11.6.10

Criminal Minds 223: No Way Out Part 2: The Evilution of Frank

Well it’s about damn time we got back to this. Even if I have to put up with a terrible pun title, I just want this story to be resolved. Please just let it wrap up here and not present us with another cliffhanger, because I don’t know if I can deal with writing ‘Part 3’.

After a quick recap detailing the previous Frank episode we cut to Mandy on his night off, planning to buy flowers for a date that night with an ‘old college friend’ – he’s so nervous about it that I’m guessing he can’t be going to see his sometime girlfriend from the last season ender, who was presumably scared off by the whole ‘severed head in a box’ thing. And really, who could blame her?

The prospective date is interrupted when he gets a call from Greg, who lets Mandy know that the FBI is internally investigating the team, possibly because they want to disassemble it! Now there’s a cliffhanger. The date is even more interrupted when Mandy thinks he sees Crazy Lady across the street, but he assumes it’s just someone who looks like her. The date is then fully ruined by Frank who dials Mandy from his date’s phone – he’s looking for Crazy Lady, who he believes has come to Washington looking for Mandy. Man, this is going to be troublesome. After the credits.

Then we cut into the future, where Greg having a conversation with his superior at the FBI, so they can discuss the events of the plot in flashback form. Not my favorite story structure, but let’s try it anyway-

Greg and the team were called to Mandy’s apartment, where the following thing has happened:

Naturally the cops suspect Mandy, and he’s going to spend part of the episode on the run – it’s his own fault, really. After finding out that Frank was in his apartment he ran over there, gun drawn, instead of calling the police, so people called the cops on him, and he didn’t stick around to explain.

It’s also kind of his fault for telling Frank that he’d never stop chasing him, and then, you know, immediately stopping chasing him. He’s also negligent for not calling Greg to tell everyone that it was Frank’s doing, which means everyone else has to waste time playing catchup. They do manage to deduce Frank’s involvement, but decide not to let the local police in on that for nebulous, unimportant reasons.

Seriously, they worry that telling the cops that Frank is involved might somehow make Mandy a suspect, despite the fact that giving the cops the ID of the killer, of whom they have many good pictures, whould increase their chances of catching him a thousandfold.

Mandy calls in to Greg and offers to come in, but Greg thinks he’ll be more useful working on his files, profiling Frank.

Yes, because a profile is more useful than ten thousand cops canvassing a city while holding a picture of the killer.

They get a clue from Frank delivered to them by a kid on a skateboard – he tells them that either they deliver Jane to him, or he’s going to kill ‘Them All’. Who are the all? Good question… Has he kidnapped another busload of hostages?

No, it’s something far worse… he’s got a list from Mandy’s Murder Book, a list of everyone he’s ever preposterously rescued from a serial killer!

Wait, hold on a second… okay, first, I don’t know what Mandy’s writing in a personal leatherbound notebook, but that’s not a ‘murder book’. A murder book is the file on a given case from beginning to end, encapsulating everything the cops know about a crime. Like most people, I know about this from the book ‘Homicide’. And secondofly, why does he have a list of people he rescued? Isn’t that what those pictures on his office desk were for? Remember those, from the child molester episode in season 1?

Why would he also need to keep a book handy? And does this mean Josh Patel is in danger? No, not Josh!

Actually this seems like a pretty bone-headed move on Frank’s part, telling them who he’s going after. He could take the whole city hostage by just announcing that he’s going to kill a random person every hour until Crazy Lady is returned to him, but instead he’s given them a list of people he’s going to kill – people that the team knows the names and addresses of, and can have cops waiting there for Frank to arrive.

I get the irony of trying to take away Mandy’s successes as a personal attack, but there’s no way this can’t lead to Frank’s downfall.

Except that Greg announces that they’re going to call the people and warn them that a serial killer is coming, and not just send cops and feds to their houses to wait for the killer to inevitably show up.

Gee, I wonder how well that’s going to go?

In another callback Mandy decides not to do some research in a random hotel room, but rather the Smithsonian office of his bird-studying friend from the Van Der Beek episode. His plan? To catch Frank not by lying in wait at one of his targets, but by profiling him, so as to discover how Frank became a serial killer, which will necessarily tell them how to catch him.

