Criminal Minds 813: Magnum Opus

The episode begins with a recap of the Reid/Maeve saga, ending with her death. It makes me wonder what the funeral was like. Did her parents blame him for her death? Surprisingly the stalker had nothing to do with his work at the FBI, as I'd originally assumed, but his idiotic rescue plan got her killed, so...

It was probably awkward, is what I'm saying.

Now to the episode's plot, in which a woman leaves a dance club, and can't get back inside. She's menaced by a smoking man in a hoodie! Except he was just waiting for his girlfriend, and this is all a misdirect! Club lady just finds a corpse in the garbage!

Over in Virginia, JJ and Garcia swing by Reid's apartment, where people have been leaving gift baskets, but he's not bringing them in. And his neighbours have been weirdly respectful enough to leave them alone. At least now we know why we finally got a good look at Reid's apartment last week - so the significance of it being trashed this week will make sense to us!

 At work everyone is worried about Reid. Especially Jeanne, who really pushed them to meet. Derek says it would have eventually happened anyways, although it's not clear whether he's talking about the date or the murder. Although they're really the same thing, since Dawn followed Maeve from the date back to her apartment, which is how she was able to murder her.

You know what, Jeanne? You should feel bad about Maeve's death. Really bad. It's mostly on you.

Garcia has a new case! The dead guy wrapped in plastic and dumped in the garbage is just like a woman disposed of the same way! Although she doesn't mention how much time elapsed between the two murders, for no discernable reason.

It turns out that the killer drained them of all their blood, mostly while alive, so the heart would do the work for them. The team mentions how hard it is to get the last bits of blood out, but then they just talk about pushing needles into their femoral arteries, rather than going into a speech about working the legs like pump handles to get the last little bit out, lest they make their influences a little too obvious.

Then they head for the plane, because, as usual, they get the first part of the briefing in Quantico, then drive to an airport, then get in a plane, then sit silently for like an hour before starting the second half of the briefing.

In San Francisco the killer is already working on their next victim, leeching blood out into a Mason jar! Which... ick. The only question left is - will he drink it? He brings it to a fridge, so I'm going to say maybe...

Let's find out together, after the credits!
On the plane, they chat about possible motives - what does he need the blood for? Is it a form of torture, or a desperation for food? While this could possibly lead to a decent avenue of investigation if they're willing to have Garcia break the law by searching all of America's medical records for people who've been treated for blood obsessions, they're missing what seems like the most important part of the case.

The victims were a rich white guy in his 40s and a poor black woman in her 20s. These are people who move in completely different circles - how could a killer approach and abduct them without being noticed and remembered by at least one of the groups he would have to pass through? Is he a paramedic or police officer?

Garcia lets them know about the new body, and as usual, no one wonders how it is that the killer can move so quickly. I feel like it should weigh into their profile, the fact that the guy definitely doesn't have a day job, if he can spend all his time snatching people, draining their blood, and then dumping their bodies, all without being seen.

Joe and Jeanne check out the new body - her eyelids were removed, either to facilitate blood loss, or just to be a dick. JJ checks in with the guy's widow while Greg talks to the lady's friend. The guy was going to a suspicious business meeting, while the lady liked to go on long walks alone. Although that's not how they say it, no JJ wins the Prentiss Award of the night with this line, which is so ridiculous I can't believe it remained in the finished cut of the episode.

"Lucrative money deal." That's the kind of thing that gets thrown into a script as a placeholder until the writer or their editor can do research about technical terms, or, you know, decide what kind of specific job the victim had. We're told he was a 'hedge fund manager', and while they do manage money, they're not going to call it a 'lucrative money deal'. There's got to be an industry term for a huge investor looking to put money into the firm, the way casinos have the term 'whale' to describe people with more money than sense or gambling skill. The writer didn't bother finding out what that term was, though, so a placeholder got left in the script, and no one cared enough to change it.

Which is what happens when you get the job because you're the son of the executive producer. Or brother, nephew, whatever. Ed Bernero and the writer of this episode have the same last name, is my point. I'll eventually check IMDB to find out for sure, but right now I'm in the middle of a scene.

Where was I? Right, the abductions. I still find the 'luring' idea to be a bit of a stretch. Don't big money deals happen in sensible places? You know, not the kind of places where you can easily conk someone over the head and throw them into the trunk of your car? And the killer supposedly approached the power-walker while she was out? A single black woman walking at night? Hasn't a lifetime of living in America taught her to be super wary in that sitution?

