Criminal Minds 620: Hanley Waters

The episode opens with a clip package letting us know that despite the fact everyone thinks Emily is dead, she's perfectly fine and living in Paris. Which happened just a couple of episodes ago, and it doesn't seem odd enough to necessitate reminding us – unless, of course she's already back? I guess we'll find out in the episode proper.

Seems that in the aftermath of Emily's death Greg has been asked to provide a grief assessment on his team, and he's starting with Derek. They have that clich├ęd conversation about the five stages of grief, and during the anger part Derek admits that what he'd much rather do than his real job is to spend all of his time hunting down Doyle who – and I can't stress this enough – escaped from the FBI using what I can only imagine was leprechaun magic.

We then cut over to the subject of the episode, a woman who wakes from nightmares about surviving what I can only assume is a car accident based on her neck brace and the fact that she's being wheeled into a hospital. After breaking a mirror (the universal visual shortcut that a character hates herself) she heads to her closet and finds some bullets. Looks like she's going to be taking that self-hatred out on somebody else, since women generally don't shoot themselves. Also, that would be a very short episode.

The woman then heads to a gun shop and asks to see a revolver. When she discovers that she'll have to get a license and wait for a permit, she decides to instead simply steal the gun, which for some reason the store owner left lying on the counter unattended when he went to talk to another customer. Even stranger, the woman elects to load the gun rather than simply running out of the store with it. Since she can't have been intending to commit suicide right then and there, I have no idea why she does this, instead of simply walking off. I know why she does it from a plot standpoint – so that she can gun everyone in the store down after being confronted about her theft – but I've no idea why the character did it. Unless she'd been planning a massacre all along. Which she obviously wasn't.

Over  at Quantico the team is already on top of the case, dropping facts about mass shootings and name checking Columbine. Strangely, we're expected to believe that all four people that she shot - once each with conventional bullets - died, and were therefore unable to give descriptions of her. This, despite the fact that according to the case synopsis witnesses heard the gunshots and called the authorities immediately. You'd think one of the people – none of whom were shot in the head – would've hung on long enough for an ambulance to get there.

Before the opening credits we get a shot of the woman driving away from the scene of the crime, seeing upbeat song to herself. Given the flashbacks to a car accident in the upbeat song, I'll go on a limb and say… Distraught over the death of a child? I guess we'll find out after the opening credits!

Okay, this is a little strange, right after the credits we get another counseling scene, this time Greg talking to Garcia. I now realize these scenes aren't meant to be taking place during the actual chronology of the episode, they just want to thematically match the team being distraught about Emily's "death" with this woman's loss of her son, daughter, or children, but that isn't being made it exceptionally clear by the editing, so it looks like Greg paused trying to catch a spree killer in order to talk to Garcia about her feelings which would just be crazy.

On the plane the team wonders how a single woman could've gotten a drop on for men with firearms experience. The whole 'four shots four kills' thing goes unmentioned, even though you'd think her experience with shooting would be super appropriate to the profile. Although, let's face it, her marksmanship is really more a function of plot expedience than a character. Meanwhile the killer is trying to track down the main victim of her rage, presumably her ex-husband, who is neither at work or at home, so she calls him and leaves a message asking him to meet her at the mall. I guess this is a small town? She doesn't specify which mall.

At the gun store they figure out that she came unarmed, which confirms that none of the victims were targets. No one questions her decision to load the gun in the store rather than simply calmly walk out with it, which I think would be relevant. But again, plot expediency – if they know what she looks like, it's a shorter episode. Also, we're supposed to believe that there weren't security cameras because this is a 'family-owned' store.

So... family-owned businesses are less worried about theft than chain stores? Do the writers not know that you'll get a break on your insurance rates if you have a working security camera? And that's exactly the kind of savings a family-owned business with presumably tight margins would worry about. A few weeks ago you expected us to believe that a small family-owned music store would have a really good security setup, but now you're saying a GUN STORE would be far less prepared for an after-hours robbery? Say that the camera is on the blink - it's no more contrived than everyone being dead.

Over the mall the killer creeps people out by staring at children playing near a train set. When a child is mildly injured she tries to help him. This kindness quickly turns into a near abduction, which is thwarted by nearby security guard. Who winds up shot for going to the trouble of returning a child to his actual mother. Yes, this week's killer is just flat out crazy.

The team asked Garcia to make a list of abusive men who own .38s, the caliber of bullets that the woman brought to the store. Unfortunately this is taking place in Florida, where everyone is violent and owns a gun. I don't normally get political in these reviews, but trust me it's the episode, not me. They specifically call out the ridiculous 'stand your ground' law. With 638 possible abusive husbands that this woman might be getting her revenge on, it could take a few days to narrow it down to one suspect. Except for the fact that, you know, they have the woman's approximate age, skin color, hair color, and the kind of car she drives. Assuming they're a married couple - which the team has to, because the files on abusive men with guns would be useless in any other event - then those criteria should cut the possibilities down significantly.

