25.5.18

Criminal Minds 913: The Road Home

It's raining... somewhere... as a man writes a note while sitting in his truck. He tried to make something right, and failed, now he's asking for forgiveness. Then he goes to the glove compartment, grabs his pistol and - will he kill himself, or someone else? Well, the pistol has tape all over the handle, which might be intended to repel fingerprints, but who knows?

The man - you may recognize him as the reclusive nerd from Real Genius, or the other guy in Napoleon Dynamite, but to me he'll always be Broots from The Pretender - sees some kids in coasts walking to a gazebo to get out of the rain. Apparently he's in a public park?

The show cuts away before we see him decide to kill someone else instead of himself, and suddenly we're in Joe's office, as he stares at a gun lying on his desk. It's an old-timey semi-auto, and it came with a note. Maybe an old army buddy? I've got to stop making guesses about things that aren't related to the plot, and just watch the show.

Turns out Joe is worried because the gun is a gift from Mescach Taylor (his army buddy from the homeless burner episode) - it's a Vietnam-era army sidearm with custom-made handgrips designed to look like the Vietnam War Memorial! But how could a recently homeless fellow have afforded that? Did he liquidate all his assets and buy extravagant gifts for his friends prior to committing suicide? Joe has tried to get in touch, but Mescach has disappeared, not showing up to work or his at his housing unit! Greg tells Joe to fly out to LA and check on him.

Back at the park, the three youths start harassing the old men playing checkers in the gazebo, and when they flash their guns, Broots appears and shoots them to death! Two of them, anyhow - the third is smart enough to run away full speed.

It's time for the team to get involved! Although they really shouldn't, given the details of the case - he killed the two guys at the gazebo, and chased the third to a gas station a mile away and shot him. That really does sound like the kind of standard gang violence that the FBI is profoundly disinterested in. So they add another person getting shot at a bus stop a little while later to justify the team's interest. It's off to Cleveland!

Where Broots his back at his flop, pouring out his whiskey because he's found self-actualization through murdering scumbags! Just like that Death Wish movie! Then it's off to the gun store to buy boxes and boxes of bullets for his gun! Hopefully some extra magazines as well, because, you know, it's kind of awkward to ask the gang toughs to just hang out while you reload a clip.

What's he going to do with all that ammo? Let's find out after the opening credits!

19.5.18

Criminal Minds 912: The Black Queen

It's 2004, and we open in a interrogation room inside the San Diego field office of the FBI. There's gothed-out lady sitting at the table. We don't see her face right away, but it's obviously Penelope, right? This is when she got caught for hacking? I don't know why, but I guess I always assumed it had happened earlier. Had she really only been working with the team for a month or two when the first episode started?

Greg enters the room to chat with Penelope about her crimes, and they don't do a very good job of making either of them look a decade younger. That takes more expensive computers than are available to the people at Criminal Minds.

Greg immediately offers her a job because someone talented at hacking into pharmaceutical companies would naturally have the skills and temperament necessary to hunt serial killers. Preferring a job to jail, Penelope signs up. Then Derek comes in, and wow, did they not bother at all to try younging him down:

That's some preposterous facial hair for you to have had back in 2004, Derek. I know Shemar Moore wouldn't want to shave it and grow it back for continuity reasons, but wow, should he have been written up for looking unprofessional. On the other hand, it's nice to know that at some point in his life, he was capable of dressing like a professional!

In a super-cute scene, we then cut to Quantico in the present day, where they're having a sexual harassment seminar because of Penelope and Derek's incredibly unprofessional behaviour! Greg then pulls Garcia out of the meeting to go and visit the attorney general - I guess something from Garcia's days as 'The Black Queen' (of course she'd be a big X-Men fan) have come back to haunt her!

It seems that when Garcia was recruited, the team was also in town to arrest a super-hacker who also killed a bunch of sex workers! And now the Justice Department website has been hacked to demand justice for the guy! It seems that a bunch of online would-be sleuths have decided that he's innocent, and are making a fuss until the case is reopened. So the team is going to do just that!

Because they're known for giving in to the demands of extremists, I guess?

Let's find out after the credits!

4.5.18

Criminal Minds 911: Bully

Before I press start on the episode, let's just take a moment to notice that Criminal Minds reached the point where it can have an episode whose number is '911'. Will this be a emergency services-themed episode? Are the producers kicking themselves for not shifting 'The Caller' into this slot?

Let's get this thing rolling!

A man walks into a basement which is supposed to be dilapidated - we're shown dripping water and a rat, but there's an almost shocking level of organization displayed on the toolbox visible in one shot. Heck, the the screwdrivers have even been arranged symmetrically! It's a weird situation where the set dresser can't stop themselves from doing a good job of setting up a work bench, even if it shouldn't be that good looking.

Also there's dust cloths over things to protect them from the elements. This is not an ill-cared-for location.

The man opens up a huge chest in the middle of the floor, removing two chains with padlocks. He helps a woman stand up out of it, but just as he's about to start molesting her, he hears a creak on the floorboards above. So he chains her to a pipe so he can focus on the unexpected intruder.

