|“||You think they'll remember me now?||”|
— Flynn in "Our Darkest Hour"
Billy Flynn, a.k.a. "The Prince of Darkness", was a narcissist and prolific serial rapist, robber, abductor, one-time cop killer, and serial-turned-spree killer who appeared in Seasons Five and Six of Criminal Minds.
Born sometime in 1955, Flynn and his mother Nora, a prostitute, and drug addict, lived in the suburbs of southern California in his early years. Nora would force him inside the bedroom closet whenever she had a client over but leave the closet door open, which left him able to watch every single encounter. She would also allow them to sexually assault him for money. In spite of this, Flynn and his mother would sometimes dance together. In 1968, when Flynn was thirteen, he used a gun that he somehow acquired to kill Nora and a client, [ironically named] John, making the latter beg for his life before killing him. The incident left him with a lasting craving to be in that position of power again. He was arrested and incarcerated for the murders, but, since he was a juvenile offender, he was released in 1973 when he turned 18 and never explained why he killed them. In 1984, when he was 29, he began performing burglaries in California, coinciding with the first known murders of real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez.
Flynn then quickly escalated to assaulting, raping, and then killing the residents of their houses, usually intentionally leaving behind a survivor who would be psychologically scarred by their trauma. In one of the attacks, where he murdered a Santa Monica couple on July 28, Flynn left behind the children, Matt Spicer and his then-infant sister Kristin, as survivors. After a few more attacks, he somehow obtained an RV, left the state, and began traveling around the continental U.S., killing victims and leaving survivors all the way. At some point, he also started smoking cigarettes and methamphetamine, which enabled him to stay awake all night, a habit that stuck with him for decades. Likely due to his constant traveling, he became an avid radio listener. In 2010, after 26 years of killing, he read a newspaper about Matt, who had become a Los Angeles detective and had a daughter named Ellie; this prompted his return to California.
Our Darkest Hour (Part 1)
The episode begins with a montage of Flynn's RV in several U.S. locations over the years, including New York City, Nashville, Reno, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, California, on May 20, 2010, he parks his RV on a suburban street, lights a cigarette, and turns on the radio, listening to news relating to rolling blackouts that are the by-product of an intense heat wave. He is then seen standing outside on a hill overlooking several houses, lighting yet another cigarette. He eventually puts it out when the power goes out everywhere. Inside one of the houses, Gregory and Colleen Everson, who are lighting candles and preparing to go to bed, hear a noise outside. Gregory grabs a fire poker and they go to the ground floor. They figure the noise was the wind blowing down a trash can and go back into the bedroom. Colleen notices that the window is closed, even though it was left open earlier due to the heat. Behind her, Flynn knocks out Gregory with the fire poker and proceeds to rape Colleen and kill Gregory in front of her eyes.
The attack, in combination with one of Flynn's previous home invasions during which he raped and killed two women [in which no witnesses were left as an effort to catch Matt's attention since these murders occurred in his precinct], leads to the BAU being called in by the local police to assist. During the next night, Flynn attacks another house during another scheduled blackout. In this attack, he forces a young boy to watch him rape his mother while hiding in a closet [as a reference to Matt watching his parents being killed] and leaves a message "HELLO THER" for the police detectives and BAU to find the next morning. During the night after that, he attacks another house, killing a couple and leaving their newborn baby alive [as a reference to Kristin, who was an infant at the time of her parents' deaths]. Since he uses the city's rolling blackouts as windows of opportunity to attack, it is eventually decided that the whole city should maintain using electrical power until he is caught. Flynn is seen listening to the recent developments on his radio, but he does not appear to be daunted by the news and simply laughs.
