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How Criminal Minds: Evolution Built an Unsub Worth Chasing for 10 Episodes

Elias Voit does not fit your typical serial killer profile

Megan Vick

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series premiere of Criminal Minds: Evolution. Read at your own risk!]

The BAU on Criminal Minds has caught some nefarious killers in the past, many with long rap sheets or killing careers that have spanned decades, but they have a new challenge on their hands in Criminal Minds: Evolution. They have one primary unsub, Elias Voit (Zach Gilford), who has activated an entire network of serial killers over the course of the pandemic. The first two episodes of Criminal Minds: Evolution saw the BAU discover a set of linked murders and realize that the killers are working together, but they are still in the dark about the ringleader they're chasing. However, due to bureaucratic mess and a narcissistic new boss, the BAU must solve the most complicated case they've ever faced or risk seeing the entire department sunk. 

While the BAU may not know who Elias Voit is yet, the audience gets a lot more time with him over the course of the two premiere episodes. We know he likes to kill in storage containers, he knows his technology, he's very charming, and oh yeah, he's got a wife and two kids who seem to think he's a hero. The domestic twist came at the end of the second episode, proving that everything we've learned about serial killers over the years of watching Criminal Minds, like Elias should be an organized loner, does not apply to this unsub. 

Criminal Minds: Evolution on Paramount+: What Time It Begins, Cast, Trailer, and Everything to Know

"Elias is a different kind of killer," series star Aisha Tyler teased to TV Guide. "We know that these serial killers exist in real life, that have gone years, sometimes decades without being detected…This guy is very sophisticated. He is someone who has a code and it is a code of behavior that has kept him undetectable. He's used technology to shield himself. He's created a network of serial killers that also provide an additional layer of protection against discovery. He's better at this than a lot of other serial killers that the BAU has encountered. A lot of guys kill from compulsion, kill for excitement or impulse. This is a very calculated killer. He's intentionally built the world around him that keep him hidden, so it takes a while to tease him out." 

Gilford agrees that Elias works differently than we've seen in the past and the audience can never rely on him to stay predictable, even if he is incredibly organized. 

"We all have a phone in our pocket all of the time," Gilford explained. "We can't run our lives without some sort of electronic connection to the world, which means we can all be tracked and we can all be caught." Because Voit works in cybersecurity, he knows how to avoid being tracked. He's aware of every camera and knows the ins and outs of every phone he uses. He doesn't leave anything to chance. "He has these rules that he's had his whole life that he does not deviate from," Gilford said. "Maybe he wants to, and there's some fun, fun stuff and episodes where you think he's going to break his rules, and maybe you think he does, but the way he handles it is so messed up. It's really interesting and scary to watch." 

However, the BAU has a a tech guru of their own. While Reid (Matthew Gay Gubler) and Simmons (Daniel Henney) are sitting this case out (for now), the team was able to get Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) back in the fold. She's more confident and empowered than ever before, but Elias is challenging even for her. 

Zach Gilford, Criminal Minds: Evolution

Zach Gilford, Criminal Minds: Evolution


"He's so smart. And the thing about Zach Gilford, who plays him, you want that unsub around. It's terrible and gross, but compelling. I think the show sings when it explains it's not just one bad person. They are a dimensional person with with all sorts of things that make you go, 'Oh, I'm watching that. I'm interested in that. I like that they did that and they didn't do that,'" Vangsness said. "What's frustrating to [Garcia] is that he's a genius. He's got a part of him that is intuitive. That is creepy. I love to believe that the intuitive people that are geniuses, that they are good. They are all nice! They are all going to do the right thing. But they aren't because what is the right thing to them is based on a different set of rules, based on how their primary caregivers took away love. And that's why Criminal Minds exists." 

Over the course of the next eight episodes we'll get uncomfortably close to Elias and the killers he's handpicked to join his network and learn exactly what makes him tick, but even with just the premiere under our belts, we know that he's going to join the Criminal Minds unsub hall of fame. 

"He does not embody any of those typical physiological markers," Tyler teased. "He does not engage in the same behaviors. The typical touch points don't apply...that's why he's particularly challenging." 

Criminal Minds: Evolution continues Thursdays on Paramount+.