Criminal Minds 421: A Shade of Grey

Another missing child! The team is already on the scene - two other kids have been abducted from their rooms in the middle of the night, bludgeoned to death, and then dumped in the woods! It's all very action packed and tense! Garcia rushes to her office to watch a press conference on a monitor! During the press conference, the mother is so broken up she's barely able to speak!

Wait, don't they usually have the less emotional parent do the talking? I can't imagine the father would be much worse. Also, they have another son-

And I'm calling him as the killer right now. Even though that doesn't make sense (he serial killed two other kids before his own brother?) I'm guessing that he doesn't serve any other purpose in the plot, and the Criminal Minds writers are so in love with twists that they'll just toss craziness at us. Plus, he looks kind of bored in this scene.

Actually, come to think of it, whether it was that little girl from the paedophile episode, the little boy from the other paedophile episode, the kidnapped gypsy brides... has a kidnapped child on this show ever had another sibling, or were they all only children?

So yeah, little bastard's got to be the killer. Hey, look, now I'm profiling, based on the writer's MO! Neat!

Wow, there was just a shot of the brother shifting and yawning during the press conference. Do they want this to be a surprise at all?

They talk to the detective in charge of the case, who knows the family pretty well, and he's sure that the boy is dead at the hands of the same killer - he just doesn't want to tell the parents yet. This leads to the Prentiss Award of the night, going to an exchange Joe and Derek have right after the detective leaves-

Yeah, guys? The 99 percent thing is about what kind of abductor you're dealing with, not any given child's chances of surviving. 99 percent of the time it's a guy who just wants to murder a child. 1 percent of the time it's a nut who wants to kidnap a child for long-term molestation (or, if Criminal Minds it to be believed, a family of gypsies). You already know that this killer is a 99-percenter. Which means that kid is definitely dead.

Which I'm sure they'll discover right after the opening credits!

Emily chats with the parents, asking if they've seen anyone creepy around the neighbourhood, talking to children. The parents and child can't help - the kids don't play outside much, or talk to strangers. They hope to find a clue based on who's been in the house in the past six months, since the killer obviously knew the layout. I don't envy people in these situations, trying to come up with lists of deliverymen, cable people, and the like? Who on earth would remember all that in a time of crisis?

They start searching through a list of local sex offenders, searching out anyone who likes to molest children around the age of the three victims. Joe looks at the victim's room, which has been fairly trashed, leaving broken toys everywhere. Apparently all the cases looked like this, which raises a question - if the kids fought back and caused a struggle, how did no one else in the house ever wake up? They call Garcia for help with information gathering, and she's fiddling with the murder map when she picks up-

Which just wind sup making me nostalgic for a time when it seemed like anything about that map was ever going to make sense. She quickly gathers up a lead! Of the ten child rapists who fetishize the type of child that's been dying, one of them didn't make phone calls or spend any money on the days that the first two victims went missing! I guess it's too early to check that with the current kid's timeline.

First off - nice that you didn't need a warrant (or more than five seconds) to find all of that out. Secondly - what's going on with the case this week? We're ten minutes in, they're not usually this close to even a red herring at this point in the story, let alone the real killer.

Who they're almost certain that the rapist that they're running over to catch is. Not only did he not spend ay money on the days of the murders, but he had access to the first two homes (he works installing televisions)! Also there's child pornography and souvenirs from the first two murders hidden in his house.

The killer, it turns out, is hiding in a trailer in the back yard. The local cop tries to shoot him when he runs, but Derek stops him, reasoning that they've got to catch him alive, since he knows where the missing child is! Of course, based on their timeline the kid is probably dead already... You know what, maybe they want to find a body.

Derek finally manages to chase someone successfully, but it turns out to be John Billingsley-

The doctor from Star Trek: Enterprise, so it's not really much of an accomplishment.

With the rapist/murderer in custody, the team has one grim task left - finding the dead body. They bring in the parents of the various victims and have them look at the souvenirs. Before doing so, they take the time to blame themselves for their child's death, what with the fact that there was a struggle fifteen feet from where they were sleeping, and somehow they didn't hear it. Actually, that's a really good thing to be angry at yourself for. Stick with that. The other parents confirm the toys are from their child's room, but the latest father can't do the same.

Because, remember, his own son is the new killer, and they used the help of their cop buddy to make it look like another in the series of child murders. I'm not sure why just yet, but let's wait for them to offer an explanation before being too harsh.

Joe tries to threaten John into revealing the latest victim's location by hauling out the old lie about child molesters not being treated well in prison. As if criminals care what other criminals do. John responds, though, and is willing to confess to all the murders as long as he gets a deal wherein he doesn't have to go to a maximum security prison.

The team is hesitant to offer a deal without any physical evidence - although I'm not sure why. I mean, he's confessing, right? Don't you call that a win? In search of that proof Reid heads over to the house to use his 'fresh eyes' on the scene. At the same time the rest of the team heads out into the woods, and are led by the detective leads them to a disused access road, as it's the quickest path in and out of the forest, even though it's not on any maps.

Greg finally offers John the deal, and John claims that he tossed the child in the river. Greg doesn't believe him, and withdraws the paperwork. The dead body turns up in the woods moments later, so that turns out to have been a good decision. Also pointing them in the direction of the other son as the killer? They find evidence that the third victim slept in his brother's room the night he was murdered, and the wrecked room was just used as a smokescreen!