When Garcia finds and produces a list of his previous murders, the BAU and local police learn Flynn's connection with Matt, and that Flynn is repeating his first set of killings as a way to taunt Matt, who had been seeing a lot in the media and is assisting them in the investigation. Realizing Kristin and Ellie are Flynn's next targets, Morgan and Matt go to the latter's home (where his sister and daughter are). When Morgan and Matt reach the detective's house, they find that Flynn has already abducted both Kristin and Ellie, having cut the power and broken inside. Morgan and Matt plan on heading to Kristin's apartment next and notify notify rest of the BAU team and Matt's partner. On the way there, Morgan and Matt then deduces that Flynn has taken them to the Spicers' old home in Santa Monica because that was where his and Matt's connection was forged. This causes them to race over to Santa Monica. Meanwhile, the city's electrical grid breaks down as a result of the overuse of electricity, sending all of Los Angeles into darkness and getting the rest of the BAU members stuck in traffic. When Matt and Morgan arrive at the house, they immediately split up and sneak inside, as Matt refuses to wait for backup. Upon Morgan finding the house's current resident dead, he is knocked out by Flynn and tied up with duct tape by Ellie whom is being ordered to do so.
Matt makes his way to the master bedroom, where Flynn's attack had taken place years earlier, and finds him holding Ellie in front of him and telling him to drop his gun. The words "Hello there" in Flynn's very voice next provokes Matt's memories of the attack into returning to the forefront of his mind. Morgan advises against it, but Matt eventually obliges to Flynn's demands when Flynn begins choking Ellie. He then forces Matt to his knees and makes him admit that Flynn is responsible for making him who he is. Overcome by the trauma of his parents' murders, a powerless Matt asks Morgan to promise him that Kristin and Ellie will be safe. Flynn, clearly enjoying the situation, makes Morgan promise Matt before shooting Matt in the chest execution-style. Immediately afterward, he pulls a sobbing Ellie away from Kristin, mockingly consoling the girl as he does so. When Morgan and Kristin yell at him, Flynn sniffs Ellie's hair and says, "I usually don't take much to kids, but this one's just... special." Morgan angrily tells Flynn that they will find him, to which he replies as he departs with Ellie, "Is that another promise?"
The Longest Night (Part 2)
After abducting Ellie, Flynn attempts to make her an accomplice to his crimes, using her as bait for a couple in their home, unbeknownst to her. The ploy works, and he is able to kill both victims. Afterwards, he takes her back to the RV and declares they will make a great team. Later on, when Ellie calls him a coward for killing people, Flynn explains his motivations and makes her choose if he should kill a motorist who stumbles upon the RV's location. Although she tells him not to, he is forced to kill him anyway when the man overhears a radio announcement describing Flynn's RV. He then cuts Ellie's hair to change her appearance. Later on, they return to another Los Angeles suburban neighborhood and stop at a house. There Flynn shoots the father when he gets them to answer the front door, gives Ellie a few pointers about choosing which houses to attack, instructs her to get the son, and goes upstairs to subdue the mother. However, before he could rape and kill the woman, he spots a framed photo showing that the family has two sons and hurries out of the parents' bedroom and into the boys' bedroom to get the younger son. Once there, he learns from Ellie that she told the other boy to alert the neighborhood. Flynn grabs Ellie, takes her to the garage, steals the car, and drives away with her just as the neighbors are out in the street about to head toward stopping him.
While investigating the newest crime scene and the abandoned RV, the BAU realize that Matt's success as a police detective didn't prompt Flynn to return to California. In reality, it had been Ellie, as Flynn felt responsible for her existence: had he killed Matt, she wouldn't have been born. Back at Quantico, Garcia is able to figure out Flynn's identity upon finding news articles about Nora's and John's murders. Upon being made aware of his tendency to listen to radio stations by a hospitalized Kristin, the BAU decide to make contact with him through the city's emergency alert system, which would broadcast their message over every single local radio channel. JJ gets federal approval to use the system and personally contacts Flynn, initially appealing to his emotional insecurities, to negotiate Ellie's release. However because she is unable to properly empathize and sympathize with Flynn, due to his atrocities, JJ goes off-script; she reminds him that he is doing the same thing to Ellie and countless others that his mother did to him, and scolds that he of all people should understand how horrible that pain is. Realizing she is right, Flynn releases Ellie, breaks into a couple's home, and takes them hostage.