Which, naturally, turns out to be the team, who are busting in and arresting him! Jeanne tries to talk him into dropping his gun because the woman he's hiding behind 'isn't his mother'. Apparently he'd been sending the team taunting letters about his crime?

Then, proving my long-standing point that they should have their fingers on the triggers during tense standoffs like this, the man has plenty of time to move the gun away from the woman's side, aim it at Jeanne, and pull the trigger before any of the FBI Agents get around to shooting him.

They say not to put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot, and their not being ready to shoot just almost got Jeanne killed.

Yes, Jeanne is fine. Just grazed in the arm. Think of how awful it would have been if we didn't have her around to... um... she was supposed to profile linguistics, right? That never really comes up, does it?

Outside, as the killer's body is carted away, Jeanne gets a phone call from her father! Something has happened! Is she going to be getting another character episode? We haven't had one of those since she decided not to quit the team even after her husband stopped being an MSF just to be closer to her!

On the plane, Garcia checks in on the tip Jeanne's father sent - a guy was stripped of his clothes, forced to put on women's underwear, and then beaten to death! Also, a year earlier two teens were beaten to death in an alley, without all the fetish nonsense. Could they be connected? The team is going to go to Kansas City to find out, even though Jeanne's dad isn't actually on the force any more!

While the plane is on the way, we cut over to the presumptive killer, a roided-out nutbag who works on his boxing skills while listening to speed metal! Because sure, why not.

20.4.18

Criminal Minds 910: The Caller

A woman is woken from her rest by a phone call. On the line is a child-like voice saying 'I'm gonna get you', It's obviously been happening a lot lately, so she hangs up the phone in anger. Her husband enters the bedroom, asking about the call. She says that it's frustrating that cops wouldn't investigate the calls. Would you have to investigate them? Couldn't you just check your call display? Also, making harassing phone calls is a crime, and there's no reason they wouldn't be able to file a police report, especially if this has been going on for some time.

The wife asks the husband to talk to the retired cop at his workplace and see if there's anything that can be done. Although I don't know what that would be, if they live in a place where cops won't charge people with crimes.

Anyway, the husband says it's not worth worrying about, and that the kid will get bored of calling. I don't doubt that the guy would be this much of a jerk about his wife's concerns, but it's still rough to watch. Also, maybe he made the call? He walked into the room immediately after it ended, so that's not impossible. Like how in Scream they wanted you to think Dewey might be the killer by having him be unreachable in his room while the killer was calling Sydney at Tatum's house.

The next day when the couple wakes up and preps breakfast, they're dealt two nasty surprises! 1: Their son is missing, and 2: their front door is covered in blood!
The only conclusion? Their son has been kidnapped by people who are very bad at reading the bible! It's the people with blood on their doors who don't lose their kids, dummies.

Moments after the discovery of the door, the child voice calls back to claim responsibility for the crime! The dad is standing right there, though, so obviously he's not the one making the calls.

We cut immediately to the briefing room, where Garcia is running down the case. Has she gotten a raise now that she does twice as much work? I certainly hope so.

They try to explain the police's non-response by saying that they had determined no laws had been broken. Which is just wrong. It's absolutely a crime to phone people and threaten them, even if you're just a child. The problem is that there's no way for the writers to get around this problem - for the story there need to have been a bunch of calls, but if the cops had looked into it they'd have either found out who the criminal was, or that they were using extreme measures to disguise the call's origin.

Of course, if the second was true, they'd have escalated the case, because a child wouldn't have the ability to mask a call, and an adult making these calls while pretending to be a child is immediately more threatening.

So the show just gives bad advice to the audience, telling them that if they're getting days worth of creepy and intimidating phone calls, there's nothing they can do about it.

Thanks, show.

Then we get an interesting reveal - Mandy dealt with a case just like this fifteen years ago! Creepy calls, abducted kid, the whole thing.

Joe and Greg then win a Prentiss Award for this exchange:

Um, if that's the case, you don't need to rush. He's already dead. Here's the timeline - the parents notice the child is missing, and call the police. The cops show up, talk to them, realize how serious the situation is, decide to call in the FBI. That goes through proper channels until it gets to Garcia, who approves the case, and calls the team together.

That whole process had to have taken at least two hours - especially since Garcia has had time to put together a visual presentation including a photo of the kid and the bloody door:
So even if, miraculously, the child was abducted one second before the parents woke up, it's still been more than two hours since the abduction, since the parents had to spend at least half an hour getting dressed and ready for the day.

Also, the team is now going to spend more than two hours on a plane heading for St. Louis, where this all happened. So yeah, if the killer is known for killing kids within two hours, you haven't got a prayer.

Then the show cuts to some footage of the investigation, for no reason that I can think of.

Credits!

13.4.18

Criminal Minds 909: Strange Fruit

A couple is in bed - still awake - when they hear some kind of a loud crash from outside! The man gets a gun from the nightstand and tells the woman to stay in bed. Which is just a crazy thing to do. If you're together, then you know where the other one is, and there's less chance that one of you ends up shot because you forgot the other one. Also, you know, you can both help each other fight, so there's that.

