Criminal Minds 304: Children of the Dark

It’s a peaceful night in suburbia when a happy family’s evening is interrupted by…

The plot of the movie Funny Games! He’s even wearing white leisure gloves instead of the traditional choice of American murderers, latex gloves. It’s not just that, either:

Is this going to be a thing on the show, now? Ripping off the plots of movies, but then trying to explain the psychology of the villains? I know they did a ‘Saw’ episode last year, but for some reason I just assumed that was a fluke. Here’s hoping that this is just two aberrations, and not a pattern.

Naturally we cut over to the team before the murder happens, so we’re just forced to look at gruesome crime scene photos, and not the actual deaths. They talk a little about home invasions, and how they’re ‘hard to profile’ since it’s unclear exactly what the motives are.

Which,, frankly, sounds a little like the characters trying to exaggerate their profession’s importance again – there are actually only two possible motives to a series of murderous home invasions: 1) You want to rob people but don’t want to get caught (so you kill the witnesses). 2) You want to kill people (but you don’t mind stealing their stuff for a little extra cash).

Since in this case we’re dealing with entire families being killed (more victims=more control problems) and very little being taken (just handfuls of jewelry), the killers have gone out of their way to pick a harder, less rewarding target just because it means they’ll get to kill more people.

There, profile done. They want to kill families because they were abused as children. How hard was that?

I’m kidding, of course – all serial killers were abused as children. Guessing that is like guessing that they’re carbon-based life forms. It’s a gimmie. Anyhoo, we’ll see how the team does after the opening credits!

Investigating the scene the team is able to figure out that there must have been two killers (parents were bludgeoned, children were ‘put to sleep’ like animals), and that the killers use a cell phone jammer to keep their victims from being able to call the police. Meanwhile back at the local office the rest of the team figures out that these murders are likely the sequels to a series of not-otherwise-violent home invasion robberies that only recently escalated to murder. Unfortunately, since they have no idea how the killers are selecting their victims, there’s no way to find and warn the next family that, according to the show’s structure, must die!

The audience is well aware of how victims are selected, on the other hand. The killers go out to the kind of restaurants that families frequent. One of the killers suggests heading ‘home’ and visiting the ‘folks’, but the other defers. The term ‘family’ is clearly being used non-literally here – one of the killers is white, and the other is Weevil from Veronica Mars. Finally they decide on a random family that must be sacrificed for the dramatic stakes to rise, and, in a happy coincidence, it’s the family that had a few lines of dialogue within the scene: That way the producers won’t have to pay a whole other set of actors! Happy coincidence, right?

They head to the suburban house and whitey murders the heck out of the parents with a fireplace poker, while Weevil takes the kids upstairs to drug them to death. Weevil is not fantastic at his job, however, and the teen girl of the family survives.

The team splits up – half goes to the latest crime scene, and the rest try to interview the survivor. This proves to be quite a lucky break for the team, as she’s able to describe the killers and their MO! It seems Weevil botched the murder of the teen girl because he thought she looked pretty. Also tellingly he refers to the white guy as his brother, and calls her Lucy. This is all the information necessary to figure out that they’re foster brothers, who had a foster sister named Lucy at some point!

While also checking local veterinary hospitals for where Weevil might work, the team comes up with an incredibly risky plan – let the press know that the victim survived, hoping that this might draw the killers out! It works, too – Weevil sends some flowers to the hospital room – but will they be traceable?

Scouring the first homicides, Reid thinks he’s figured out what caused the boys to start killing – they found a teen that had been abused like they were, and it caused Whitey to brutally murder the parents, and Weevil to put down the children so they wouldn’t have to suffer the indignities of the foster child system. Which is all well and good, as guesses go, but if the murder was random and organic, why did Weevil have the syringe full of sedative with him at the crime scene? We’ve heard nothing about MO changing, after all…(go earlier and check if they were drugged)

The team gets a hit on the credit card that bought the flowers, and when they rush over to the sender’s house, hoping to find the killer, all they come across is yet another set of dead bodies, surprising absolutely no one. This murder isn’t vital to solving the crime, however, and doesn’t offer a lot of new information – luckily Garcia has grabbed a list of felons who worked around dead cats and were foster children. There are only nine of those in the whole city, and the victim is able to easily pick Weevil out of the photo lineup.