Since someone would have to know the details of the case to accomplish that, the cops immediately suspect the detective, and with good cause. Before putting together any evidence of the fact Joe immediately accuses the detective of covering up a murder, because that's a great way to get someone to talk. The detective asks them, as a favor, to let this latest crime go, and just pin it all on the rapist/murderer. At the same time Emily goes to the family's house - alone - to accuse them of murdering their child. By reading their body language she assumes that they're covering something up, but what? They deny having killed their child, and the detective tries to take the rap. Which is nice and all, but not believable in the slightest.

I'm not calling it bad writing, because the guy is desperate, but what I don't understand is why the team isn't figuring out that the other child is the killer. What other eventuality could possibly drive people to cover up something this horrific?

The absurdity of the detective's confession finally gets Greg to confront the parents with the obvious, and they crack. Hilariously this wasn't all a plan to get them to admit that their child was a murderer, since Emily is shocked to see the other son get violently angry when confronted with a bag of chips he couldn't open. So she asks him if he killed his brother, and the kid flat-out admits to it. Which is why the parents would never leave him alone in any of the previous scenes. That's good writing, anyhow.

The parents explain that they called their detective friend and asked him to help cover things up, which isn't an unreasonable response. After all, this is within a few hours of the murder, so everyone's emotions were heightened. Then it's time for a twist that would be shocking if the show hadn't portrayed the other son as a dead-eyed psychopath in every scene. Although he claimed that he'd just pushed his brother too hard and the younger son had died, the autopsy results showed that the younger child had a piece of model airplane down his throat.

Also, we discover that they'd had a dog, which was murdered. The child is a flat-out monster, which raises the question of just how he became a sociopath. We're supposed to think of these people:

As victims of a horrible situation, but who exactly was responsible for the monstrous abuse/neglect that turned the kid into a monster?

Developmental psychology isn't within the team's bailiwick, however, so instead they just have the detective arrested, even though he didn't really do anything wrong, from a moral standpoint. Then things get all muddled as he tries to get indignant and Joe acts superior. It's all a complete mess, which is the inevitable result of hack writers trying to come up with something morally complex - which this profoundly isn't.

Yeah, the cop probably shouldn't have covered up that bad situation, but since the truth came out within ten hours and absolutely nothing bad came of it, you probably shouldn't have ruined the guy's career over it. There, (brushes hands) moral dilemma resolved!

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

They went looking for a child molester and found one right away. He didn't do it. They asked the other child if he was the killer, and he said yes. It's not a richly detailed psychological world they were inhabiting this week.

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

It's a locked room mystery, people. Only someone in the house could have done it - and since the autopsy was going to reveal model airplane bits in the kid's throat within a few hours, I'm guessing the mystery would have been solved almost immediately.

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

2/10 - A basic understanding of psychology certainly helped them narrow the field a little, but with one of the killers being on the sex offenders list and the other in the same house as his victim, neither was really a challenge to track down.


Perpetual Beginner said...

Sociopathy really doesn't seem to map directly onto abuse in the way you're assuming. Basically decent parents can nonetheless end up raising a sociopathic kid - generally to their intense distress, since they feel like they ought to be able to fix things. Not helped by a sociopaths tendency to dodge any responsibility for their own actions (and if they're not responsible, then their parents must be, right?).

Fortunately for the rest of us, most sociopaths don't become murderers, but simply go about quietly making all the people in their vicinity miserable.

Vardulon said...

You're right about direct physical abuse not directly linking to all forms of sociopathy, but in this particular episode I was thinking more about the specific kind of bad impulse control/violent sociopath depicted in the episode, which is much more frequently the product of abusive upbringing than physiological brain disorders.

Man, the first person who comes up with a parenting book about how to make sure your child has empathy is going to make a mint on the talk-show circuit.

Anonymous said...

I think the greater issue is why the parents didn't get the older kid help after he killed the dog. And, why the hell were they letting the younger kid spend time alone with the older brother?

On top of that, they were trying to cover up the crime in order to do what exactly keep their child murderer at home so he can kill again. The kid clearly needed to be somewhere that he couldn't hurt others.

The officer filling the parents heads with the idea that the kid would be tried as an adult and made an example of was precipitous and harmful.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea is that the parents had no idea their son had killed the dog or that he no doubt abused his little brother. They seemed to chalk any difficulties up to him having an uncontrollable temperbut believed him when he pretended like he was sorry. Siblings fight all the time and people really don't understand why/how someone will cling to someone that genuinely mistreats/abuses them so the fact that the little brother adored him probably blinded them to the truth as well.

Frankly I think they were too devastated to think rationally and at some point later they probably would have realized their kid was a monster, while he would have worked having them cover this up and anything else he could get out of it for as long as he could.

As for the cop, he covered up a murder and while he did if for sympathetic reasons, his behavior could have led to something worse if that kid had gotten away with this so yeah they were right to read him the riot act. Even if the kid hadn't been a sociopath, people that don't learn to face responsibility for their actions as kids rarely do as adults.

Raybone said...

Sociopaths lake all emotion but this kid showed pure anger and hatred when he killed his brother by shoving airplane parts from his model down his brother's throat. To me this kid is more of a psychopath who lakes any lie all impulse control he has no impulse control. a true sociopath has to fake all emotions.

Raybone said...

The only cure for a psycho or a sociopath is to lock him up and throw away the key or death those are the only two cures there is know other help that can be provided.