Because the fact that he was an abused child with a genetic predisposition towards violence is going to be useful in figuring out what fleabag motel he flops in.

Hey, look, more callbacks, as the team brings out the photos from Mandy’s office, looking over the faces of the people he’s saved!

That’s the girl from the ‘The Collector’ themed episode in the back, and Chekov in the front. Although I’m not sure you can really say you ‘saved’ Chekov, what with him trying to kill himself and getting thrown in a mental institution. Who knows, though – in the picture he’s less creepily pale and he’s put on a few pounds, so maybe the kid turned his life around.

So they figure out who lives closest to Washington, and will therefore be Frank’s targets. Again, they decide to phone them rather than sending cops over. They’re too late to save girl from the ‘The Collector’ episode – Frank’s already at her place, pretending to be Mandy so he can have a conversation with her before the murder.

They attempt to make it really creepy by having Frank bring up the statistic that rape victims are more likely to be raped a second time in life than a random woman is to be raped a first time – he wonders why that might be while the girl doesn’t realize that he’s actually talking about her proclivity for being menaced by serial killers.

This statistic - that women who have previously been raped are seven times more likely to be raped a second time - is based on something of a logical fallacy: it's only able to count rapes that have been reported. With rape being the most underreported crime in America, it logically follows that someone who has already reported a rape would have little trouble reporting a subsequent crime, and someone who won't report a single attack would also fail to report any additional violations.

Even if you set aside the nonsense at the basis of Frank's argument, his point doesn’t make a lot of sense under its own merits – she was kidnapped by her crazy dad, and now she’s being targeted because she was rescued from that selfsame crazy dad. It's basically one crime stretched over eight months, not two different instances of serial killing happening to the same person.

She’s called by the FBI while Frank prepares a needle, but even when the team reveals that Frank is a twisted serial killer the girl doesn’t have time to save herself from being drugged. And now let me offer a picture confirming just how terrible the team is at their jobs:

Yup. They’re the ones that find the girl’s body. Look, I don’t care how close to the FBI building that girl lived, there was a cop closer to her house. The team had to get their guns from their desks, run down to the motor pool, put on vests, and drive to her house, basically guaranteeing that Frank has a chance to escape. How could that possibly be faster than just calling the local cops and getting them over there? In the previous scene they’d established that they’d gone public with Frank’s identity, so it’s not like the call wouldn’t be a priority.

Hell, if they’d sent cops over to the house instead of merely calling, Frank would be in custody now, and that girl would (probably) be alive.

Half-wits.

Adding insult to injury, Derek tells Greg not to blame himself, because ‘nothing could have stopped this’.

Nothing but common sense and the slightest bit of caution, that is.

On the body they find a note from Frank, indicating that he wants a meeting at the train station at 7AM to turn over Jane, who’s conveniently been picked up at just that moment by the police. They assume that Frank is going to kidnap a few more children, but they’re not sure how they can possibly protect a target they can’t identify.

Assuming that Frank will once again look for a child, the team finds the only child on the ‘saved’ list, the little girl from the episode with the killer kid. It seems their family moved to Virginia recently, and the team wasn’t notified, giving Frank a chance to rush in, kill the babysitter, and kidnap the girl while the parents were out that night.

Wait… hold on a second… how on Earth could Frank have possibly found this little girl? And more importantly, why would he grab her?

Let’s take a logical trip for a moment, shall we? You’re Frank, and you’re planning to use people Mandy has saved as leverage against him. While in the apartment your prospective victim gets a phone call from the FBI, letting you know that the FBI is completely caught up with your plan. Do you A: Kidnap this girl, planning to use her as the leverage to get Crazy Lady back; or B: Spend twenty minutes killing her, not only giving the police ample time to catch you, but leaving you without anyone to use as leverage against Mandy and his team?

So Frank had absolutely no reason to kill the girl from the ‘The Collector’ episode. Now you might say ‘but Frank’s a schemer – he probably already had his next victim (the little girl)’ lined up!

But how could he have? Let’s take a look at Mandy’s ‘Murder Book’.

One line for each rescued victim. That wouldn’t leave room for much more than a name, age, the date they were saved (no way that’s not on there) and maybe a city of residence. There’s simply no room for a complete street address for each victim – and more importantly, even if there had been, why would Mandy have written it down?