Then it's off to the mall, where the guard turns out to have been the killer's fifth victim. Sure it looked like she just shot him in the stomach, but it seems we've got some manner of Scaramanga on our hands here. Somehow the police don't seem to know about the attempted child abduction, even though the mother and child were standing like ten feet away when the guard was shot. Seems like in the time it would've taken for the team to get to the mall, that information would've come up.

As for the killer, she stopped at a roadblock where two police officers were looking for her, specifically. Despite the fact that a brown haired woman driving the exact kind of car they're looking for pulls up to their roadblock and starts babbling incoherently about helping her injured son – the killer is flashing back to when her son died in a car accident caused, apparently by someone ramming her – they are not alarmed enough to ready their guns, or even notice the pistol she has lying in plain view. I assume it must have been in plain view since she's able to grab it and shoot the cop before he even draws his pistol. Oh, and then she drives forward hitting the other cop with her car, because he has terrible reflexes.

Now for a flashback to Reid's session with Greg. He comments was the first time he's been in therapy since his parents split up, and describes how he got through that by just telling people what they expected to hear. This is crazy for a couple of reasons. First, if Reid was capable of figuring out what people wanted to hear a.nd telling them that then he wouldn't suffer from such a problem with bad social miscues. Secondly there's no way that's the last time he saw a therapist. His parents split up when he was like ten. He's got a degree in psychology - part of that process involves actually going through therapy. He's shot a number of people, which also comes with mandatory therapy. Oh, and there was that time he got addicted to heroin and then had to go into rehab, which is an extremely therapy intensive environment.

How is it that I remember the events of the show Criminal Minds way better than the people who work on the show? The crazy part is you don't have to change the scene at all. Instead of having him say that the last time he was on a therapist's couch was in childhood, just have him say that this reminds him of his first time on the couch. Then focus on how this is the most powerless he's felt since he was a child.

See? Problem god-damned solved.

Oh and then he says this humdinger, winning him the Prentiss award of the night.

Again, I know that the frequency in which you actually rescue people from serial killers infuses you on this point, but you're not job is not to keep people safe, but rather to catch killers after they've made people unsafe. Likewise it's in no way your fault that Emily "died", she saw a train barreling down the tracks and instead of taking a few steps back, she jumped in front of it. Her call.

Greg and Joe arrive at the latest crime scene and discover that the cops aren't completely dead - in fact one of them can offer a partial description of the vehicle! Hold on, they didn't already know with the vehicle looked like? I know they haven't been talking about it, but there is no way they couldn't have had that information. How can I be so sure? Way back in the first scene with the team we were told the witnesses heard the gunshots and saw the killer leaving the gun store. Check out this picture of where she was parked in relation to the gun store.

 She was directly in front of the entrance. For witnesses to of seen her at all - which were told they did - they had to have seen her walk out the front door and get into her green station wagon. There's no way they could have missed it, since it would have lasted just a few seconds. God, this show sometimes.

Oh, and she apparently killed two more people. While the team tries to figure out where she would go next based on the direction she was moving through the checkpoint, they get word that she shot two EMTs in the other direction. Because apparently she blames EMTs for not saving the life of her child.

It's going to be a major disappointment if she's not dead by the end of this episode.

Now it's time for an even more pointless profile than normal. The team blathers on for a while about how because it's a woman who is extremely upset she must've lost a child. That's all well and good, but they can't really make an argument for why that information might be useful to the thirty officers who could be out there, right now, looking for the car that they've identified in the neighborhood they know she's driving around. Maybe it's just me, but that seems like the better use of their time. But hey, who knows, maybe knowing that she's a distraught mother will help one of these random extra police officers solved the case. I mean, just because it's never happened even once doesn't mean it won't this week. First time for everything, right?

Unless of course you have to pay an actor more when they do something like catch the killer, or speak. In which case no, there will never be a first time.

The strangest part about the profiling sequence is that the show has deprived the team of any references to the killers son, such as the attempted kidnapping, or her mentioning him to the shot cop. Still they came to the conclusion that she's distraught over the death of her child anyway. It's not just death of a child – Joe specifically says that they're assuming she lost a son. What is this based on? More importantly, why not just let them have actual behavioral information to base their profile on, rather than just assumptions? Plenty of people saw her try to abduct that child – let that factor into their deliberations.

Hey speaking child abductions, in the next scene the killer is at a playground creepily watching children play! A mother who happens to know the killer sits down beside her and begins to chat about their families. Luckily this spooks the killer into running off before she can shoot anyone.

With the media broadcasting news of the case, Greg grows concerned that if the woman feels ignored she'll only escalate her violence. I don't know why he would feel that a constant stream of coverage of her crimes would make her feel ignored, but whatever. His solution? Get on the radio and talk directly to her. A against all odds it worked with Tim Curry, so why not give it another chance? Oh, and the report clarifies that the shot cop at the roadblock wasn't killed, just grievously injured, and she didn't actually hit the EMTs she fired at. No mention is made of the cop she ran over for some reason.