Still no word on how he got the latest victim.

In the next scene we get what's supposed to be a clue - when a woman shows up to model at the killer's apartment, but she can't be a victim. She's obviously an artist's model - she charges 75$/hour and asks what positions she's going to be in - which means people know where she went, and he wouldn't have a chance of getting away with killing her.

Does this mean that the guy is killing people so that he can paint with blood, like in that movie Bucket of Blood?

Is that what that one was about? I feel like it was.

Derek and Garcia discuss ways to get Reid to open up, and Derek has a plan: get him to weigh in on the case - Reid loves being a know it all! He leaves a message asking about the removed eyelids. It's my theory that the guy wants to force people to look at his art, but that's probably a stretch.

Well, Reid backs me up, explaining that the eyes not being damaged means the killer is forcing them to look at something, Clockwork Orange-style. Wow, his art must be really, really bad.

Derek then immediately knows what an elaborate chemical put into the blood was, and I'd call the show unrealistic for having the characters be too well-informed, but the chemical is EDTA, the stuff they use to keep blood samples from coagulating, which he absolutely would know all about. The real question here is why did the coroner act like it was some bizarre and mysterious substance she'd never heard of? It's pretty basic blood sample stuff, which she'd have to be familiar with, as a coroner.

Wow, looks like I was wrong about the art stuff, as in the next scene, the killer is murdering his model, which I guess will mean he'll get caught in about three minutes?

Greg and Jeanne head out to the dump site, which is in the middle of a public park. The show tries to explain that it's not a well-used part, since it hasn't been renovated recently, but no matter how untraveled it is, this is still a park you have to walk into and out of. Which means he parked his car some distance away, and hefted the body all the way to the bench. Presumably leaving heavy footprints everywhere, considering that it's dirt and grass all around the bench.

Stop trampling all over the evidence, idiots.

Also, they mention his lack of a cooling-off period, as if every killer on the show wasn't a spree killer, but still don't mention that he obviously has oodles of money if he can murder full-time and afford blood-leeching equipment.

Garcia reveals that the victim was a professional model, and that gives Jeanne a clue!

What's that you say? Check her bookings to find the address she went to on the day she died, since that's obviously where the killer lives, or at least a location easily traceable to him?

No, don't be silly! She's realized that he's an artist, because all of the corpses were dropped near street art, posed so that they were facing it!

Um... great... but isn't the fact that he hired an artist's model the far more relevant clue to his identity? Both because generally artists do that, and because it's a great lead on who he is? Why are we not focusing on this?

Is your plan seriously to have five hundred cops go around to see graffiti artists and ask if they know a vampire? Why are you talking to the cops at all?

Reid calls in with a tip - the edgy artists would be showing in Mission District galleries, so they should focus their attention there! I feel like this is information they should have gotten from the local police, but whatever, they need to put Reid in more scenes, despite him being a shut-in this week. I get it.

The killer goes to a gallery and announces to the owner that his paintings are unique because he uses blood in them! She says that he'll have to be more interesting than that to get a showing. Tough crowd.

I guess the cops hadn't gotten around to calling all the galleries and tipping them off about the blood-obsessed serial killer painter yet, which is weird.

Here's what I mean:
This is the graph of all of the art galleries in San Francisco. That's like 60 or something. Which seems on the low side, so let's say that there's a hundred out there. How long could it possibly take to call each one, get the manager on the phone, and ask 'Has anyone been in trying to sell blood paintings?' If the answer is yes, send a cop over, if the answer is no, say 'If anyone comes in trying to cell blood paintings, text this number and keep them busy, ten police officers will be there in five minutes.'

That whole interaction would be, what, five minutes long? So we're talking five hundred minutes of work - if just ten of the cops at the profile session spent the next hour making calls, they'd have completed their canvassing by one o'clock in the afternoon.

Yet they didn't do this, apparently, because it's way after dusk when the artist comes to get shot down by the gallery owner. Who's a pretty lady, by the way, so maybe he tries to kill her in like fifteen minutes of show time?

Seriously, how is this guy not already under arrest? How can this woman not be suspicious about the bloody painting - the entirety of San Francisco should be in acute terror given that the city is being preyed on by a vampire that kills one person each day, draining them of all their blood!

