Criminal Minds 9×14 ‘200’

Criminal Minds reached the brilliant milestone of its 200th episode earlier this month and this under-appreciated series showed exactly why it’s lasted 9 seasons. Focusing on the character of Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau (A.J. Cook), it reveals just what her character got up to during her year out of the BAU during season 6. Throughout the season, her secret has been teased and tantalised and after her kidnapping at the end of the previous episode, fans were promised an explosive 200th episode celebration, which also brought back an old fan favourite.

I can still remember watching the 100th episode of this series and weeping as I did; it was emotionally wrought, not least because of what happened to Hotch, but also it showed just how close the team of characters had become. It was a fantastic showing of the series and so I was hugely excited for what the 200th would bring.

It turns out JJ wasn’t technically at the state department; instead she was mostly in Afghanistan, helping out an information hunt for Osama Bin Laden. She went through a lot out there, foiled missions, interrogations, and an inside man feeding information to the bad guys. Whilst all this was going on we also learned that during this time, JJ found out she was pregnant; this was cruelly taken away from her after an attack on a convoy. It was heartbreaking to learn this, and A.J. Cook puts in an amazing performance, showcasing her talent and also the mechanics of how JJ returned stronger and more resilient than ever, allowing her to become the profiler she is today.

This episode also showed us how well the team interact, work and care for each other; as it becomes apparent that JJ is in even more danger, the battle stations are firmly in place as they work their way around the profile, digging up the clues of JJ’s past. We also see plenty of familiar faces such as Jayne Atkinson’s Chief Strauss which was great to see; Nicholas Brendon’s Kevin and JJ’s fabulous husband Will played by Josh Stewart. The best of all these cameos however was having Paget Brewster reprise her role as Emily Prentiss.  When Brewster joined the show in the middle of series 2 she became a firm fan favourite and her exit from the show at the end of season 7 was a sad loss for the show. Her reappearance for this episode though was very much welcomed and also organic and not forced. It was great seeing her back in the fold profiling and interacting with the characters again.

The episode had a happy ending with the team finding JJ, defeating the bad guy and saving the day and it was a lovely sight having the family all in the bar together celebrating. A perfect ending to a brilliant 200thepisode of Criminal Minds.

Morgan: They just locked us out. Are the state doing anything to find JJ and Cruz?

Hotch: No.

Morgan: So what are we going to do?

Hotch: We call in reinforcements.  (Criminal Minds, 9×14 ‘200’)

Criminal Minds 9.1 & 9.2 Review

The show’s entering its 9th season and will celebrate its 200th episode, but the show continues to develop the show, its characters and push the bar with the cases they investigate.

The first episode in a 2-parter opens with J.J. and Morgan racing after the unsub, eventually catching up to him but leaving us on a cliff-hanger as a car plummets towards them and we flashback to two days before when the team first get the case. It’s not fully clear how long it’s been since the 8th season finale, but Hotch is doing double duty with as head of the team, as well as picking up Strauss’s paperwork. He reveals to Rossi that he’s been asked to take over the job full time, a role that would take him away from field jobs. The underlying concern of Hotch potentially leaving the team is present at different moments through the episode as the team struggle to comprehend Hotch taking a desk job.

The case for the week is an intriguing one as well; the unsub is killing females and placing them in a submissive, praying position. The team later find that the unsub is obsessed with the praying mantis insect, except that he subjects his victims to eating human body parts before killing them. His rage stems from a girl who he used to date, but who dumped him and Wallace (our unsub) never got over it. The episode draws to where it started and JJ and Morgan escape the oncoming vehicle unscathed. The team head back home, with Hotch’s decision still looming over them. There’s an unsettling feeling as something isn’t sitting right with the team – then Hotch gets a call. It’s the wrong guy.

Turns out Wallace has a twin, Jesse, who was put up for adoption just before he and his brother Wallace turned 3. He’s quite successful, basically everything that Wallace isn’t and after some swish words from his lawyer, the police can’t follow him. The team focus on finding out everything they can about both boys and the family they came from. After much digging and with no help from the boys’ mother Carla, the team find their father living alone and suffering from a psychotic breakdown. He turns out to be quite harmless and probably the nicest out of their broken family unit.

After kidnapping Wallace Jesse tries his hand a becoming a killer, telling his twin that he hopes they can kill Jesse’s friendly dog walker friend together. It’s unnerving to see that their genes really had an effect on both men even though they lived and grew up separately. The boys connect after so many years; a flaw in their mother’s plan who seems to struggle with her own demons. Carla is quite narcissistic, craving validation and love as a mother – she picked Jesse to be put up for adoption simply because Wallace as a child in one moment told her that he loved her. Ever since then he has been a disappointment, causing her trouble and never quite living up to her expectations. After Jesse unsealed his adoption records he contacted her, and they hatched a plan to kill Wallace.