While the team rushes out to catch Weevil, Emily tarries for the moment so that the victim can ask her questions important for the theme of the episode. The question: Why are the killers evil? Emily explains that it’s likely because they were abused as children. The victim responds with a sad, pointed ‘Are there any happy families?’ and Emily doesn’t have an answer for such a profound question.

Although there is a simple one: yes. Oh, sure many, probably even most families are abusive to some degree, there are still plenty of happy ones out there. The victim’s family, for example, seemed perfectly happy right up until they were murdered. Oh, the victim was annoyed that her parents pressured her to succeed in school, and wouldn’t let go away for a weekend-long party, but those aren’t the kind of problems that lead someone to indict their whole family life as corrupted and toxic, are they?

Hell, she could at least manage a ‘You’re asking the wrong person’ seeing as the people who devote their lives to catching serial killers would almost certainly have a dark history of informing their motives for making that decision. Or is that just TV characters?

Greg and Emily swing by Weevil’s work looking for him – but he’s off, and no one knows where he lives! So they try to lure him back to the pound with a call from work. While one group lies in wait for Weevil, Greg and Emily head over to the killers’ foster mother, hoping to find out the identity of Weevil’s partner in crime, Whitey.

You know, you’d think that it would be a more efficient use of time for Greg and Emily to stay at the pound, since they were already there and all, and have someone else go and visit the wicked foster mother. Did I not mention she was wicked? Oh, she really is – you can tell because her charges are afraid to look at people, and the fridge is padlocked.

Despite her evilicity, she’s helpful enough to offer Whitey’s real name – ‘Gary’. You know what? I’m sticking with ‘Whitey’. Also Weevil had a sister that he was separated from, hence the not having the guts to go through with killing a young hispanic girl who slightly resembled her.

Okay, now I get why they traded up who was at the pound, as little sense as that makes.

Derek’s the one whose job it is to rough people up and point guns at them, and that’s what the script required. But couldn’t Derek have been the one asking the questions?

Although, come to think of it, he really doesn’t do that very much…

In the interview Weevil refuses to give up Whitey’s location – so they bring in the one person who he might be able to get him up – Carrie, the teen girl who he mistook for his sister! I’ve got to ask, did no one, at the script stage, notice that this episode featured a both a character named Carrie and a character named Gary? And that one scene would have Carrie asking about Gary?

Because that didn’t get confusing really really fast.

Weevil finds out about the massive abuse suffered at the hands of his foster mother – she loved to almost drown children! And their love of murder comes from Gary wanting to kill his foster mother! Um… duh?

Greg and company run out to the foster home, and tell the mother that the only way they can protect her is if she goes back inside the house so that they can pounce on Gary when he arrives. What? Wouldn’t she be safe literally anywhere else as well? I mean, the plan is to take Gary when he shows up at the house, right? So what’s gained by the prospective victim actually being inside? By the time he finds out she’s not there he’ll already be under arrest, so there’s no reason to put the foster mother in danger. Or do they not care because she abuses children? I mean, I’d be on board with that, but I’d like at least a tacit admission that that’s the motivation behind Greg’s baffling choice.

Meanwhile Gary has grabbed the two foster children and taken them to a local donut shop where they’re discovered by Reid. He sends out one of the kids with a note saying that he’ll kill the child if they they try to arrest him. Which is a scary situation and all, except for one thing.

He has no ability to carry out the threat. He’s sitting directly in front of a window, unarmed, a full three feet from his ‘hostage’. And the cops have sharpshooters less than a hundred meters away-

You’ve got a serial killer threatening to murder a child unless you stop him, and have a literal ‘can’t miss’ opportunity to shoot him from across the street.

In this situation, there is literally no reason not to execute that man.

It’s not like the note said he had a bomb that would go off if he was killed. At least then there would be some justification for caution. Here the FBI is just being ridiculous in wanting to talk to Gary.

It’s Greg’s phone call that gives Gary a chance to stand and start using the kid as a human shield, ruining the snipers’ shot.

Great work, Greg – you just put the kind in more danger.

