19.3.10

Criminal Minds 211: Sex, Birth, Death

Time for Fincher-Vision here at Criminal Minds. What do I mean by that? Well, take a look at this quick vid-



Yup. It’s the song from the end of Fight Club, playing over random scenes of sin and a guy typing in a diary that cribs from John Doe’s journals in Seven.

Well, it’s the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Anyhoo, right as the montage ends there’s an actual attack on a prostitute, who’s stabbed to death, then has some hair harvested by a black-clad madman.

Perhaps coincidentally a high school student stops Reid on the way to work and asks him about his work as a profiler, while being excessively creepy. He crosses the creepiness threshold when asking about the way serial killers constantly target prostitutes, then mentions the specifics of the murder that just happened.

This is actually a common myth that I think it’s important to address here – the line that the teen asks about whores: “Is it for sex, or is it because they think they’re dirty and they need to be punished?”

These are popular beliefs about the whole serial killers targeting whores thing – and they’re completely wrong. Not to say that there aren’t a few serial killers out there who have those kinds of religio-sexual hangups, but they’re not the majority, and they’re not why prostitutes are the number 1 target of serial killers. You know the real reason?

Because a prostitute is a person who will go with you to a secondary location. That’s it.

Serial killers want to kill people. And they don’t want to go to jail for doing it. That means they have to kill in private. A person you know will go somewhere private with you, but when they turn up dead, you might be a suspect. A person you don’t know can’t be connected to you, but will likely not go somewhere private with you, so it’s hard to kill them.

A prostitute is a person who you don’t know who will go somewhere private with you. They fulfill both criteria on the serial killer’s checklist, and they’re the only large group of people to do so.

Anyhoo, back to the show. Reid goes into the office and tells people about the creepy kid, calling the police to confirm the victim MO, and handing out a sketch.

Well, at least there’s something Reid’s not good at…

Back from the commercials and it’s time to go hunting for a high school student! Who, if you didn’t recognize him, is the guy who’s now playing Chekov!

But is he the killer? It’s possible, given the message he left on the last body-

Yikes, right? It seems that the murders are being committed in the early mornings, when prostitutes are heading out to service politicians on their way to work. The whores recognize the hilarious sketch of Chekov, and say he seemed harmless enough when they saw him on the street.

Meanwhile Greg’s got some problems of his own – a local congresswoman wants him to hush up the serial killer angle, at least until she announces that her new anti-crime bill has been a huge success on Friday. An announcement that might be undercut by the story of a serial killer cutting up prostitutes working the alleys behind high-end hotels. The congresswoman also spells out her offer to help Greg’s career if he keeps the thing quiet, or ankle him if he goes public. Just so we’ll know she’s not a good guy. And then we discover she’s pals with Emily! What could that mean?

Over in the computer room Reid and Garcia go through local online yearbooks until they find out Chekov’s real name, then head over to interview him. They confront him about the murders, and he claims that he doesn’t know who did it – he just wants to kill whores, and likes writing stories about doing so. How did he know the details? He follows prostitutes around, fantasizing about killing them, and happened across the body one day during his rounds.

Mom doesn’t believe he could possibly be a killer (neither do I, BTW), but drops the hint that he’s been neglected since his dad died, and that she’s a busy doctor who doesn’t have enough time for him. Which, I guess, is what’s turned him into the kind of kid who’s willing to freely admit to wanting to kill hookers, and talks about being aroused when he saw a mutilated body.

The team isn’t convinced one way or the other – he seems sincere, but as Morgan points out ‘part of the sadist’s profile is the ability to mimic sincerity’. Which would be totally useful information, except for the fact that they generally mimic sincerity while attempting to avoid capture, not making admissions to the police that will lead to them winding up in a mental institution.

The kid is led away for a psych consult, and then the team tries to work up a profile. All signs point to Chekov, but they decide to stretch the net out a little. They assume he’s impotent because of the stabbing, and that he’s killing women for the rush of power it gives him.

He’s also accelerating, because the very next morning he’s killed one of the whores that the team talked to the previous day!

This episode isn’t too concerned with that case, though, so we head back to Mandy’s interview with Chekov. They go through the standard serial killer checklist, and he admits that he once killed a bird, and that the first time he saw a naked woman it was a cadaver from his mother’s medical classroom. Also, amping up the ick factor way above what ought to be on television at 9PM, he says that he’ll often have an orgasm just from imagining all the ways that he’ll kill women when he gets the chance.

Yikes.

Mandy, quite sensibly, recommends to Mom that Chekov needs to be in an asylum until he learns to control his urges. Mom thinks that an sticking him in an institution will convince him that he’s a monster, rather than helping, and refuses.

Greg finally gets around to questioning Emily about her pal, the Congresswoman. Emily admits that her family is deep into politics, but claims that she’s not involved with that sort of thing. Greg’s not convinced, given how suspicious her arrival on the team was.

Not sending Chekov to the asylum turns out to have been a bad play: he runs away from home, and while searching his room, Mom turns up a lingerie magazine that he’s made some… alterations to.

Oh Chekov, you ticking time bomb, you.