He gets to the door and looks outside, then tells the lady to call the police... but why?

The show is teasing us pretty hard here, because it immediately cuts to the next day, where it turns out that it was just a broken water main. Which is absolutely worth calling 911 about, but not in an alarmed tone. Seriously, before you told your wife to call 911, you'd say 'it was just a water main breaking, don't worry about it'. Unless you like tormenting her, I guess. This sets up what will presumably the real crime this week, since the city hydro people have to tear up the neighbour's yard, but the neighbours haven't been seen in a little while...

Buried in the yard? Dead in the house? What will it be?

More sneakiness with JJ and Esai - she wants to tell people that the two of them are on a special assignment, which is why they keep sneaking off for chats, so that people will stop thinking they're having an affair. I predicted we wouldn't find out their backstory until at least episode 15, but maybe they're speeding things along!

Confusingly, JJ and Garcia meet Joe coming off the elevator. Garcia chides him for not reading his text messages better - the crime scene is just five miles away! But, wait... it's a work day, isn't it? I mean, JJ and Esai were already there having a meeting, so it's not the morning - there has to have been time for the water guys to find something in the neighbours' yard or house, and by the time they started looking it was already broad daylight... did Joe just not bother coming in to work today?

It seems that there were two bodies buried in the back yard of the house - well, skeletons, really - and there's no initial clue as to how long they've been there! So the couple who's been in the house for 35 years might be on the hook, or might be in the clear!

More importantly, though, why are six FBI agents hanging around in a back yard? This is two very old skeletons. It might not even be murder, let along serial murder. This is the definition of a local matter. If they'd found three or more bodies, that would be one thing, but this is just weird.

It's like there's a sub-theme this year about how half the cases don't seem like something the team should have been called in on. Between the parental kidnapping, the killed mass shooter, and now two skeletons in a yard, that's a third of the episodes so far this year where it absolutely strains credulity that the FBI would be involved at the stage the team shows up.

In what has to be the most confusing phrasing I've heard in ages, we're told that the Johnsons have lived in the house for 35 years, Mrs. Johnson is currently home, and 'The husband and son work at the father's construction company, they're on their way home now'.

Wait... is that the husband's father, so the grandfather? Or is the husband also the father in that sentence? If so, why would you change how you referred to him halfway through the sentence? Also, irrespective of who the owner is, why not just say 'the family construction business'? Why do you have to make everything so difficult, writers?

Anyhow, when the son hears about the dead bodies, he runs off down the street, but Greg catches him really easily. Oddly, he had to walk away from a truck that he had the keys for to flee on foot. Why not just get back in and drive away?

I'd say we'll find out after the credits, but we absolutely won't.

6.4.18

Criminal Minds 908: The Return

It's night, it's Chicago, it's a diner - are people about to be mass murdered? Hopefully not, since a little girl with a teddy bear just entered along with a woman who we'll assume she has some familial relationship to.

While the mother and daughter try to decide on a pie, the waitress pours coffee for a brooding man by the window, who does little more than stare at his middle-of-the-night breakfast plate. Is it just a coincidence that another man enters and takes a seat from which he can watch hoodie man?

Maybe it is, because the new man is a cop, and the hoodie guy gets super-nervous when he hears the waitress reveal that information! So nervous, in fact, that he starts shooting the place up!

Yeah, it's not often a crime show starts in a diner without the place getting shot up.

Chicago containing the scene of the crime means we'll be getting a lot of Derek this week, so it's right over to him, waking up at his girlfriend's place! She's headed in to work for a doctor emergency, leaving him to walk her dog! They're a cute couple.

Then he gets a text from Penelope saying that they have a prefile meeting in thirty minutes. Which is just crazy, because it's 2AM. She didn't even call, yet she expects him to be up and looking at his phone? Maybe she would have called if he didn't immediately text back, but it's a weird assumption to make, thinking that someone who works a 9-6 job is going to be awake at 2AM.

Also, he's got to shower, get dressed, and drive onto a military base. That's probably going to take more than an hour. Why does the show keep pretending that these cases are important enough to wake them up in the middle of the night? It's a mass shooting - yes, it's important, but what are they going to accomplish at six in the morning that they can't accomplish at noon?

One last point - if it's such a vital thing that they've got to get on top of it immediately, why are they going into the office at all? Why aren't they meeting on the plane? They've got a three-hour flight waiting for them, can't they get the briefing there?

On the way into the office, Derek complains that his lady rushed in to work in the middle of the night, and Penelope points out that it's a hilarious thing for him to complain about, given that he's at work at 2:30AM. It really is, and it kind of makes him look like an idiot or a jerk for not realizing it himself.

Here's the twist: The killer is already dead! The cop shot him moments after he shot the waitress, so he wasn't able to kill everyone! Why is the team being brought in? Because the killer was a 16-year-old who'd been missing for four years, and security cameras caught someone dropping him off at the diner just before the shooting! Could it have been an assignment from the creepy cult leader who abducted him?

