After the shockingly bad season ender so disgusted me, I'm going to try to handle this episode as quickly as possible. Because yikes.
The episode opens with more more Leonard Cohen, and a fantasy scene of the young Tim Curry with his mother.
Oh, god, is he going to be mother obsessed as well? Were they not cribbing from the Frank storyline hard enough as it was?
When we come back to the real world, while the rest of the team is stuck in traffic, Tim has somehow escaped, traffic apparently not being an issue when you're driving a giant RV. At first it seems like the daughter has escaped, but it turns out that Tim just let her go so that people would open their doors when they heard a scared little girl banging on their front door. The door opens, and Tim murders some more people.
Will they ever catch him? The team's not doing a great job, as they're all gathered at the sister's place, trying to figure out where Derek and Eric are. This leads to an absolutely hilarious sequence, where literally twenty seconds after the team gets frustrated about how Morgan wasn't able to tell them where he was going because the cell phone towers went down (don't they have backup power supplies for exactly this purpose?), this happens:
Robert Davi speaks into a police radio. Which is working just fine. God damn it, Criminal Minds, how are you this terrible?
While still tied up, Derek interviews the sister about Tim. Which is a great use of time until they're rescued. He finds out about the RV, where coincidentally Tim has just taken Ellie (That's the daughter's name!), announcing his plan to make her his partner in crime as they travel the country together!
Gah! Too... much... Frank!
JJ gets to the house and passes out satellite phones (apparently they're too good for police radios), and discovers that Derek is ignoring his injuries and won't go to the hospital. Why? He's obsessed with saving Ellie because he promised Eric that's what he would do! Heartwarming!
Oh, and Emily is riding with the sister to the hospital, and we discover that Tim loves listening to the radio so he can hear about himself. I'm sure that's going to be important later, but right now it seems pretty random.
Then we see another interlude with Tim and Ellie. He tries to explain his philosophy of murder, then kills a witness who notices his RV after the description of it goes out over the air. He then cuts Ellie's hair when he hears that her description includes 'long brown hair'. Which is kind of hilarious, if you think about it. Imagine the roadblock where that would work.
Officer 1: Why'd you let that guy through? He was a filthy freak with bad teeth in a dirty old RV with the first three numbers of the license plate we're looking for, and he had a kidnapped girl with him.
Officer 2: But we're looking for all that and a kidnapped girl with long brown hair. His kidnapped girl had short brown hair.
Officer 1: Oh. Good work, then. Carry on.
The team tries to figure out how to find Tim, and Emily has an idea: call him over the AM radio! JJ refines it a little: break into the emergency broadcast system and take over all the stations at once!
Will it work in time to save the next family Tim wants to kill? Of course not, we're too early in the episode. The next kill happens in an amazingly preposterous manner, with someone opening the door after midnight because a terrifying monster announces that he ran over a bicycle left in the yard:
Yeah, you know what? Keep it.
So the husband gets shot, and while the wife is upstairs not calling the police after hearing a gunshot downstairs (also not calling the police? The entire neighbourhood that was woken up by the shot), Tim explains to Ellie some of the finer points of controlling families (grab the children!), then heads upstairs for some rape, torture, and murder! He's interrupted when he realizes that the family has two children, rather than one, and Ellie has dispatched the extra one to call the police.
Tim tries to escape, but a posse has gathered outside. He steals the family's car and drives out through the garage door. Sadly all of the members of the posse are on the street, none close enough to their cars to follow. This leaves the team without any clues when they arrive. Other than the RV and knowing the make, model, and license plate of the car they're looking for. Which is something, I guess.
Inside the RV they find the article about Eric that seems to have inspired Tim's quest to steal the daughter and make her his own child. They guess this based on the fact that the section of the article mentioning the daughter was underlined a number of times. Wait - how did Tim find out about this? It's not like Eric was national news, and he's only just now come back to LA. All this time has he been reading LA newspapers, looking for information about someone connected to his first killings? It can't be because he was just in LA anyways for the blackouts and discovered Eric by chance - in the last episode they flat-out stated that the first two victims were killed on Eric's beat to draw his attention before the blackouts even started. Huh?
Okay, things just got even dumber. JJ finally managed to get access to the emergency broadcasting system, but when she reports it to Greg, he says that she has to go down to the emergency center and start talking over the radio to Tim immediately. She protests, correctly, that she has no psychological or hostage rescue training, but Greg says that it will take him too long to get there.
The world of Criminal Minds: Where it makes more sense to have a completely unqualified person try to talk a mass murderer out of killing a little girl than it does to patch in a phone call to a radio broadcast. Hey, don't worry though - Greg's going to give her some 'tips' on how to proceed.