How are there 22 more minutes in this episode?

Greg and JJ go to an art gallery, where the owner says that the blood artist was in the other day, and one of his customers bought the blood painting! Puzzlingly, he doesn't seem to already know what they're talking about, which means that Greg and JJ just got lucky, and they happened to canvas the second-most relevant gallery themselves? How hard would it be for them to arrive, and there's already a uniformed cop there, who says to the owner 'tell them what you told me'?

More realistic, adds a couple of grand to the buget.

Then we find the killer at his job, unpacking art for a museum. Yeah, I'm saying this is completely implausible. There's no way he has the time to kidnap, drug, murder, drain, and pose four victims in four days while he's working a day job. Complete nonsense.

The killer's co-worker asks him for a ride home from work, so I guess he's dead too?

Greg and Jeanne go to a sex club, looking for the painting. The club owner is weirdly cagey about showing them the painting. This is puzzling to me - I get that the writers want to give the actors a chance to threaten someone with overreaching governmental powers - that's kind of their whole thing. What I don't get is why the guy hesitates. He bought a blood painting. It's common knowledge that there's a vampire serial killer preying on the city. Now the FBI is here. As long as you don't know anything about the crime, it's time to help out.

Naturally, the blood painting is of the first victim, so they seize the painting to test the blood type. Weirdly they don't ask for a physical description of the killer, which seems like it would be important.

Oh, and the killer murders his friend, figuring that if he cares about the people he's killing and using as art supplies, the art will be better. But he's crazy, so it really doesn't matter what he believes if the information can't be used to catch him, which this can't, so let's move on.

Finally they have a concrete lead (other than, you know, the model who definitely had a record of where she was going and who hired her) - the initial B on the painting! Now it's up to Garcia to search for every B artist in California!

Then there's a extended scene of the killer painting while using the corpse as a palette, which I'm sure everyone on the show was very proud of. And I have no interest in trying to make them less happy just for the sake of doing so, so I'll just not discuss the scene.

There's a clue back at the office! The killer used only red blood cells, after centrifuging the plasma out! Reid - who shows up suddenly, meaning he flew commercial, which I'd thought was beneath him, thinks he knows why! They don't tell us his thoughts, though, since it's time to get back to the lady gallery owner, who tells the killer that he's not a good artist.

BTW, it's at least 24 hours - perhaps as many as 36 - since she last saw him, and in that time she still hasn't been contacted about the blood-painting serial killer. Because I guess the team gave up on canvassing after getting a single not very good lead? God, they suck at their jobs.

Back at HQ, Reid explains that the killer is likely a haemophiliac, which would explain the plasma separation - that's how they get clotting factor concentrate out! It's kind of a stretch, but if it gets this guy caught, what the hell, right? Garcia breaks into the national medical databases, as we knew she would, and comes up with a list of all of the afflicted in the area.

There's only fifteen people on the list-

But the team narrows it down in the weirdest way - asking for people who work jobs where they don't have to be around the public, since the killer is definitely a loner. Except they have no way of knowing that. He was obviously able to talk people into his van since none of them were injured, why would you assume he didn't want to be around people/lacked social skills?

Here's a better way to narrow the list-

A: Remove all the women. You're down to 7.
B: Find people with a B initial, since that's how he signed his painting. You're down to 2.
3: Show those pictures to the two witnesses who know what the killer looks like - or at least compare them to the composites you've had made. You did have composites made, didn't you? Or are you that bad at your job?

They narrow it based on the idea that he must have AB+ blood, since his victims all have different blood types, he would have to be a universal recipient!

But you're basing that on the assumption that he's definitely using their clotting factor to heal himself. Which you can't possibly do - he's got plenty of access to that through the insurance he doubtless has through work. Frankly, the idea that he's using their clotting factor at all is kind of crazy, since he has no way of knowing if they have diseases - remember, the victims are being chosen completely at random.

Also, now that we've seen this guy, and watched him interact with people, I'm calling bull on the idea that he took it upon himself to find a rich banker, come up with an elaborate lie to get the banker to meet him, and then managed to murder him. This guy solely deals with victims of opportunity - the most work he's done to find one is to literally call a model and have her deliver herself to his home for murder. He doesn't seem to be up to the elaborate scheming it would have taken to kill that rich guy.