Probably, given the show we're watching, but it's a weird leap to make, and doesn't seem high-profile enough to warrant a middle-of-the-night wake up. Think about it - as far as the cops are concerned, there is not a killer on the loose. There's a dead mass shooter on the floor of a diner. Yes, they have footage of someone dropping him off, but who knows what that's about? Maybe it's a friend giving him a ride who didn't know about the crime. Absolutely you should want to talk to him, but given the facts in evidence, is this something you'd want to bother the FBI with?

Now, if the camera had picked up the guy handing the kid the gun, then yes, you'd know he had a partner in crime, and that he was probably following orders, and a massive threat was still out there. But they don't have that.

These are the kinds of problems you can solve at the script stage, people. Your show doesn't have to be this bad.

We then cut to Chicago, where the mother and child are being interviewed by the press. Watching them from the crowd is... A black guy in a hoodie!

Are we supposed to be terrified? I mean, I guess it's probably the driver of the car, but since the cops already know that the driver is a black guy in a hoodie, shouldn't they be singling this guy out to ask some questions of? Really stupid for him to hang around the scene of the crime just now, isn't it?

Maybe they'll have caught him by the time we get back from the credits!

30.3.18

Criminal Minds 907: Gatekeeper

It's early in the morning, and a guy is woken up by his alarm! This upsets his bedmate, who is not on a London-based work schedule the way he is. They make plans to see each other again soon, and notably, there's an open window next to the woman's ground-floor bedroom. Who does this? There's not even a screen on it to keep bugs out.

That's a misdirect, of course, because as the guy is walking away, calling his friend to talk about the nice girl he met, he's strangled by the stalker who was watching him leave the building! The killer steals the guy's wallet, takes some photos, and we're out!

And over to a karaoke bar, where 'As Time Goes By' is being sung. Joe and Reid are talking about how this is the bar where Joe met his wife. It's a charming little story about how his wife, who presumably worked at the bar, would constantly write letters to the Beatles to encourage them to come to this tiny dive, and then Ringo eventually did! It's cute and all, but did the producers really think the fans needed an explanation for why Joe had a picture with Ringo Starr in his office in the season-ender? Because they profoundly didn't - Joe's a famous author, it's not crazy that he would meet other famous people at events.

They get a call to come in to work - in the middle of the night, on their day off. Was the dead guy the governor's son or something? Then Joe finds out that his bar is closing, because other bars nearby had siphoned away all the marine traffic! Damn them!

We get the introduction, and discover that three men were killed over some kind of recent time period (they don't specify), but the stolen wallets had nothing to do with robbery, they think, because the killer didn't try to charge anything to their credit cards! Their preliminary pre-file then just gets into some serious nonsense, announcing that it's significant that the killer was well-planned enough to be lying in wait for a victim, but not smart enough to deal with him being on the phone.

Except they have no idea that he was lying in wait. He could have passed the guy on the street, taken out his garrotte, and strangled him, then pulled him into some nearby bushes. Also, how would he have 'adapted' to the phone call? Waited until the guy wasn't talking any more? Used a ruse to get him to hang up? They have no reason to believe that he cared about being heard killing the guy, so why would he? They also assume that he's 'mission-oriented' and has to kill the victims, rather than wanting to. Again, all of this is based on nothing more than three dead guys who were strangled while walking alone at night.

Then it's time to overthink stealing the wallets - is he stripping the men of identity, because he feels he doesn't have one himself? Is he desperate for recognition? They certainly think so, but can't explain why that would matter to the investigation!

Then it's over to the killer, who's making a murder scrapbook while 'itsy bitsy spider' plays on the soundtrack, because someone told the producers that children singing nursery rhymes over awful imagery was effective. Significantly, the killer has stalker scrapbooks of his victims, revealing that they weren't random at all! And the next two pages have some guy with shaggy hair and then a pregnant woman!

But how is he selecting his victims, and why?

I suppose we'll find out after the credits!

23.3.18

Criminal Minds 906: In The Blood

As the episode begins, a modern-day Sisyphus is carrying a boulder up a mountain so that he can add it to the pile. What's under the pile? A woman begging for her life, of course! This is an episode of Criminal Minds, after all. I'd wonder if he considered himself a modern-day witch hunter pressing an evil woman to death with stones, but then he just smashes her head with a rock, so no, I guess not.

Naturally, it's time for a comedy scene, because why wouldn't you follow a woman getting her head smashed in while she begged for her life with some light wackiness? The scene concerns Garcia prepping a Day of the Dead party, and finding out that no one takes her seriously enough to find her attempts to be scary very frightening. More importantly, though, why is she trying to make a Day of the Dead party scary? It's not Halloween.

Then, Reid does his Dirty Harry impression, which involves a man with a supposedly perfect memory botching one of the most famous quotes in film history:

Seriously, who got this wrong? The writer? The actor? The character?

Greg's back from the hospital in time for a rundown! They throw out some random guesses based on the fact that the woman was extensively tortured, and wearing a ceremonial robe. Joe thinks that the stone cairn over the body looks like a tomb, but that's only because no one working on the show knows the word 'cairn'.

