In a Reddit thread about unpopular “Criminal Minds” opinions, one fan said they disagreed with Gideon’s choice at the end. User u/justjoinedfor1q wrote, “You can justify it any way you want, but that child would’ve been better off in the long run if his mother weren’t wrongfully executed.” Though Gideon was respecting Sarah Jean’s decision, they argued that Riley should have had a choice in whether or not he knew his birth mother. In another thread, user u/essenceinsanity called the ending “illogical and morally repugnant,” comparing it to assisted suicide. They argued that there’s no assurance Riley won’t find out his true parentage later, anyway, making Sarah Jean’s sacrifice for naught.
However, many fans are in favor of the episode. User u/rbloren had a hard time with the ending at first but grew to appreciate it. They wrote, “Sarah Jean was a victim her entire life. As such, she likely felt like much of her life was out of her control. This instance then, the protection of her son from Jacob but also from the knowledge that his life is a lie bought at his biological mother’s expense, is an example of a victim reclaiming control of their life in the wake of a traumatic event.” Some fans side with Sarah Jean, believing it’s best for her son that he isn’t forced into the news and out of his adopted family, which would likely become a traumatic event of its own.
Other fans love the episode for how tragic and heartbreaking it is, lauding it as one of the highest points of Season 1 and a solid entry point to the series as a whole. User u/Deejaymil wrote, “Is this episode a win or a loss for the team? I don’t even know. I think it’s one that haunts Gideon though…”