Reid, meanwhile, contacts Garcia about a murder from the 60s, thinking it might have something to do with Flynn's... wait, what? What did Greg just say?
This happened twenty-seven minutes into the episode. At this point, no one has yet learned Tim's real name. Somehow Greg is using it nonetheless.
Criminal Minds: On top of everything else, it's shoddily edited!
Time for more Flashbacks from Tim! Why does he put children in closets and then make them watch while he rapes and murders their mothers? Turns out she his mother was a whore who made him wait in the closet while she serviced customers. And then, as Garcia discovers, he killed her and one of the johns when he was 13.
Does Ed Bernero think we've forgotten season 2? Maybe he wants to put the Mandy era behind him, but we still remember. Hell, he brought the Fox back and expected us to know who that was, but Frank is supposed to just drift away like a leaf on the breeze?
And BTW, it's in this scene that we learn Tim's character's name is 'Billy Flynn". Three minutes after Greg first used it.
JJ starts talking to Tim over the radio, and despite her opening with stammering incompetence, she manages to get through to him. Apparently a heartfelt appeal from a mother to an abused child is plenty to melt his killer's heart. So here's the whole sequence if you want to watch it.
If you don't (and you shouldn't), let me precis it.
JJ: "Mothers should be nice, yours wasn't, and that's sad. So maybe don't kill any more? Please?"
It's one of the most trite and poorly-written things to have ever been presented as being 'profound' and 'touching'. Naturally, because this is a terrible episode, it works. On a man who's raped/killed ~400 people.
Oh, and in case you want more of a downer? Eric's sister died.
So Tim let Ellie go and walked into a house. He then calls Derek and asks him to come inside. Tim has the family tied up, but he's not exactly psyched about killing them, so he's not actually pointing a gun at anyone when Derek walks into the room. For some reason Derek doesn't immediately shoot him upon entering. I'm not sure why. I understand that Tim wants to confess about shooting his mother, but why would Derek want to listen? Finally Tim raises his gun so that Derek will have an excuse shoot him, and we're done.
1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?
Psychology was entirely responsible for catching Tim, in that he gave himself up when JJ made the speech that made his heart grow three sizes that day. I can't award any points for it, because it's not even slightly believable that this speech - even if it had been well-written, would have gotten to him. What, he's just now, 40 years later, considering that maybe it would have been nice if he'd had a nice mother? And maybe he should try not to be such a bad guy any more?
2 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?
Supposedly every cop in LA was looking for a guy. And they knew the model, colour, and plate of the parked car he was sitting in for hours. So yes, conventional police techniques could have sorted this one out nicely.
So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?
1/10 - I'm not saying the idea of being able to talk a killer into being introspective couldn't work. I'm not even saying they can't give themselves up. I mean, it's only happened once that I can think of, but it did happen. I'm just saying that it wouldn't work on a man whose evil is the scale of Tim Curry's. Not even a little, would it work.
Criminal Minds FactCheck: The Night Stalker!
Richard Ramirez was a rapist and murderer who attacked people throughout the LA area in 1984/85. Like Tim Curry in the episode, he was a vicious killer with no good reason for his actions. Like Tim's childhood abuse at the hands of a prostitute mother, Ramirez is able to claim a vicious relative pushing him around during his formative year. In his case it was a vicious cousin.
The show also tweaked to one of the most chilling aspects of Ramirez' MO, a complete unpredictability when it came to targets. He attacked whoever struck his fancy, so long as he thought he could get away with it - but he wasn't especially careful. As he left a number of victims alive, right from the beginning the police had a decent idea what he looked like (including the terrible teeth so discussed in the episode), but that didn't help them catch him. Without fingerprints or a positive identification, the police were left spinning their wheels while the public went mad with terror over a span of months.
He was finally identified after one of his victims managed to see the car he used to drive away from the scene of the crime, and make note of the license plate. Armed with this information the police were able to find the car and remove a fingerprint from it. With Ramirez already in the system, it was a simple matter to identify him, and the press went public with his picture.
Interestingly, the scene in which Tim is surrounded by an angry mob is based on an actual incident from the Night Stalker story. Once his picture was out there essentially everyone in California was looking for him, so when he was spotted in East Los Angeles an entire mob of people kept him from stealing a car and beat him severely until the police arrived to take him into custody.
Today, he sits on death row awaiting execution, a full 22 years after receiving the death sentence. Now let's all take a moment to sigh wistfully and wonder - if only that angry mob had been slightly more effective...