So all Frank could have known about Elle Fanning is that she was a little girl who lived in another state. The team wasn’t aware that she’d moved to Virginia, so Mandy wouldn’t have had that information in his book – and since Frank had no way of knowing her parents’ names, he had no possible way of finding her, seeing as 10-year-old girls are generally not listed in phone books.

More importantly, even if Frank had somehow managed to figure out that this little girl had moved to Virginia, he’d have know way of knowing that the FBI wouldn’t also have that information, and be there waiting for him to come after her.

So, upon finding out that the FBI had caught up with him, why did Frank go through with the murder of The Collector’s girl, rather than using her as leverage?

Can I get a ‘terrible writing’?

Okay, so now that the little girl has been preposterously kidnapped, it’s time to find her. The team interviews crazy lady, who confirms that Mandy was right about Frank, and that eventually the whole ‘love’ thing wore off, and he was left riding around with a Crazy Lady, getting more and more annoyed. She also tells them Frank’s last name ‘Breitkopf’, and that he was from Manhattan.

Meanwhile Mandy is busy trying to figure out Frank’s background, as if that’s somehow useful information. His guess? That he fell for Crazy Lady because she reminded him of Mom. When he hears about the Mom from Manhattan, Mandy remembers the story from the diner in the earlier episode, and assumes that the story of the dead lady in the apartment must have been about his actual mother! And then when a search for the name ‘Mary Breitkopf’ turns up a woman of the correct age who was a hooker, he knows that he’s found Frank’s mother. Then he’s distracted by Frank, who calls to let Mandy talk to the little girl. Sufficiently unsettled, Mandy leaves a note for Garcia to call Greg, then heads out with his gun to resolve the situation.

We immediately cut to the FBI’s SWAT teams taking over the train station, and wondering where Frank might be. Turns out he’s sitting on a bench out on the platform. You know, the one by all the palm trees?

Why do I feel like this show used to be more careful with its camera angles?

Meanwhile the rest of the team, including Reid and JJ, are getting ready to bust into an apartment in Manhattan. You may be wondering why JJ is on an apartment raid – well, it’s so they can have yet another callback, this one to that time they were both almost killed by Van Der Beek – JJ tells him that this time they’re not splitting up under any circumstances. Which is funny and all, but not really a situation that could come up here.

Frank has them bring out Crazy Lady, and he expects to be let go along with her in exchange for giving them the little girl. Oh, and weirdly they mention that Frank has killed ‘two innocent women’, which I guess means there wasn’t a dead babysitter at the little girl’s house after all – I’d just assumed that because it seemed crazy that a ten-year-old would be left home alone. The point of the scene is that Crazy Lady refuses to go with Frank, then Mandy shows up, revealing that they know who he is and how having a whore for a mother made him a serial killer.

They’re not afraid to capture him now because they’ve already found the little girl, hidden in the closet of Frank’s mother’s apartment, next to the old lady’s dessicated and perfumed corpse. He put flowers and incense all over it to keep the neighbours from smelling it – sweet, right?

So now it’s just down to Frank and Crazy Lady, who want to be together forever. By jumping in front of a train together.

Ouch. So that wraps up the Frank ‘storyline’, with Mandy being a little comforted by the fact that he at least managed to save the little girl.

The End.

Oh, except for the bookending storyline, about the FBI having a problem with Greg’s management of the team. Greg tries to prove that he’s great at profiling by telling his boss all about her personality based on the contents of her office, Sherlock Holmes-style. Somehow this doesn’t convince her that Greg is trustworthy and should be left in charge. And in the big season-ending cliffhanger we learn that Greg’s initial suspicions were right, and that Emily had been planted in the BSU to undermine Greg and amass evidence for why he should be fired!

Which means that next season there’s going to be war within the team! Unless this storyline gets dropped because of Mandy quitting the show abruptly.

I guess we’ll find out in two weeks! After next week’s recap of the season, of course.

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

Dear lord, no. Frank basically turned himself in to the FBI. Mandy spent half the episode trying to work out Frank’s background, but then just had Garcia search the Internet and then tell it to him – but when he showed up at the train platform to taunt Frank he still acted like he’d made some sort of breakthrough or revelation. Really, really weak psychology this time around.