A tense stand-off in the church ensues as mother and sons are united; however Carla’s original plan backfires as Jesse turns of her and Wallace in turn aims his gun at Jesse. There’s a struggle and one of the twins is killed as the team enter. It seems Jesse has come out unscathed, but the team aren’t convinced and rather than wait for finger prints they try and tell by his behaviour. They soon ascertain it is in fact Wallace and you visually see the disappointment in Carla’s eyes as she is driven off in a police car over Wallace being alive.

Another case closed for the team and as it turns out Hotch no longer needs to make a decision regarding Strauss’ old job. His offer is revoked as it is believed he is better working with the team in the field, a happy occasion for all, although it would be interesting to hear what he would have said if the offer was still in play but I guess it may be something we never know.

Overall, a really interesting double episode season opener, the idea of twin psychopath killers is something I don’t think has ever been covered and it’s a great way to start the season.

“If you arrest my client again – lawsuit; if you harass him –lawsuit; if you follow him – lawsuit; if you sneeze in his general direction – lawsuit.” (Jesse’s lawyer, Criminal Minds, 9.2)

Criminal Minds- Season 8

Season 8 of Criminal Minds was always going to be an interesting year; with the departure of Paget Brewster, who played Emily Prentiss for 5 years and the introduction of a new character (Alex Blake played by Jeanne Tripplehorn), it was key that fans warmed to the new character and kept watching. With the help of some great standalone episodes, and an intriguing season arc with the unsub character of The Replicator.

Criminal Minds is very much like The Mentalist, in the sense that it’s a cop/detective show that has villain of the week episodes, but manages to get its viewers to invest in their characters a lot more than the CSI shows do, delving deeper into their pasts and personalities, and creating a family with its main cast. This season like past seasons, is no stranger to some characters facing difficult emotional situations, and I’ve picked out some of my personal highlights from this season.

The Fallen – After three victims are found burned beyond recognition, the BAU team, quickly decipher that the unsub is preying on homeless victims. Rossi becomes emotionally involved in this one as he discovers an old army friend living on the streets. This was one of the first few episodes to be aired, and although the other episodes were solid enough, this was the first memorable one for me.

The Wheels on the Bus – A bus full of students is kidnapped and although most of the students are found, the team soon discover that a group of them are missing, and are involved in a video game-style environment that resembles the rules of Battle Royale – kill or be killed. I thought this episode was great, I loved the concept and it was a solid episode.

Zugzwang – This is certainly my favourite episode of the season, I reviewed this when it first aired so click here if you wanna read more. This episode was truly heartbreaking. To see Reid finally get a love interest this season and see it quite traumatically snatched away was just a little depressing –I won’t be the first to admit I cried at the end.

All That Remains – We’ve got a couple of strands running in this episode that when it’s brought together, makes a brilliant episode; a father whose wife disappeared over a year ago, and now his daughter has disappeared in the same manner and he can’t remember anything. It soon turns out he’s got a problem with a split personality, and we have the added catalyst of a manipulative daughter who tries to frame her dad for the murders. We also get some extra J.J. back story, making the overall storyline rooted firmly within the story.

Broken – It’s not clear what this week’s unsub’s victim type is and why he targets who he does as two men are killed and then a female, leaving the team puzzled. However, when they realise the unsub is homosexual, but struggling to deal with his sexuality a twisted boys camp is revealed in the woods, which unfortunately could be quite real in America. It’s a memorable moment at the end of the episode when the team storm the camp, and find several boys trapped in a room, drugged, being forced to watch straight porn. Great episode and storyline.

Restoration – This brings the team back to Morgan’s hometown where he grew up to face an old adversary from his past – Carl Buford. When Criminal Minds first touched upon that storyline, it was an emotional and layered episode, and when it’s revisited in this episode it captivates you and certainly leaves you feeling for Morgan.

The season finale left me a little underwhelmed – the death of Erin Strauss (played by the brilliant Jayne Atkinson) was sad, particularly seeing Rossi fall to piece afterward, and Mark Hamill was a great villain, but the story felt a little rushed, particularly at the end. The producers have been tight-lipped as to whether The Replicator is actually dead or not, so the team may be revisiting this case when season 9 airs in September.

Criminal Minds will celebrate its 200th episode early on in the next season, and we’ve already been promised that we’ll delve into the psychology of Hotch and what the events of the series’ 100th episode, when George Foyet brutally murdered his estranged wife, have done to him. Producers have said that both actors who played Hayley, Hotch’s wife and Foyet have been invited back to film extra content in need be, so I’m extremely excited to see what that episode brings, particularly as the 100th episode blew me away when I watched it. We’ve also been told that this season, the team will go back to other unsolved cases from the past to possibly tie up any loose ends that fans may be wondering about. With all this being teased, I certainly can’t wait for my favourite team of FBI profilers to be back on my TV screens!

Garcia: I hope you saved me for dessert.
JJ: Morgan isn’t here, baby girl
(Brothers Hotchner)

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)