Greg invites the killer to give him a phone call, but she's too busy confronting her ex-husband (who turns out to be a firefighter) to hear the message over the radio or television. How will the confrontation go down? We'll have to wait a second to find out because the show then cuts to Joe's counseling session. They make further generalizations about grief and suffering and how the team is really a family, which isn't actually news if you've ever watched the show but still nice to hear.

Turns out the killer really does just want to chat with her ex-husband for a while, so despite the fact he's got a restraining order against her he agrees to chat with her about their dead son. I'm guessing this is the anniversary of his death? Or birthday?

Okay weird – it seems it was both. Searching for a way to track down their killer, and operating on the theory that a she lost a child on this the day she's gone nuts, they find a video of a high-speed car chase that ended when her car was T-boned at an intersection. The twist - the son died on his birthday! The team rushes to both the killer's and her ex-husband's houses, hoping to catch her before she kills again.

At the same time the estranged husband has agreed to go with the killer to celebrate their son's birthday/death day at his 'favorite place'. Getting the husband to agree to this was like pulling teeth, which seems a little weird. Yeah, the mother may have gone nuts over the past year out of grief, causing him to distance himself from her, but it was only a year ago, and it's an utterly reasonable request to do something special on your dead child's birthday. I feel like his behavior would make more sense if this was five years later and he'd moved on but she hadn't been able to. Just one year after a kid dies you expect people to still be crying all the time - her level of grief isn't strange until half a decade later.

Searching the houses they discover the various ways that the parents have responded to the grief. The mother kept her son's room exactly intact, while the father edited all of their home movies together into a single tribute to his child. Far more importantly, they find souvenirs from the restaurant that the family had celebrated the son's last three birthdays at. That must be where she's headed!

At the restaurant the couple tries to order the equivalent of a happy meal but the server balks when he sees that they don't have a child with them. Of course this problem could easily be overcome by simply explaining that their son died last year and this is how they're choosing to mourn him – a request that no server would ever deny them – but it makes sense that the husband is so emotionally closed off that he has trouble admitting their situation to strangers. Still, this minor speed bump convinces the killer to pull a gun on them, escalating the situation.

Further escalating things? A child the next table is having his birthday. The killer saunters over, hoping to join the celebrations, creeping everyone the hell out. Naturally the police show up a little while later, meaning that the team accomplished basically nothing this week, since had they just stayed in Quantico and not talked to anyone the day would've played out almost exactly the same. Why am I saying almost? They would've played out exactly the same or perhaps slightly better since those thirty cops would've been on the street looking for a green station wagon rather than listening to an utterly useless profile. Maybe they can get a couple of points by convincing her to turn herself in rather than shooting her to death. Although obviously she deserves the latter.

Greg goes in to defuse the situation, not wearing a vest for some reason. He talks to them for a while about how they must have had a good child, and despite the killer's beliefs, he's sure that everyone thinks the son's death was a tragedy. Most importantly, that he tells her that she has to stop being so angry, especially at herself. Then she reveals that she has every right to be angry with herself. On the day he died her son was kicking the back of her seat, and she allowed herself to become distracted!

She ran a red light, causing the accident that killed her son! Greg then tries to say it wasn't her fault, which is the right thing to do, even if it isn't technically true. She's finally sad enough to let the gun be taken out of her hands, and the story's over!


Except for more with Derek, still flogging himself over his failure to save Emily's life. It's all very emotionally wrenching, and I'm super-unclear on why Greg doesn't just tell him 'Oh, BTW, Emily's not dead.' Maybe the idea is to keep them safe from Doyle (again, how is he not dead or in jail?), but it's not like these guys are incapable of keeping a secret. Do they really think that Doyle is watching them so closely that if he thinks their grief doesn't look real enough, he'll try to leverage Emily's location out of them?

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

Nope. Not in the least. I'll give them partial credit because their investigation turned up some photos and family background which gave Greg more to work with when talking to her. The only thing that would have been different if they hadn't known about who she was when walking into the restaurant is that the negotiator would have had to wing it. Of course, as a trained psychologist, he still probably could have talked her down.

Or, you know, kept her distracted until someone snuck in through the kitchen and shot her, which would have been an equally acceptable outcome.

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

There's no way they couldn't have known what that car looked like based on the circumstances of the first killing, so there's no way she would have made it past the roadblock.

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

2/10 - Like I said, a point for facts to back up psychology, but they didn't really 'catch' her, per se. Did I mention Rachel once this episode? Did she even have a line? I mean, she must have, right? All I know is that (for obvious reasons) she didn't have a therapy session with Greg. Which must have felt great for the actress that week, huh?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who is Greg???