They ask how Greg convinced the brass to fly them all out for a single murder. Dudes, last week you traveled cross-country for parental kidnapping. You guys do whatever you want, basically.

Then it's over to the killer's hideout, and I guess I was wrong to dismiss the witchcraft angle, because the dude's got an evil book stand with pentagrams hanging off of it, and a roaring fire going in the fireplace, even though it's morning. The killer tosses his victim's clothes into the fire, and then whips himself severely. So maybe it is a witchfinder general. This is the Halloween episode, after all!

Let's find out after the credits!

16.3.18

Criminal Minds 905: Route 66

The episode opens with two teens making out in a classic car parked out in a field. Because it's the past? Seriously, can't they find someplace better for this? Or is it a fetish? We haven't seen a lover's lane murder since those '60s cosplayers got killed at the start of the Leopold and Loeb Zodiac tribute episode, or if we have, I don't remember. Let's see how this goes for them!

The boy gets a little fresh, and the girl starts screaming - luckily her father is there to immediately smash the guy up with a crowbar! Like, really immediately. As if he'd been hanging out five feet away, waiting for screaming to start. Otherwise his arrival was an incredible coincidence.

Over at the office, Greg is napping on his couch, a file in hand. You work too much, Greg. He phones home to tell 'Jessica' that he'll be there soon. So I guess that's his nanny? Because his girlfirend lives in New York still, right? Also I don't remember her name.

Then he gets a plot-convenient amber alert through an app on his phone-

The girl from the beginning is missing! In Kansas. I don't know how Amber Alerts work, since we don't have them where I live, but don't apps like that normally curate the alerts to where you are? Why is he getting an alert from halfway across the country? If he was browsing facebook and a friend of a friend posted it, that would make sense, but this seems strange.

Then the camera pans down to show off his jacket and nametag, as if they're introducing this character for the first time-

That's just odd. Also Greg calls home to say that he's pulling an all-nighter. Maybe he knows this girl, and you can set up an app to prioritize the kidnapping of people you know, whereever they live?

Greg brings everyone in for a chat about the crime, and they're understandably confused about why they're working a parental abduction case. So am I. Greg offers that because the father is an ex-con and he beat the boyfriend nearly to death it's worth looking into, but this is so profoundly not their kind of case that I'm still not clear why he even heard about it. I checked the Amber Alert statistics, and it seems to generally be a statewide thing, rather than a national one. Also in 2013, when this episode is set, there were nearly 200 Amber Alerts does Greg personally look into all of them?

Oh, then Greg faints. Is he working too hard, or is something else going on?

Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!

12.3.18

Criminal Minds 904: To Bear Witness

The episode opens in a garbage and broken-glass strewn hallway where a man in bare feet stumbles along, almost stepping on a rat as he presses himself against the wall. He squints his eyes against a relatively moderate amount of light from the overhead bulbs, so perhaps he's been drugged? He chases a mysterious figure out of the building into the blinding light of day, yelling at the person to stop!

The figure doesn't listen, though, driving off in a van while the stumbling man yells after him. Then a garbage truck arrives, and the stumbling man begs for help catching the van driver before he gets away! Intriguing!

Then it's over to JJ, who's jogging in the park with Esai Morales, who mentions that they have things to discuss. Is he the new boss who's been hinted at for a couple of weeks now? Why else would the old lieutenant from NYPD Blue suddenly be on Criminal Minds?

Over at home base, Reid and Jeanne are doing crossword puzzles to prove how smart they are, and Reid thinks it might be possible to do one without looking at the clues. Which is, of course, the stupidest thing that anyone could ever say, because of course you could - it's called creating a crossword. As someone who does a crossword puzzle or two every day, I'm quite aware that in a standard 15x15 grid, there's only so many ways that the black spaces can be arranged while maintaining the standard letter length and overall number of clues. Any number of crossword puzzles can be built in a normal puzzle grid - without the specific clues, you'd just be building a pattern of interlocking words, with no way of knowing whether it was what the puzzle author intended, making it almost impossible to be right. This is only not the Prentiss Award because it has nothing to do with the case.

Wow, I guess I take this 'crossword as shorthand for smart' thing kind of seriously, don't I?

Joe then asks the standard question 'do you really do those in pen?' which is supposed to be a 'smart person' thing, but I've never really understood it. In this day and age, who has a pencil?

Time for the rundown! The opening incident happened in Baltimore, and involed the stumbling guy having a dual lobotomy! The team talks a little about the history of the procedure, and how it was used to 'cure' people of mental disorders. The guy has a neat little spike hole next to each eye, so the lobotomy was probably done with one of those old-fashioned spike and hammer kits! Which... ugh.

Esai then arrives and introduces himself. JJ pretends not to know him already, so there's a story there, and he invites himself along to work the case with them as a way for everyone to get to know each other! Weird move, since going on a case got the last person who had this job killed, but whatever, it's his life.

