Criminal Minds 8.12 ‘Zugzwang’



The popular CBS crime drama Criminal Minds is now half way through its 8th season and this episode is certainly one of the highlights of the season so far as it focuses on a case that is close to one of the team’s heart. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) has been dating a woman that he has never seen before, communicating only through phone conversations, but he is completely in love with her. The problem is she has been tormented by a stalker and in this episode, the stalker finally catches up to her and it’s a race against time to find her.

Before I launch into the episode review, I’ll give a little background to this show. The show is based around a team of FBI behavioural analyst’s whose job is to profile ‘unsubs’ – mostly murderers but also rapists and genuine psychopaths, travelling across America, solving cases, with mostly a new one each episode. The cast has seen some changes throughout its 8 seasons, with lead Mandy Patinkin (who played Jason Gideon) publicly leaving the show after its 2nd season. Its 3rd season saw Joe Mantegna (who plays the character David Rossi) join the cast, an addition which proved popular with show’s viewers. Actress Paget Brewster (who played Emily Prentiss) joined late in the 2nd season but decided to leave after the end of the 7th season, leading to new cast member Jeanne Tripplehorn (who plays Alex Blake) joining the team. Even though we have not heard much about Blake’s past, I’m warming slowly to her character, but like all fans of the show still miss Paget Brewster.  The show is intelligent and I personally think underrated. The writers come up with fresh new cases every week, even after 8 seasons, and sometimes I do wonder how they come up with some of the truly sickening and creepy storylines. The show also gets its fair share of high profile guest actors – ex Buffy actor Nicholas Brendon has a recurring role as Garcia’s on-off boyfriend; Jane Lynch as Reid’s mother and C. Thomas Howell as one of the most remembered unsubs, the Reaper.

This leads me on to this week’s episode, which I was happy to see features another ex-Buffy actor Michelle Trachtenberg as the mysterious stalker of Reid’s girlfriend Maeve. The episode focuses on Reid, but involves the entire team coming together in one of those great character-driven episodes, where we see the team come together as like a family. This show does what I think CSI fails at – even though we have different cases each week, the audience is emotionally invested in its characters because the writers allow the time for some character development and for relationships to build between the characters. At the beginning of the episode, we not only know that Reid is distressed about the situation, we can see the team feel for him too. Michelle Trachtenberg does a fantastic job as Maeve’s stalker Diane, truly believing herself to be wronged by her when the geneticist rejected her PHD thesis. It’s touching and heart-rending to see the lengths that Reid will go to and how uncharacteristically distressed, frustrated and angry he gets. In the end, even though the team find Maeve and Diane, Diane takes her own life along with Maeve’s in one single gun-shot. As the camera flashes to each one of the team’s disappointed, shocked and distressed faces, there anguish for their friend doesn’t prepare you for Reid’s distraught –it’s heartbreaking and certainly left me with a lump in my throat. This is certainly the closest that Reid has gotten to a relationship throughout the 8 seasons and it’s simply heartbreaking to see him lose the person he loves.

The fallout of Reid’s loss will be felt in the next episode, but the underlying storyline of an unsub stalking the entire team and copying crimes the team have already solved is exciting and interesting on so many levels. I truly hope this series keeps going from strength to strength as I love tuning in to a new episode every week.

Reid: Well Maeve is a somebody and this bitch is a nobody! (Criminal Minds 8.12)

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