Criminal Minds 310: True Night

Hey, remember back in the kidnapped child episode, when I talked about how Criminal Minds never attempted artistic imagery? (Probably not, that was a couple of months ago, after all) Turns out I was massively underestimating the show. This episode seems to have been done up in Sin City-Vision.

So Malcolm in the Middle is fighting Werewolves. He’s also perhaps the worst hard-boiled fiction narrator ever, as you’ll hear in these opening seconds of the episode.

You couldn't get him a pack of cigarettes or something? Gravel out that voice a little?

So Malcolm’s a comic book artist who’s drawing a trite story about a guy in a trenchcoat killing werewolves. But he’s also going out and butchering people at night!

Seven people across two weeks! That’s some hard-core violence – no wonder our crew is headed out to LA immediately!

Damn. I was really hoping for Alaska.

Garcia’s back in the office for her first day since the shooting, and she’s upset at the state that Xander left the place in. Not sure why the scene is important, but let’s move on to the flight, where we learn that the episode is going to be comic-book themed! How do we know? The opening quote is a Clive Barker quote about Superman, and it’s just as wrong-headed and off-base as you’d assume Clive Barker talking about Superman would be.

Anyhoo, while the team is flying to LA Malcolm is busy dreaming about happier times, before his girlfriend was brutally murdered!

I mean, I’m assuming she was murdered – why else would his place look like this now? Malcolm’s agent swings by to remind him that he’s supposed to be going to a book signing. Malcolm tries to back out of it, but the Agent reminds him that he got a ‘big advance from the publisher’. Um… what does one have to do with the other? If they’re waiting for a signing, the book is out – shouldn’t he have been paid the rest of the money by now? And if he’s talking about a new book, then, again, what does that have to do with the signing?

Also, do comic book publishers generally give ‘big advances’ to their artist/writers? I mean, maybe the Agent is just talking in terms of comic books, but it doesn’t seem like – even working as a writer/artist – comics are where the big money lies.

The Agent also gets a look at the new comic pages, and finds them to be excessively brutal. He asks Malcolm why his art has suddenly become so dark and violent. Which seems like an incredibly insensitive question – as the guy’s agent he has to know about the brutally murdered girlfriend, right? And that it would have an effect on Malcolm’s creativity? Maybe we, the audience aren’t supposed to know about her death at this point, but the Agent certainly does.

Then it’s time for more flashbacks, this time to when Malcolm’s girlfriend wanted to go out for food at midnight! No doubt that’s just before she got murdered.

Then he arrives for his signing, which proves to be located in an art gallery for some reason.

Was there not an actual comic book store they could shoot at?

Malcolm, like King Kong before him, gets freaked out by all the flash photography and flees the scene. He runs around a few corners and down some alleys before calling his girlfriend’s phone number, hoping to be comforted by the sound of her answering machine. Seriously? That device again? Although I guess it’s a little more acceptable here, since he’s so crazy that he doesn’t seem to know that she’s dead.

Malcolm immediately starts sprinting down the street again, and gets hit by a car! Despite this should-be-crippling injury, he’s still got the strength to throttle the guy who hit him, and then run off!

Then we’re back with the team, where Reid makes a ridiculous analogy – he explains that a domestic cat let loose on the outdoors will kill anything that it can reach – mice, birds, bugs, dogs, whatever. The local cop asks why this is important, and Reid explains that a killer suffering a psychotic break is even worse!

Except he’s not. At all. In fact, just a moment later Derek makes a phone call to the rest of the team to let them know that the victimology (not the MO) of these two victims is ‘exactly the same’ as the other five. Which means that Malcolm isn’t killing absolutely anyone and anything he sees, the way a cat would, but rather killing 7 instances of the exact same type of person. We don’t know what type that is yet, but the very fact that he’s only found 7 of them in 14 days means that he’s being far more selective and precise than the cat in Reid’s (terrible) analogy.

Back to Malcolm running! He’s at least limping now, after the accident. He stumbles onto the crime scene, and almost bumps into Joe. Malcolm then gives Joe hs real name, and then acts incredibly suspicious for the entirety of their interaction before being rescued by his agent. His Agent then tries to tell Malcolm about the whole ‘dead girlfriend’ thing, but can’t quite get the nerve to break Malcolm’s delusion.

Um… Agent, can I ask you something? If your client, who you’re supposedly friendly with, has apparently forgotten that recent episode where his girlfriend was brutally murdered, isn’t it kind of your responsibility to get him some psychiatric help immediately? I mean, even if you don’t like the guy, his salary, and therefore yours, is dependent on him not being too crazy to write, isn’t it?

Time for more flashbacks! Turns out that on the night the girlfriend was murdered she’d told Malcolm that she was pregnant! Could this be any more maudlin? The Agent tries to tell him to call a therapist, but doesn’t take the next logical step – having the psycho hospitalized immediately.

While this is going the team is outside – apparently Malcolm’s apartment is in the exact geographic centre of all the crimes! So I guess he’s been what, walking ten blocks in a different direction each night before killing people? We don’t find out just yet – because it’s time for more Miller-vision-

Wow – right down to the B/W frame with a single yellow item highlighted. But what is the car’s importance? We don’t find out, Malcolm just heds into the house and kills everyone inside with his swords. Has another innocent family been butchered? Given the nature of the flashbacks to his idyllic pre-tragedy life, I’m guessing no.