JJ stops to chat with Esai after everyone else has left, asking why he didn't warn her he was the new boss! Esai claims that he only found out after arriving at work that very day, which seems hugely preposterous, since this is a fairly major reassignment, and after they decided they weren't giving the job to Greg two weeks ago, they doubtless would have talked to candidates. But why is he lying to JJ?

We then drop by the hospital to check in with the lobotomized man, who's apparently suffering from locked-in syndrome! He tries to talk to the doctors, but doesn't realize that he isn't saying anything!

A horrific image to leave us with before the credits, show!

2.3.18

Criminal Minds 903: Final Shot

The episode opens in a business park at lunch, where a huge crowd of people are milling about. Considering how expensive that is to stage, and the title of the episode, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that there's about to be a mass shooting of some kind. Another sniper? That would be the show's third, if you don't count mercenaries!

A blonde lady walks over to ask a cute co-worker to lunch, then is shocked when he gets sniped! The sniping then begins in earnest, with people running and screaming and, in some cases, falling to the ground, badly injured or killed. Blonde lady survives, though, by hiding behind a garbage can! Good for her.

The killer, who's pretending to be a painter in an under-renovation office across the street, quickly disassembles his sniper rifle and dumps the pieces into a paint can. He's also wearing a ski mask, for reasons that elude me.

Seriously, the gloves make sense to me, because he wants to leave no evidence, but the face mask would be uncomfortable in the warm September in Dallas weather, making him sweat and risk leaving more DNA at the crime scene. I could see wearing a knit cap or something to guard against losing hairs, but the ski mask is just a terrible choice. It's not like there's a risk of someone seeing him while he's shooting. He stuck a rifle out a window and fired for ten seconds, then fled. No one was watching the rifle barrel.

Over at Quantico, the team rushes out of the office to respond to the mass shooting, while name-checking a bunch of real-world terrorist attacks that happened in recent months, which seems a little distasteful, actually. Greg tries to remind everyone to keep every possibility on the table, but it's clear that the rest of the team is going in assuming that it's an act of 'domestic terrorism'. Which is always a weird phrase to me, as if it makes a huge difference whether a terrorist is from the country they're attacking. Yes, knowing motivation can help you solve a crime, but do we really need a separate word for if an American fires into a crowd of Americans people than if a Libyan does?

Then we get a recap of things we already know, as footage plays of the crime scene investigation while news broadcasters question whether it was the act of domestic terrorism, or the work of a lone madman. As if those things are mutually exclusive.

Then it's time for the credits, which seems a little quick, since we're just three minutes into the episode, but sure, let's get this party started!

27.2.18

Criminal Minds 902: The Inspired

After last week started off the season with one of the most terrible and unpleasant episodes in the show's history, let's see if they can top it post-twin reveal!

The show opens with the twin being let out of jail, and the twin's lawyer announcing that he's going to sue the department. For what, exactly? And why is he being let out? He led the police on a high-speed car chase, endangering lives, and then lied to them by not telling the police his name while he was being booked.

There's a ridiculous bit of the lawyer's speech where he says that 'profiling doesn't work, and this proves it', as if his guy was arrested because of a behaviour profile, and not, you know, because he's the identical twin of a serial killer who just shot a guy after taking a room full of women hostage and forcing them to eat rotting human flesh.

Jeanne, in the SUV with Joe, ponders what the odds are that there would be identical twins. I feel it's like... one in a couple hundred live births? Something like that? Twins aren't actually that uncommon. Now if these guys are completely unrelated yet live in the same city, then those would be some longer odds. And since we find out that the have different last names, maybe that's what they're going with! Although separated at birth is more likely.

According to Reid, the odds of twins are 3.5/1000, and Wikipedia says 4/1000, so my 5/1000 guess wasn't really that far off!

The team gets to the station, and the cop explains that because the twin is a paralegal, they had a whole firm itching to bust him loose. Which seems plausible, although the high-speed car chase and lying to cops seems like it would be a hard thing to get kicked.

Garcia explains the backstory - the twins were separated at 3, and a few years ago the twin got his adoption records unsealed, and found out about the existence of his brother - but there's no evidence that they're in contact! Well, given the fact that he apparently knew that his brother was a serial killer, motivating him to lead the cops on a chase and then lie to them, I feel like Garcia's probably missed something.

Wow, the scene with the twin's lawyer is dumb. Greg asks him - quite logically - if it's a coincidence that he was arrested right when they were looking for his brother, and the lawyer responds that the twin was working the night shift when the murders were happening.

Which is so... just yikes. Not only is that not an answer to the question that was asked, it doesn't his accuse his speeding, reckless driving, and lying to police!

Things get so much dumber in the next scene, as Camryn Manheim arrives at her home, and the killer rushes from his car across the street, so he can confront her about the twin brother he's only now finding out he has!

That's right - the entire city of Glendale, AZ is hunting a spree killer who's armed and dangerous, yet that killer was able to park - in the vehicle that is registered to him - across the street from his mother's house without being immediately caught. Is everyone in this world an idiot?