Oh, and just to prove that they're super-unprofessional, the team goes out hunting for the guy without running his picture by the two witnesses. Because arrogance is one of their biggest sins.

Over at the gallery, the killer kidnaps the owner, because of course he does. We get a bit of backstory - he witnessed someone bleed to death in a car accident a month ago, and the team is all like 'yup, that's a logical trigger to turn someone into a stupidly elaborate serial killer'. Then Reid explains that since the guy is an art groupie, he'll probably want to kill himself to ensure that he becomes famous. Which is a gigantic stretch, since that's not something most, or even a lot of artists have done.

This might be the worst episode of Criminal Minds I've seen in ages.

The team gets to the killer's loft, and Greg explains that if he'll just not kill the gallery owner, they'll ensure that his paintings get seen. The killer then starts whining about how Van Gogh only sold two paintings in his life, and that's where I paused the show because I want to make a prediction - the writers are probably too dumb to have Greg say the thing that could get the guy to surrender, which is that John Wayne Gacy's art became super-popular after he went to jail, and if the killer is arrested alive, he'll have a good chance of being a painting celebrity with his original art hanging on walls all around the world - especially since he'll be allowed to paint in prison, so long as he lays off the idea of doing it with blood.

Will Greg say that? If so, I'll tip my cap to the writing staff, and announce that this isn't the worst episode of Criminal Minds I've seen in years.

Okay. Let's go.


They just shoot him. Which is a happy ending, of course, but it just goes to show that the people writing this show have no idea about psychology or serial killer lore, which one would think would be prerequisites for the job. Unless, of course, you're related to the executive producer, in which case anything goes, right?

On the flight back, they chat about Reid's troubles, and confirm that yes, his neighbours did take some of the baskets, proving themselves human. Then JJ, Garcia, and Derek stop by Reid's house to help him clean up, which just amounts to reshelving books without making any effort to make sure they're organized in any way, shape, or form. Good work, team!

The End.

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

Kind of? Jeanne's unrealistic leap that he was painting with the blood kind of counts as psychology, right? But then they had a bunch more random psychology they used to waste time when they could have just showed photos to eyewitnesses. I want to give them partial credit, but not much.

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

Yes. No, wait, I meant YES! When models get hired by people they've never met, going to a stranger's private home, they will leave records and let people know what they're doing. He would have been caught right away. Also, if the press and police had done their job, letting gallery owners that a blood-crazed maniac was trying to sell people paintings, he also would have been caught right away. Only in the world of Criminal Minds, where everyone is terrible at their job, could this guy have gotten away for so long.

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

2 - And that's being generous.

I know it's weird of me for complaining about the show ending with the killer getting shot a bunch, since that's always the correct answer in these situations, but it's crazy to me that they missed such an obvious opportunity to make psychology work for them. This is one case where a combination of serial killer trivia and shallow pop-psych could have actually talked a killer down in a semi-believable fashion, but instead they go and screw things up.

Which doesn't surprise me - they are writing Criminal Minds, after all.

To quote a certain sketch comedy troupe, "You're a disappointment. Not a surprise, but a disappointment."

Oh, and for the record, I have no evidence that Ed and Jason Bernero are related, that's entirely supposition based on their names and the awfulness of this episode.


Anonymous said...

When's the next one?

Anonymous said...

I think he quit again

Vardulon said...


Still weekly.

Just had a weird November.

Unknown said...

This episode was awful. I mean, if I was the gallery owner, I would've called the police ASAP if someone comes around and offers me a painting done with blood. I hoped the unsub would kill her for her stupidity.

Oh and as an artist myself I would've loved your ending to the episode. They just shot the guy, it makes you wonder why they didn't kill the unsub in the previous one, just like that.

Anonymous said...

So I've been doing a CM rewatch because I have no life and I stumbled upon your reviews and they are awesome! Thanks for doing them! (Also love the silly names thing, I see you get a lot of hate for it but people are idiots)

Talking about idiots: who the hell made up that list of names with hemophiliacs? Both type A and B are X linked recessive genetic disorders. Translation: females are extremely rarely afflicted (although being a carrier can mean they have some issues, definetely not severe.)

Why are there at least 3 classic womens names on that list? Is it gender neutral creative naming or stupidity?

sfpuglover said...

One of the victims was found near “a cable car stop in the Mission district”. Uhh, there are no cable cars in the Mission . . .