Thursday, 26 May 2016

Characters We ♥ : Emily Prentiss (Criminal Minds)

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Since my mind is rather television inclined, the next character I love that I am going to present to you is in fact another kick-ass TV lady: Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss. As one of three women on testosterone-heavy Criminal Minds she regularly graced our screens for six seasons from 2006 to 2012 and with two guest appearances since then. Prentiss, from the start, was a full field agent for the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the FBI, opposed to the other two females who mostly had organizational and behind-the-scenes duties in the beginning.

Introduced as the new agent in Criminal Minds’ second season under less than ideal circumstances –
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Section Chief Erin Strauss had, unbeknown to Prentiss, put her on the team, hoping she would be her spy – Emily Prentiss spends large parts of her first year trying to prove to the close-knit BAU that she, in fact, deserves to be there. Her background doesn't do her any favors here: Since her mother was a U.S. ambassador, everybody just assumes that Prentiss has gotten the job because of her mother’s pull. Yet, from the beginning, Emily Prentiss shows that she is more than qualified to work for the BAU. Throughout season two, the team quickly learns to trust her skills, strength, and sympathy. When Prentiss chooses to quit in the season three premiere, rather than report back on the team to Section Chief Strauss, her loyalties are once and for all cleared up and her status at the BAU is quickly reinstated. 
"It’s like Goldilocks became a serial killer." - Emily Prentiss, 4x05 "Catching Out"
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Her addition to the team (as well as that of David Rossi) leads to the strongest seasons of Criminal Minds and the best functioning unit, especially in seasons three to five. Emily Prentiss proves vital in cases dealing with children and foreigners. She never hesitates to put herself in harm’s way to protect her team, which becomes blatantly obvious, when she takes off on her own at the end of season six: Ian Doyle, a brutal and well-connected arms-dealer she helped to put behind bars, comes after her. To not put anyone she loves in danger, Emily foolishly takes him on herself, leading to her being flocked in the stomach and almost dying. Doyle escapes and Emily is put in witness protection with most of the team believing her to be dead. The importance of Emily Prentiss for the BAU and as a friend to its profilers is felt in their mourning process and ruthless hunt for her ‘killer’. 
"I know what the world can do to a girl who only sees beauty in it." - Emily Prentiss, 6x17 "Valhalla"
She returns ‘from the dead’ at the beginning of season seven to help finish off Doyle and everyone feels a mix of relief, excitement, and betrayal. It takes a while for things to go back to normal and the team dynamic to work well again. While Emily seems fine on the surface, there are cracks in her perfect façade and it feels like a part of her never returned from the dead. She is not the strong and prominently featured character of past seasons. There is something missing in her life and, at the end of the season, Prentiss is desperately looking for some way to balance herself. Chickening out of buying a house, she instead makes a more drastic move. Deciding to leave the BAU, she takes the job of running the London office of Interpol, once more proving she is one heck of a badass lady, that you just got to love!

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Every member of the team of profilers brings a particular skill set to the table and Emily Prentiss really doesn't have to hide hers. As the daughter of an ambassador to the United States, she lived in many different countries as a kid, including Ukraine, France, Italy, and different places in the Middle East. Due to moving around a lot growing up and never really being able to put down any roots, Prentiss is self-reliant and able to adapt to new situations easily. She is quick-minded, level-headed, and great under pressure. Additionally, she speaks an impressive seven languages: English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, and Greek. A Yale graduate, Prentiss worked for Interpol and the FBI for ten years before joining the BAU. Experience and knowledge –  not just book-smarts –  let her hold her own in the boys’ clubs of the BAU, Criminal Minds, and male-focused TV network CBS.

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In this tough line of work, it would be really easy to close yourself off and lose touch with your humanity. Not so Emily Prentiss. While there never seems to be a significant other in her life due to the difficult and time-consuming character of her job (besides her cat Sergio), she is in no way cold or friendless. Prentiss sporadically keeps in touch with college friends and former colleagues at Interpol and has forged strong bonds with the members of her team, who have become somewhat of a family. In episode 4x03, “Minimal Loss”, she and younger colleague Spencer Reid are taken hostage and Emily shoulders all the blame and takes a bad beating to keep Reid out of harm’s way. She protects him like a big sister and is the one he confides in, without having to fear any judgement. Derek Morgan and Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner are her partners in the field, who she trusts unconditionally. Dave Rossi is someone she respects greatly and confides in, while he also trusts her with his emotional baggage. When Jennifer 'JJ' Jareau is in grave danger in episode 200, Prentiss doesn't hesitate to come back from London to help her old team. Likewise, she gets their help in season 11, when a killer she’s been hunting for years turns up on their turf.

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But it’s not all heavy emotions and serious interactions with Prentiss. In a drama as gory and serious as Criminal Minds, she is a breath of fresh air teasing boy-genius Reid, going out on girls’ nights with JJ and Garcia, or planning “sin to win”- weekends in Atlantic City. She is never shy of voicing her opinion, sarcastic commentary, or giving hugs when needed – all admirable qualities when you look at what a tough job and life she’s had.

"When a woman tells a man about her feelings, she doesn’t want him to fix her. She wants him to shut up and listen!" -Emily Prentiss, 3x08 "Lucky"
Yeah, Emily Prentiss’ life wasn't all sunshine and butterflies. She had an abortion when she was 15 and living in Italy and as a consequence was shunned by her Catholic congregation. As an assignment for Interpol, she had to infiltrate an arms-dealing ring and start a sexual relationship with Ian Doyle, putting herself and her emotions directly in harm’s way. She’s witnessed and been subject to the negative effects of politics many times in her life, last but not least leading to her placement with the BAU and making things much harder for her than necessary. Yet, her ability to compartmentalize and her inner strength always let her come out on top.

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SSA Emily Prentiss is portrayed by Paget Brewster, who does not only have the fierce, yet feminine looks to make her character look the part, but also the skills to bring across her emotions. Known for her comedic talent, this is something Brewster can’t really show due to the character of the show, yet when she gets the opportunity her timing and delivery of jokes, one-liners, and quips is to the point. Yet, her serious acting is not lacking either: Prentiss’ empathy is felt strongly even through the TV screen and it feels like that woman has great chemistry with everybody – seriously! While of course Brewster has a stunt double for the really hard parts, the strength and fierceness of the Prentiss character, while still retaining a certain vulnerability, is all her.
"I've always heard every ending is also a new beginning, we just don't know it at the time, I'd like to believe that's true." - Emily Prentiss, 7x24 "Run"
As a woman able to hold her own in the boys’ club that is the FBI and unwilling to appease any petty political agendas, SSA Prentiss immediately impresses. Yet, there is much more to her than immediately meets the eye and, thanks to a long-running TV show, we have six full seasons to get to know the complex and multi-faceted Emily Prentiss: An able agent, a loyal friend, an imperfect human being – a character to love.

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