Seriously, show people, at least have Camryn get home and find the killer waiting inside, so we can imagine that he parked a mile away and walked over while wearing a hoodie or something. God. It's like the producers of this show not only want to do stupid things, it's important to them that they do them in the stupidest way possible.

Then it turns out there's a reason for the god-awful writing - before the killer can get to the house, though, the twin looms out of the darkness and clubs his brother over the head!

This should have an intriguing explanation... after the credits!

16.2.18

Criminal Minds 901: The Inspiration

And we're back for season nine! The episode opens with Derek and JJ involved in a high-speed chase, which is basically the opposite of their jobs, but whatever, it's the first episode of the season - old writers leave, new writers join, some of whom probably used to work at NCIS, so I'll try to give them a break. I wonder if this 'In Medis Res' stuff means we're going to be jumping back in time to find out how this crazy situation got started?

Derek finally uses a pursuit interruption technique to stop the sedan they're chasing, but they wind up in the middle of the road - with a huge truck bearing down on the passenger side of the SUV! Is JJ about to be killed?

I guess we'll find out in two days, because yeah, they jumped back in time.

A couple are hanging out in their apartment, annoyed that their upstairs neighbour seems to be hammering well into the night. Of course, it's not hammering at all, but rather a tied-up woman kicking the floor, desperately trying to call for help! Dark!

The annoyed lady heads upstairs to yell at her inconsiderate neighbour, but before she can realize there's a kidnapped woman inside, the killer shows up in the hallway behind her!



I feel like that's the guy from the Mentalist who pretended to be mentally disabled so he could get away with crimes, but I'll have to check to be sure.

The killer assures the neighbour that it's just his annoying roommate, and offers to put a stop to the noise. So yeah, no last-minute rescues here, I guess.

Then it's over to Quantico, where everyone is complaining about their plans for the weekend being interrupted by a call into work! Hey, who's running the place now that Erin's dead? Also, how did Reid manage to find an even more unprofessional haircut? I didn't think that was possible?



Also, get a semi-auto and wear it at your hip, you ridiculous poseur.

We get an answer about Erin presently - Greg's taken over all her duties on a temporary basis, and now he's been offered the job full-time! Which would mean leaving the show, so I guess that's not happening.

The case rundown begins, and Greg and Derek start off the night with some truly terrible analysis, pointing out that the brutal rape and murder can't possibly be about robbery, since the victims' jewelry was left on their bodies.

Um... Is it ever about robbery? Has it been about robbery once? If it was about robbery, would they have called in the FBI in the middle of the night, idiot? Even the time you were chasing bank robbers it wasn't about robbery, it was a sick sex game between two serial killers who robbed banks and killed people to get aroused. Do you even watch your own show?

Also, why are they here in the middle of the night? Yes, there have been two bodies in the last three days, because every killer is a spree killer (hereafter EKIASK - I'm starting season nine with a dedication to streamlining things!), but that's the case every single week. Has the killer kidnapped a senator's daughter or something? Could this not wait until Monday? Or at least Saturday morning? What is gained by asking their pilot to fly across the country to Arizona on zero sleep?

Instead of explaining why this case was so important, they just all head for the plane! Which seems really, really odd.

Then we move back to the killer, who's leading the woman into a park for his execution ritual. I've got a question about this - was that his apartment, or hers? The woman from downstairs didn't really seem to recognize him, but that means nothing, they live on different floors. If it was her apartment, why did he leave to go get tools? Shouldn't he have had them with him when he broke in? Also, what tools was he going to get - he brandished a cleaver, but his thing is raping women, then leading them to a park, having them kneel on a cross, and shoot them in the heart. What was the cleaver for?

But if it was his apartment, has he done this to all the women? Isn't it incredibly risky to bring a victim back to your home, where you'll have to walk her up a staircase, past dozens of potential witnesses? I'm so baffled by this. Hopefully explanations are coming soon.

Then the killer shoots his newest victim, and we cut to the credits!

28.1.18

Criminal Minds - Season 8 Recap!

What a year, huh? You wouldn't think that the Criminal Minds producers would be able to make a worse season of television than Season 7, but somehow they pulled it off!

Well, I say 'somehow', obviously we know how they did it - with a tireless dedication to only using the most contrived storytelling devices and most idiotic plot twists imaginable. Also, sometimes the team didn't actually solve the case. Not only were there two zeros this year, but they were just two episodes apart!

On the bright side, the episode featured two different Matthew Gray Gubler-directed episodes, and even though one of them was pretty mediocre (cough Alchemy cough), the Brad Dourif episode, while terribly scripted, made me once again long for the day he'll be free from this show and able to direct television and movies full-time, since that's where both his true talent and obvious passion lies.

What a season for terrible episodes, though. Because my reviews were written over so many years, I lost track of just how bizarrely dire this season was. Is it really possible that the worst possible version of 'Strangers on a Train' existed in the same season as a teenage girl came up with the worst multiple-murder plot in the history of fiction? That the absurd idea of people making a terrible video game real happened the same year as the serial killer who they let go on murdering nannies because they couldn't be bothered to do follow-up interviews with a traumatized victim?