Reid and Morgan hit the road and go looking for Chekov. But while they’re out another murder is reported! Could Chekov have snapped? The murder happened at night, and without the rest of the MO, but then Chekov has an alibi – he was hiding out in a church. Nobody saw him there, though, so he’s got to be a suspect, at least technically speaking. He also lets Reid in on his line of thought – as long as he’s willing to kill himself, he can save people in the future!

They decide that Chekov can’t be the killer, and try to figure out why the killer might have left the latest body across the street from the capital building. It must be a statement against the anti-crime bill! Wait, why? Oh, because there’s only ten minutes left in the episode, and this is just the B plot, right.

Greg holds a press conference to stick it to the congresswoman, and JJ spouts some of the show’s patented ‘not how formal speech actually sounds’ writing, advising the prostitutes in Washington to “take caution”. Not take care, not take precautions. Take Caution. Ugh.

They make a list of people advocating the crime bill, then take the congresswoman to meet the whores, hoping that their descriptions of the creepy john would remind her of someone. She remembers a creepy guy running a place called ‘Decency Watch’, which couldn’t be more of a stereotypical ‘secret pervert’ organisation if it tried, could it?

The FBI rushes to his home, but he’s already gone out looking for a new victim. They tell the wife her husband’s a serial killer, and she lets them search his office. Which is really nice of her, if you think about it for a second. They head downtown to look for him, and it’s a race against the clock to catch him before he kills again. Of course, since this is a television show, they succeed.

Now it’s time to wrapup the show’s actual story, about Chekov’s love of murder. He heads over to visit Reid and chat about the serial killer that got caught. Chekov is scared of turning into the serial killer, and he asks to meet him. Then the episode kind of throws away all the goodwill that it had generated over the course of the episode in the span of a single god-damned speech.



Up until now this has been a really sensitively yet realistically-handled story about dealing with blooming psychopathy. But then Reid goes and spouts some new age-y nonsense about how people can change if they really want to. As if getting over only being aroused by mutilated corpses is no different than giving up chocolate as a New Year’s resolution. Which is already god-damn hard to do.

What’s so insulting about this speech is that it serves the exact opposite purpose that it’s supposed to – Reid knows full well that people like Chekov can’t control themselves. That’s why he has a job. Telling him that he can change gives Chekov the worst possible thing in this situation: false hope. That way, when the thoughts come back and he starts stalking prostitutes, his self-esteem will take a worse hit, because he’ll believe that had he just been a little stronger he wouldn’t be there, crouched in that alley, with a woman’s blood all over his hands.

The only responsible thing for Reid to do in this situation is to be honest with the kid about his chances (that years of therapy and oodles of medication are his only chance of living in society), and then driving him to an institution.

But he doesn’t do that. Instead he gives him some feel-good nonsense and lets the kid wander off on his own, based on the idea that he’s going into the asylum tomorrow, after a last night of freedom.

Because that’s what you do with an addict. You don’t take them to rehab immediately. You leave them on their own, out in a world full of temptation, knowing that they’ve only got a few hours left to experience their addiction before they have it taken away forever.

Yeah, that’s in no way a recipe for disaster.

So Chekov heads downtown and picks up a whore, then manages to work up the guts necessary to slit his own wrists before stabbing her. Unfortunately he gave the whore Reid’s number, giving Reid time to save his life.

I get that Reid felt responsible for the kid, and wants to protect him, but saving his life is such a profoundly bad-

Hey, wait a minute… is that the same motel where fake Christopher Wilder tried to drown that checkout girl?

I think it is! Or at least a really similar design… Yeah, I’m not going back to check.

Anyhoo, where were we?

Oh, right, Reid’s stupidity. The episode even ends with Reid wondering if he’s needlessly risked other people’s lives in the future. Mandy offers the pointless ‘profiles can be wrong’, and Reid wonders what he should do if Chekov kills someone in the future. Mandy’s solution? “Then you catch him.”

Ugh.

1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?

Seems like it was – but it was more magical than anything else. They made the leap from dead whores to ‘the guy must work in lobbying’ which is such a leap that it feels like the characters must have been reading the script.

2 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?

Actually, yes – a bunch of prostitutes had seen the killer, and remembered him as being incredibly creepy and violent – had they just interviewed them, it would have resulted in a capture much less painfully.

So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?

4/10 – I’m being generous this time because they actually used profiling, even if it was massively unrealistic. More importantly, though, right up until the ending the Chekov storyline was an example of stellar writing about psychologically damaged characters, elevated by Chekov and Reid’s strong performances in their parts.

Man, but what an ending, though. Reid ignores common sense and everything he’s learned just so we can get a shocking ending, and then he screws up again, and is comforted by the fact that, hey, if a few people get killed because he’s bad at his job, what does it matter? That’s the price you pay for living in a free society, right?

You know, if I left a known alcoholic alone in a running car full of open containers of vodka, and then he ran over somebody I’d be responsible for that death.

Just saying.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who the fuck is Greg? Do you mean Aaron? Aaron Hotchner..? For someone who's watched every episode and spills so much crap about it you might consider getting the names right...

Anonymous said...

Idiot. Read the first effing review where he explains why he's using the name Greg. Also, how young are you? I'd recommend a relaxing evening with 'Dharma and Greg' to work on those anger issues...