Once the police has gathered around the house, he makes a phone call requesting that Morgan comes in alone. Inside, Flynn has tied up and gagged the couple and then sits on their bed with his gun, waiting ready for Morgan's arrival. Upon entering and finding Flynn, Morgan declares that he is not afraid of him. In response, Flynn chuckles and asks if he really thinks that is so important to him. However, when Morgan gives him the chance to shoot him, Flynn doesn't take it. Flynn then recounts how he killed Nora, opening up, probably for the first time in his life, and shares how he always thought that she looked relieved while dying, shedding a tear while doing so. He then asks Morgan if he believes in heaven. Realizing what he is planning, Morgan raises his gun as Flynn asks if he will see his mother there and maybe get another chance. He then stands up and tells Morgan that he would like that before aiming his gun at the wife; in response, he is viciously gunned down by Morgan. As his dead body falls to the bed, Flynn looks relieved. Morgan then goes outside to inform Ellie that her aunt Kristin died in the hospital a few hours ago from collapsed lungs inflicted by Flynn's attack. As he does so, Ellie, after being courageous against Flynn for the entire episode, sheds a tear.
"The question isn't why do I kill people. The question is why I don't kill everybody. I decide who dies, but mostly, I decide who lives."
The unsub is a Caucasian male aged in his fifties, a pure psychopath, and an evident sadist who has been killing people for an extensive period of time. He is a highly opportunistic offender, as he travels around the country and kills at random, making him very difficult to predict. His way of making a child watch him rape and killing its mother, therefore taking away its childhood and innocence, suggests that he may have experienced something similar himself. His flawed spelling ("HELLO THER") suggests that he is not well-educated. He is, however, smart enough to successfully plan his home invasions, avoid leaving behind DNA evidence, disable alarm systems, and get away with the murders. Just because his recent attacks are located in Los Angeles, it doesn't mean he is a local. Killing in the dark is what appeals to him the most, and because of the rolling blackouts occurring at the time, it is believed that it is his motivation to come to Los Angeles. His willingness to kill random people says he is an opportunistic offender, who is incredibly difficult to predict.
He appears to have intimacy issues, as he cannot even have personal photos facing him, meaning that he probably never has been in any kind of relationship. He may also have some sort of shortcoming, perceived or real, of which he is obviously self-conscious, such as a physical deformity; something that seems small to someone, but means everything to him. Having one thing that sets him apart from the rest of the norm has led him to a life of solitude and also caused him to develop an aggressive schizoid personality. He takes his victims' power away, both literally and figuratively; he feeds off from making them powerless. Darkness is his signature; it is a habit for him and he has always killed that way.
He has been killing in every city in the continental U.S. for decades and has gotten away with it because he never kills in the same city twice, with the exception of Los Angeles. Leaving the baby of the couple he killed is a message in itself. He is taunting the police and the BAU and is leaving witnesses that are too young to help. His most recent murders are based on his first murders and have been committed to get Matt Spicer's attention, since he is the one who killed his parents when he was a child. His message ("Hello Ther") references what he said to Matt when he attacked his family. He keeps a witness so that they will never forget him, but with Matt, it goes beyond that, because he believes he turned him into Los Angeles's hero. He is not part of Matt's history to anyone, but wants the recognition and for everyone to know he made Matt who he is. He needs privacy to keep Kristin and Ellie Spicer captive and he will hold them somewhere that has history to Matt and means something to him.