This is the season that saw the return of Greg's brother Hotch, which was nice, but then the episode ended with him being carted off to jail for no reason that I can think of. Meanwhile, two different times this year team members killed people, either by putting out a hit on them the way Derek did, or by straight-up murdering them the way Joe did. This is the kind of behaviour that got Elle kicked off the team, but no one has a problem with it because the other team members actually like Joe and Derek?

I mean, hell, I like Joe and Derek too, but I'm not giving them a pass for murdering people.

So, let's take a look at the numbers!

Season 8 of Criminal Minds had 24 episodes, leading to a possible score of 240. Their total profiling score was 47/240, or 19%.

So, from the raw data, this was technically a slightly better showing for psychology than the previous year, but from a writing standpoint, this is the series' low point! I don't know that I mentioned this enough when it was happening, but can we all just take a moment and reflect that this season had two different multi-episode arcs about people stalking the team. They did two stalker storylines the same year. That's just crazy.

And... one last time - it took them literally the entire season to notice that the Copycat only started copycatting their crimes the week after Jeanne joined the team, meaning that he was focused on her. How are they this bad at their jobs?

See you back here next week for Season 9 - episode one! Will it be an improvement over the season ender of Season 8? It would be kind of difficult not to, don't you think?

20.1.18

Criminal Minds 824: The Replicator

 The episode picks up just where the last one left off, offering us the fate of Erin! It's dumb! Instead of one of the more visually interesting crimes from earlier in the season, Mark just gave her an overdose of MDMA, or possibly the super-poisonous PMMA, although I'm not sure where he would have gotten that.

While she wanders down the street in a daze, Mark walks along with her, talking about how disappointing her life has been. God, Mark Hamill's a wonderful screen presence, isn't he? So glad to see him taunting people murderously - it's the role he was born to play!

Then we cut over to Derek and JJ - like a genius, she's calling Josh to warn him about Mark Hamill coming after them more directly (although they don't know about Erin yet - Joe called to check on her, but Mark didn't answer) - when Garcia calls to apologize for screwing up and getting people killed. Which she absolutely did.

Funny story - as Xander works on the computers, he points out that the kind of access Mark has can't be gained remotely. You have to be on a hardline - a physical cable leading into the FBI mainframe. And since they're assuming that he's not an FBI agent - which they absolutely should not be, but whatever - there's only one other place he could have gotten access: Penelope's apartment!

Yes, that's right, a random apartment outside of DC has a direct access terminal into the FBI mainframe, because sometimes Garcia likes to work from home. Your terrible security practices just got people killed, Penelope. You should feel so much worse than Greg's brother Hotch did last week. Seriously, retire and let Xander take over your job. He's obviously more reliable.

Wouldn't it be neat if the guy Xander was jealous of had been paid by Mark to get access to the computer? That's probably not it, but it would have been a nice multi-stage reveal, with different episodes setting up that she could work from home and that she was still comfortable inviting strange men without security clearance into her apartment.

While Reid and Greg head over to grab Jeanne from her hotel, Joe rushes to Erin's place - why were they not all staying in the same hotel? Does the Bureau not get a bulk rate somewhere when agents have to stay in town? He finds that her room has been tossed, and sees suspicious mini liquor bottles lying all over the floor! Greg runs into the room, and asks if she could have wandered off, drunk. Which is the last thing you'd think when a serial killer just sent you a text message saying he was back. But whatever, Joe needs to explain that she's doing well, I guess.

Okay, Mark Hamill just became my favorite guest star ever. Why? Because when he calls Greg from Erin's phone, his first question is whether people get confused by one character being named Erin, and another being named Aaron. Yes, Mark, it absolutely does, and the writers should be ashamed of themselves for giving two different characters the same-sounding name. He then explains that he's calling because Erin's almost dead, and points out that this is just like that whole Reaper situation, where he failed to save his wife's life. The big difference being that Erin's dying because she didn't put a security chain or bolt on her door, and Greg's wife died because, upon hearing the Reaper was coming for her, obeyed an insane instruction to go to her home, rather than just driving to the nearest police station or federal building.

Up on the roof, Joe and Derek find no evidence, and wonder why Mark left the window open, unless he wanted them to find something. It turns out that the something he wanted them to find was Erin, who's by the bench just a block down the street. I'm not sure why they had to come up to the roof to find her. Just sending people running down the street in both directions would have gotten the job done in a fraction of the time.

Hilariously, this immediately proves true, since by the time Joe takes out his phone to report on Erin's whereabouts, Greg is already calling him to announce that he's found Erin. Also to ask him to call an ambulance. Great idea, but maybe you could have just called the ambulance yourself, and informed Joe later?

Erin has some news to report! Mark threatened her family, said he'd be 'racing them home', and forced her to get super-drunk at gunpoint. What about the PMMA? Did he spike one of the mini-bar bottles? Then Greg hugs her and she dies, without any of the blood from the eyes, and just a tiny bit coming out of her nose. Not a great copycatting, there, Mark.

Credits!