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

Again, he turned himself in. I’m not sure if there’s a more conventional version of that.

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

1/10 – Not really a surprise, though, since the first Frank episode had been entirely psychology-free as well.

So, this is the second season ender in a row that revolves around the tables being turned, and a killer coming after the team. God, I hope this doesn’t become an annual thing. Although even as I type this sentence, I’m fully aware that that’s exactly what we have to look forward to.

I just hope that they’re better written than this one was. The first episode “No Way Out” was actually a fairly well-written and plotted story about a man smart enough to have worked out the angles to the point where he was able to manipulate Mandy’s team into doing his bidding. In Frank they’d created a foe that the team wasn’t smart or strong-willed enough to defeat.

So what changed between then and now? Did the team get smarter or more strong-willed?

No. Frank got a LOT dumber.

And I’m not talking about the whole contrived killing a woman he should have been kidnapping and then magically finding a child to replace her – that’s some run-of-the-mill bad writing.

I’m talking about the move he made after kidnapping the little girl. Last time he took a truckload of children and brought them out into the middle of nowhere, ensuring that they’d die from the elements before anyone had a chance to find them out in the desert expanses.

This time he took one girl and hid her in his mom’s apartment. He hid her in the one place on earth that she possibly could have been found. That’s like in movies when people say ‘I’ve got to go on the lam – I’ll hide out in my cabin! The killers will never find me there, in the one place on earth that I own, and am legallaly responsible for!’ When they could just go to any random hotel on Earth and be completely unfindable.

And don’t tell me that you have to put a credit card down at a hotel, so you could be found that way. Not only are there plenty of hotels that will happily accept cash, but even good ones only get your card to ensure that any damages will be covered, it’s not charged (and the company doesn’t know you’re at the hotel) unless it’s used for something.

Frank’s not a dumb guy. He knows that the FBI agents have crazy lady. He knows Crazy Lady specifically left to turn him in to Mandy. And most importantly, he knows that Crazy Lady knows his real name, his mother’s real name, and where his mother’s apartment is – all information that she’d doubtless have given to the authorities.

Which makes his mother’s apartment in Manhattan the one place on the entire planet earth that the character of Frank can be said to have a connection to – the one place that he’s guaranteed to know that the FBI can find – and that’s where he decides to hide her.

This is the laziest, most contrived writing of the entire season. They set up another clever scheme and moral quandary, and pay off pure idiocy.

Had Frank slipped on a banana peel and cracked his skull open on the way to Mandy’s apartment it would have been an equally satisfying resolution to the character’s arc.

4 comments:

The Hoff said...

But why does she favour her son?!?

Anonymous said...

Specifically though, Frank said he does not harm children and they at one point speculate that Frank wants them to stop him so in theory he hid the little girl someplace she would be found in time because he didn't want her to actually die, just buy him a little time to get Jane near enough to convince her to commit suicide with him.

Vardulon said...

True, but Frank's plan doesn't actually make sense even if he wanted leverage to get Jane without actually killing the child - they find the little girl based on figuring out Frank's origin story - but all of that figuring is done based on information they had eight months earlier - and Frank has no idea whether the team knows who he actually is or not, or when they might have figured it out. By placing the child in the most findable location possible, he runs the risk of them finding her long before his deadline is up, giving them a chance to arrest him without him ever even getting another look at Jane. Even if he never wanted to kill the little girl and planned on killing himself and Jane, the only smart thing to do would be to hide her somewhere she couldn't be found, then leave the location written down where the team would find it after his death.

Feurona said...

Most ridiculous episode, I've got to admit it!
I used to love the show! The psychology of the characters and the way they would all figure out certain pieces of information on their own- bouncing them off to one another until the big revelation; carefully thought out pretty complex plot, oh my god, it did have those things , didn't it? I swear it did not use to be like this. Did it? I mean, they don't even do any work at this point, they just meet new killers and get lazier and lazier about actually thinking! I mean, yes, it probably does happen in real life- no one sees everything all the time! But weren't these people supposed to be heroes to us?- brilliant almost inhuman creatures that would sees patterns and details wherever they went? They did seem like it at the beginning... Everything is a joke at this point, they don't explain any of their assumptions or pick out any details...nothing really.. they just break down doors and do dramatic expressions. What a pity.