He is driving an old and extremely filthy white RV. He is in what is called "complete behavioral chaos". Serial offenders, especially long-term, successful ones, like the unsub, do not just suddenly change what they do or how they do it. Going after a high-risk target such as Matt, a police detective, and then suddenly abducting his child is fairly unheard of. Sometimes serial offenders devolve as they know authorities get closer to them and their time is running out. The unsub is becoming more controlled and does not appear to be devolving, as it generally means a loss of control; they find it harder and harder to keep the outside world from noticing them. He listens to the news incessantly and only stopped beating Kristin whenever he was mentioned by the news announcer, which would make sense for a narcissist, such as the unsub. Underlining Ellie's name in the news articles about her father and stating that she was special means she was his target all along and not Matt. While it was initially believed the unsub was obsessed over Matt getting his law enforcement career by letting him live, he may actually want credit for his daughter; if he had killed him, then Ellie would never have been born. He sees himself as a grandfather to Ellie.
Based on his M.O. and the motivations for his crimes, Flynn can be considered an organzied power-seeker type serial killer.
"See, Ellie? Bicycles mean kids. And kids... mean parents who are easy to control."
Flynn randomly targeted families living all across the continental U.S. His first (and most distinctive) signature was to always attack his victims at night during an electricity blackout. Usually, he would cut off the electricity of the house, but during the present-day Los Angeles County killings, he always struck wherever there was a scheduled power outage due to intense heat waves. He would enter the houses either by burglarizing the house or using some kind of simple ruse, torture his victims by pistol-whipping them and rape the women repeatedly. He would kill every member of the family except one (unless more children are involved, as he never kills children), though he made exceptions with his later killings. In the case of his child victims, he would put them in closets as a reference to how his mother would put him in a closet as a child. It was mentioned that he would avoid leaving behind any DNA evidence by "covering up".
His second signature was leaving one person as a survivor was so they would develop emotional scarring due to being the only survivor of the murders and so that he wouldn't be forgotten. As a forensic countermeasure, he never killed in the same city twice, with the exception of Los Angeles, as it was undergoing a series of rolling blackouts at the time. He typically used a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose revolver to kill his victim(s) (though he was seen to kill them through other means) and used duct tape to tie them up. He is also seen licking the bullets he loads into his gun for unspecified reasons, possibly as a lucky charm. After killing his victims, he would take anything that was valuable and presumably pawn the items to pay for the gas for his RV and the meth he would use to stay awake at night. In the case of the Everson's, Carter's, and the unnamed family, he based his attacks (the last two referencing his attack on Matt Spicer and his family) on the first murders he committed in 1984, hoping his crimes would be connected and that Matt would realize he was the one responsible for the deaths of his parents.
Flynn seems to have been inspired by Carl Panzram - Both were serial killers, rapists, and robbers who began their crimes at a young age, killed while travelling, used firearms (including revolvers), killed most of their victims by shooting or bludgeoning them, and victimized children in some way (Flynn traumatized children by forcing them to watch him rape and slaughter their families, while Panzram outright raped and killed them).
He is also similar to Gordon Cummins - Both were spree (Flynn was originally serial) killers and robbers who killed during blackouts, were given nicknames for their crimes, had some sexual element in their crimes (Flynn raped the women he targeted, while Cummins would sexually mutilate them in some way), and had children as witnesses.
Flynn may have been inspired by Henry Lee Lucas - Both were prolific (possibly in Lucas' case) serial killers, rapists (possibly in Lucas' case), and one-time cop killers (possibly in Lucas' case) with prostitute mothers who forced them as children to watch as they had sex with multiple men (molding them into sexual sadists in the process), later killed them and were incarcerated for it and later began killing after their release, killed hundreds of victims (possibly in Lucas' case, who claimed thousands), both had a sexual element in their crimes (Lucas engage in Necrophilia, while Flynn raped his female victims), used revolvers (possibly in Lucas' case), tied up and killed a cop with a revolver (possibly in Lucas' case), were given nicknames for their crimes, and both attempted to abduct at least one young girl (though only Flynn succeeded).