After talking to the kid Gary lets him out, tellingly stating that it’s ‘up to him’ whether he becomes like Gary or not. Despite this chilling statement, the team doesn’t intensively interview the kid about his experiences, or search his book bag. Gee, I wonder how that could go wrong?

Back at the office Greg figures out that Gary gave himself up way too easily, but doesn’t understand the significance of it. It’s only by an amazing coincidence that Reid, eating at the donut shot, happens to overhear from the donut shop owner that Gary had a gun, that they figure out what’s going on.

Before they’re able to rush in and do anything about it the kid fires off a few rounds inside the house – but he didn’t have the guts to murder his abuser, he just shot some family pictures. Yawn. Derek comforts the kid, and the show starts wrapping up. Everybody hops on the plane, acting emotionally distraught as if this was one of their toughest cases ever. Emily is especially hit, because she’d considered taking the teen girl in as a foster child if her family hadn’t shown up.

A revelation that kind of came in entirely out of left field. Is her wanting kinds going to be a new character arc? I’ll keep a watchful eye for developments in that direction.

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

Not at all. I mean, they act like Weevil’s inability to make eye contact is proof positive that he was raised in a foster home, while the fact that the two killers look nothing alike and are different races but still call each other ‘Brother’ is the much bigger clue.

Other highlights of profiling in the episode include ‘not being able to interview a suspect’ and ‘failing to understand that when a guy gives up way too easily, it’s because he has a backup plan’. Even though they’ve been burned by that exact situation before frank.

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

Totally conventional policing this week, folks. They followed a two simple clues ‘obviously unrelated dudes call each other brother’ and ‘poisoned with the stuff they use to put animals to sleep’, added an assumption that a robber is probably an ex-con, and followed it to a completely logical conclusion. One that was aided by the ability of a surviving victim to pick the killer out of a lineup.

We also discovered that the team isn’t even good at basic policework – the scene at the diner was not searched, and witness statements weren’t taken at all from the children. Hell – in a situation with twenty cops and a single bystander who wasn’t either a perp or victim, how did it take them until Derek had already driven the kids home to bother getting a statement from the donut shop manager?

Wow, should they have just shot Gary when they had the chance.

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

1/10 – This series of articles was inspired by the fact that I noticed that a show which purported to be about criminal profilers never seemed to use psychology to help them find criminals. This episode was stunning in that it barely even pretended to be about profiling. Chop roughly three lines out of the script mentioning ‘characteristic behaviour’ and this could have been an episode of literally any cop show on the air.

Even NCIS, assuming that the first dead family were marines living off-base.


As you’ll recall, in the second episode of this season Penelope got a science-y map from one of the more pointless sections of the federal budget!

No glimpses of the map again this week, so I’ll just update the one I’m keeping track of! Here’s what it looked like last time:

This week the murder was in Denver, CO, so I’ll just add a little dot there, and now we have the updated murder map!

Tune in next week, to see if Penelope’s version of events jibe with mine!


Anonymous said...

Yay, Weevil! Great review, as always!

Robbie said...

That episode reminds me how I was treated in the last foster home me and my sister were in Audrey & Bob Witters Audrey wore keys around her neck just like the women in this episode.

Anonymous said...

How is it a young kid that likely never handled a gun before, much less a revolver, is able to perfectly place shots in picture frames in rapid succession?

Anonymous said...

Bad review

Anonymous said...

Maybe he was placed in foster care because he's a crack shot.

Anonymous said...

I immediately searched why this episode was the exact same as funny games as soon as I saw the gloves, the 'shy' second guy, and the dad being hit in the knee with the golf club. Even the mum being attacked first and then the dad being hit when retaliating is the exact same. I haven't seen the rest of the episode yet but the start is an exact rip-off...I'm surprised they weren't asking for eggs, but then again, the focus was on the cat 'being hit by a car which is extremely similar to the focus on the german shepherd (found dead in the car) in the movie. Also, not to mention the phone not working, neighbors unable to hear them scream, and, there being a young boy/son. This is all in the first 3 minutes of the episode. I also hoped the 'saw' episode was a coincidence as they never went into depth about the traps but this is getting ridiculus.