as 'Criminal Minds' was a big personal favourite before becoming hit and miss from Season 6 onwards.

One was really hoping that "Compulsion" was every bit as good, and it was, even surpassing "Extreme Aggressor" which was a fine achievement for a second episode. While not quite one of the best episodes of Season 1 like "The Fox", "Riding the Lightning" and "The Fisher King Part 1", "Compulsion" is an absolutely enthralling episode. Honestly wasn't expecting an episode so good so early on in the show's history.

Flaws are barely any. If there was anything that could have been better, it is that "The Foothpath Killer" subplot could have fitted slightly better and may have fared better as a whole episode on its own perhaps, due to it not being quite as interesting as the main plot. This said, that is not too big a quibble actually, because the episode does provide a good conclusion to that story, being intriguing and suspenseful.

However, "Compulsion" is made with much style and class, also with atmospheric darkness and grittiness. The music is haunting too, fits very well and while not quite enhancing the action going on in the story it never distracts either. The writing is tightly structured with plenty of tense and suspenseful moments as well as being very intelligently thought-provoking.

The story has twists and turns, with little clues that are not obvious or don't reveal too much too early, great use of psychology, profiling, tension and suspense. The revelation of the unsub was completely unexpected and will definitely have one floored, one of the show's most shocking reveals along with "North Mammon" and especially "The Boogeyman". Plus the OCD was handled well, carefully while still having impact, and wasn't rammed down people's throats or felt heavy-handed. The subplots with the chess and the stutter are as good as the main plot, and contrary to what has been said it is agreed that the whole stuff with the stutter is resolved, just with subtlety.

BAU are very strongly realised, especially Gideon and Reid, and the team dynamic is beautifully balanced and interesting. Morgan's sympathetic and more personable side is a far cry from his later tough guy image, and is more preferable actually and while Elle has never been a favourite of mine (and that's putting it politely) she isn't a problem here. The acting is very good, Mandy Patinkin in particular playing Gideon with command and complexity.

All in all, absolutely enthralling and such a great follow-up from a great, promising first episode. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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