Flynn is very similar to Richard Ramirez, being compared to him by both the BAU and the media - Both were serial killers, rapists, and robbers who committed their first murders in California in 1984 (except Ramirez stayed put while Flynn traveled around the U.S. in evenings and nights), both committed home invasions and usually killed their victims with revolvers, had severely discolored teeth (Flynn primarily due to smoking meth, Ramirez due to poor diet and hygiene), killed their victims in the middle of robberies, would lock the children in closets while they committed their crimes, and were given nicknames by the press. The scene in "The Longest Night" where a group of suburbanites rallies together to try and capture or kill Flynn themselves may have also been inspired by Ramirez's violent apprehension by a group of civilians. Also, the scene from the same episode where Flynn kills a motorist who is trying to call the police may have been loosely based on Ramirez's murder of Tsia-Lian Yu, who was pulled over by him and shot twice in the chest next to the car.
Flynn may have also been inspired by Joseph DeAngelo - Both were prolific serial rapists, serial killers, and cop killers who were active in Southern California at some point in their careers, targeted couples, invaded their victims' homes during nighttime, their M.O. involved bludgeoning or shooting, and were given nicknames for their crimes.
He also appears to have been based on Tommy Lynn Sells - Both were serial killers, serial rapists, abductors, and robbers who were sexually abused by their mothers, were both drifters and committed petty crimes that eventually escalated to murder, targeted both single victims and couples, killed them by shooting them with revolvers or by bludgeoning (though Sells also used other methods), raped and sexually abused most of their female victims, and operated in multiple states.
Matt Spicer: You destroyed me, is that what you want to hear?
Billy Flynn: (shrugs): Well, it's... better...
Billy Flynn: (to Ellie, about a motorist outside his RV): Should we kill him?
Ellie: (shocked) What? No!
Billy Flynn: See, Ellie? We are a team. You just decided to let that man live. See, the question isn't why do I kill people. The question is why I don't kill everybody. I decide who dies, but mostly, I decide who lives. I'm like... God. And now you are too.
(radio announcer speaks from motorist's car's radio)
Radio Announcer: -They're now saying that the Prince of Darkness may be in an older white RV making its way around Los Angeles tonight.
(Billy frowns as the motorist stiffens and looks at the RV, then stands up and gets out a cell phone)
Billy Flynn: Uh-oh... (his gun clicks)
Ellie: What are you doing?
Billy Flynn: Even a god finds that sometimes... people just have bad luck.
(Billy steps out of the RV and walks toward the motorist, who notices him)
Billy Flynn: (to the motorist, smiling) Calling someone?
Motorist: (starts to back away) Just calling Triple A. I got a flat. Just, um, trying to get it... fixed.
(Billy nods, still smiling, then raises his gun)
(Flynn shoots him four times)
Billy Flynn: (from The Longest Night promo, wiping a blood drop from Ellie's cheek) We're gonna make a great team.
Billy Flynn: Go get the boy. Bring him to the parent's room.
Ellie: What are you going to do?
Billy Flynn: I have a widow to comfort... Go.
Ellie: (about the son of a victim) He had a brother. I told him to tell the neighbors to call the police and then tell the next house, and the next house, and the next house. You know, he's probably told the whole block by now. You can't kill them all, can you?
Billy Flynn: I can try...
Billy Flynn: (knocking on the Farradays' front door, to Paul) Is this your son's bicycle?
Paul: (sees the trashed bicycle in his hands) What the hell... (opens the door)
Billy Flynn: I may have run it over.
Paul: What did you do, back over it again?
Billy Flynn: Actually... twice. (pulls out his gun and shoots Paul)
Billy Flynn: (to Morgan) My mother used to dance with me. Do you know who Cyd Charisse was? She kinda looked like her.
Morgan: Put the gun down, and get up.
Billy Flynn: When I... shot her, she looked at me with such... She was... I think relieved. I think I helped her escape. Was that really true, or did I just imagine it, to make killing her easier to live with? Did I help her escape? Did I... set her free?
Morgan: Is that what you think you've been doing all these years? Helping people?
Billy Flynn: (shrugs, a bit awkwardly) Well, no, I suppose not.
Billy Flynn: Do you believe in heaven?
Morgan: (raises his gun towards him, knowing what he is planning) This is your last chance.