Malcolm then has another dream, layering another level of tragedy onto his backstory – yup, right after he finds out about the pregnancy, he asks her to marry him! And then the murderers show up. Wow – so he was even there for her death! Just like in- no, I’ll save that for the FactCheck. It’s no fun to point it out here.

With the team stuck in traffic it’s up to the detectives on the scene to reveal the nature of the victims – they’re all gang members! Why am I not surprised? Oh, right – the FactCheck.

Malcolm hears his girlfriend screaming for help, and runs downstairs looking fer her. It turns out to have just been a cat. Oh well. At least he succeeded in scaring his stereotypically ethnic neighbour:

Over at the latest crime scene the team blathers on about how people in a psychotic rage should be easily noticeable – and after a press conference about the mad killer on the loose, the team is quickly knocking down Malcolm’s door and dragging him into the police department. It seems a whole lot of people called to turn him in based on how weird he was acting at the art gall- sorry, comic book shop.

There won’t be much difficulty in prosecuting Malcolm, either – it turns out all of his art depicted the deaths of his victims. When confronted with the fact of his girlfriend’s death, Malcolm finally has the flashback we’ve been waiting for the entire episode – the unpleasant rape and murder by his girlfriend by a gang of toughs. No point in excerpting that here, so let’s just skip to the point of the scene – one of the victims was missing from the house, and despite the fact that he was a murdering rapist, the FBI is hoping to find him alive. They don’t, of course – he’s long dead. And Malcolm’s off to the mental institution.

It’s over images from this that we get our second quote of the show, which makes profoundly little sense – it’s from Garcia, describing Derek using Frank Miller’s description of the Noir hero. Which was an apt description of the concept, to be sure, but wow, does it not describe Derek at all.


Well, except for a profoundly stupid comment from Emily. She’s concerned about the fact that Malcolm wasn’t such a bad guy before all the murders. She’s concerned about the fact that he went from successful man-about-town to murderer in just six months. This causes her to wonder if anyone is capable of doing what Malcolm did.

God, I hope so. I mean, let’s look at what Malcolm did – his fiancee was raped and murdered by a gang of thugs, who also nearly gutted him. Malcolm then proceeded to kill those guys. Not exactly seeing the problem here.

I mean, if we’re not willing, as a species, to kill the vicious monsters who brutally torture and kill those people that we care most about, then what the hell has happened to our priorities? What kind of society are we becoming?

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

This is a toughie… true, the killer literally ran right into Joe at the crime scene and started making creepy morbid comments about the victims, but Joe had to use psychology to recognize that these are traits you might get in a killer, right?

Or maybe I’m grasping at straws.

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

He walked up to Joe and essentially confessed. No policework was required. Hell, if Joe had just held him for questioning then he might have prevented the last six murders.

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

2/10 – And now I’m basically just giving out pity points.


No glimpses of the big board this week, so let’s just get to the one I’ve been keeping track of-

That’s last week’s map, and now, with LA tacked on, it looks like this:

Criminal Minds FactCheck!

We’ve seen Criminal Minds episodes based on actual murders, and we’ve seen a few ripped off of movies and books – this is the first episode to be weird hybrid of the two. The premise this time is what if James O’Barr had lost his fiancee in a violent street crime, and then, in addition to creating The Crow, he’d also attempted to live out its pages!

There’s not a lot of fact to check here, actually, save to disabuse people of the notion that anything like the plot of the Crow had actually happened to James O’Barr – his fiancee was killed by a drunk driver, and this story was the form his overwhelming grief took. In interviews he cites a local Detroit news story about an engaged couple being murdered over a cheap ring as helping to shape the idea, but I haven’t been able to track down any specific references to that crime.


Anonymous said...

Haha wow.

Anonymous said...

Geographical profiling: not all that useful if he's targeting specific people. Or do they all just happen to live/wander the streets exact distances away from his apartment?

Also, yet another continuity issue: The voice-over at the beginning says "Nobody sees True Night" - later on we learn that the character is called, simply, Night. The agent wants to change the name to True Night. Kind of tired of CM assuming all its viewers are thick. Though that is true of most programmes, admittedly. It's just that this one pretends to be smart.

Anonymous said...

Last I remember in my 'want to be a writer' days, the advance is against royalties so basically if the book doesn't sell enough to cover what the publisher gave you, you have to pay that back. Not to mention the publisher frequently counts on the author to help sell not only that book but past and future books by engaging their audience and his obligations are probably included with the contract. And finally, maybe his agent was implying that since were willing to give him a big advance, it'd be nice if he put in effort on his side.

Hanna said...

As so frequently, no one is wearing vest when they should be. When Morgan and Prentiss go to discover the final victim, they are not wearing vests.
From the drawings it is pretty obvious that the guy is already dead. But they also went in there with their guns drawn. I figure, in any situation in which you feel the need to have a gun in your hand, you should also have a bullet proof vest.