Billy Flynn: Do you think I might see her there? Maybe get a second chance? (stands up) I'd really like that.
(he begins pointing his gun at a hostage and is shot and killed by Morgan)
- Flynn seems to have been inspired by at least three unsubs in the show's past:
- Season Two
- Frank Breitkopf ("No Way Out" and "No Way Out II: The Evilution of Frank") - Both were prolific serial killers and abductors who killed over 100 victims all over the U.S., had mothers who worked as prostitutes and motivated them to kill in the first place, watched their mothers having sex with their customers, claimed their mothers as their first victims (though with Breitkopf this was only implied), refrained from ever killing children despite their psychopathic tendencies, abducted at least one child, and were antagonistic towards certain members of the BAU.
- Season Four
- Armando Ruis Salinas ("Catching Out") - Both were serial-turned-spree killers, robbers, and one-time cop killers who devolved, were active in California (though Flynn was also active in all of the other continental states), were given names by the media for their crimes, committed a number of murders that were initially undetected by the BAU and local authorities, broke into their victims homes at night, robbed their victims after killing them, suffered from drug addiction(Flynn to Methamphetamine, Ruis to household inhalents ), and were based on infamous real-life serial killers (Flynn was based on Richard Ramirez, Ruis on Ángel Maturino Reséndiz).
- George Foyet ("Omnivore", "To Hell and Back, Part 2", and "100") - Both were prolific serial killers, spree killers, and cop killers (though Flynn was only once) who were active in at least two different cities, had multiple victims, committed a double homicide as their first crimes while they were underage (Foyet killed his parents when he was nine years old, Flynn killed his mother and one of her clients when he was thirteen), had various M.O.'s (one of which involved shooting victims execution-style using .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolvers), were motivated by fear and control over their victims, appeared in two seasons of the show, and, in the same manner as Billy, were particularly antagonistic towards certain members of the BAU and were ultimately killed by said members. Foyet also appeared in Season Five.
- Season Two
- With his total body count of over 200 people (an exact number unspecified), Billy Flynn is the third of only nine unsubs in the show's history who are confirmed to have claimed hundreds of lives. The others are:
- Season One
- Season Two
- Season Seven
- Season Ten
- Season Eleven
- Sharon Mayford ("Entropy") - A prolific and international serial bomber, hitwoman, cop killer, one-time mass murderer, and gangster who killed at least 173 people.
- Cat Adams ("Entropy", "Green Light", "Red Light", and "Date Night") - A prolific and international serial killer, hitwoman, gangster, and later proxy killer who killed over 200 people (an exact number unspecified). Adams also appears in Season Twelve and Season Fifteen.
- Season Thirteen
- Jake Logan ("Killer App") - A mass murderer, serial bomber, workplace shooter, one-time cop killer, one-time abductor, and serial-turned-spree killer who killed at least 379 people.
- Benjamin David Merva ("Believer" and "300") - A prolific serial killer and cult leader who killed 299 people. Merva also appeared in Season Fourteen.
- Though Flynn is credited by his actual name in "Our Darkest Hour", his name is never actually revealed until "The Longest Night". This makes Billy Flynn the first of only nine unsubs in the show's history to not have their name revealed by the end of an episode. The others are:
- Flynn's alias, The Prince of Darkness, is interestingly similar to Tim Curry (Flynn's actor)'s role as The Lord of Darkness, the main antagonist of the 1985 film Legend. It's unknown if this was a coincidence or an intentional reference.
- Season Five
- Season Six
- Season Ten
- "X" (indirectly referenced)
- On Garcia's list, it says that Gomez was killed on May 3, while Kohl was killed six days later, although Hotch states that they were killed three days before the Everson attacks, while Matt Spicer mentions that the Gomez-Kohl and Everson homicides occurred a week apart. These were likely errors on the writer's part.
- While being briefed on the current case, Morgan and Rossi bitterly state that this was the second case in Los Angeles they've been called to in less than a year