Criminal Minds 1601 - Just Getting Started

 Okay, haven't been here in a while? Do I even remember how to do this? The last time I wrote any Criminal Minds blog-style reviews was when I did an insane sprint of writing 1-2 a day as I was trying to get the whole backlog done before the last season started. So that's three years ago.

What have I been up to since then? Thanks for asking! The Profiling Criminal Minds podcast, which I co-host, has also covered the entire show, including the spin-offs I didn't write about here, like Criminal Minds Beyond Borders (hated it) and Criminal Minds Korea (loved it). I've had a couple of movies come out since then – any Come True or Butchers fans out there? And obviously TheAvod has been chugging along apace, making it the longest continually-running Canadian horror podcast in existence! Is that a factual statement? I don't know – I didn't do the research!

I'm a little annoyed that in Canada I can't watch the new episodes until Friday – but on the upside, I'm working a regular job now, and if I could watch these on Thursday I'd be up until the wee hours of the morning writing reviews, and be a complete mess on Friday, so what I'm losing in timeliness, I'm making up for in mental health.

Here's I know about Criminal Minds: Evolution – it's on cable now, so it will probably be more brutal and disgusting – Joe might even swear once or twice! Based on the trailer the serial killers have teamed up online to coordinate more effective murdering – is that a ludicrous premise, that sounds a lot like the original script for Suspect Zero? Absolutely! Am I here for it? Well, my favorite serial killer show of all time is Hannibal, which is about a man who may or may not be the literal devil falling obsessively in love with an FBI profiler, so it's safe to say that no matter how crazy the Criminal Minds team wants to get, I'm here for the ride.

Oh, and reportedly Matt Gubler and Daniel Henney will not be in the season, because of a fatigue with playing Reid and a commitment to the Wheel of Time, respectively. They don't need to explain Reid's absence – he ended the last seasons leaving to focus more on teaching, so why would he be there? I just hope Matt Simmons has a respectful off-ramp. Is he writing full-time? That would be nice.

Do I have any predictions for the season? Nope. Do I have any requests? Absolutely: if there's a bunch of serial killers teaming up, I would like one of them to be the skull-handed child killer from the insomnia episode, which may have been called 'Sleepless'. I'm still pissed that the show never got around to arresting that guy.

It's become apparent that I'm drawing this out because I'm so nervous about pressing play on the episode, so let's just jump in with both feet and get started! Without any further ado, let's Criminal Minds!

The episode begins with a helicopter – or these days, drone – shot of a truck driving through the woods – is this meant to rhyme with the first ever shot of the first ever episode of Criminal Minds, which was a helicopter shot looking down at a city? Probably! The title card announces that this is Yakima county, Washington, and it's 2005, the year Criminal Minds started – is the guy assembling the cross-country fraternity of serial killers going to have a backstory that ties in with the history of the team? If so, that would be very intriguing, if only because it necessitates people talking about Mandy and Hotch, of which I am very much in favor.

The truck driver stops his car in a field, opens up the back, and goes through his murder kit. Is it fair to call it a murder kit? Well, the contents are duct tape, night vision goggles, and a couple of hammers, so you tell me. It turns out he was looking for keys to a shipping container – um... you can just keep those in your pocket, guy, they're not inherently suspicious the way everything else in there is.

Inside the container is a mini office, with corpse trays, various gauges of wire, hanging photographs, and a security camera monitoring station. Given that he's out in the middle of nowhere, what are those monitors for? Security cameras around the container? People buried alive?

The killer drags a young – still-living man out of the trunk of his car and duct tapes him to a wheelchair. You spent all of this money on a killer's lair but couldn't be bothered to install shackles on a wheelchair? Weak, dude. As the killer sharpens his knife on a grinding wheel, the victim looks around, terrified – but doesn't scream or beg for his life. Some impressive self-control, there. It turns out he's got suicide scars on his wrists, which the killer taunts him about, asking how much blood came out before he decided to change his mind. That's inelegant – decided and change in the same sentence, but the point is clear enough that the victim is able to respond with 'I don't know.' The killer's rejoinder: “Well, let's find out!” And then slices the guy's wrist back open.

How are you going to find out? Is your plan to let the guy bleed until he tells you that he remembers that this is how woozy he felt when he tried to get help? Or is this just something you're saying because you think it sounds threatening and it doesn't actually make a lot of sense.

We don't find out, because instead we immediately cut to 2022, in Bethesda, Maryland – hey, that's where FBI agents regularly live! Looks like the first victim (second, really) will be right in the BSU's backyard! We see a killer in night vision goggles sneaking into the backyard of someone's house while a dog barks in the distance. He's obviously younger than the original killer, but the goggles draw a connection between them, even if they're not the same goggles from the trunk. Is this the killer's son? Did he train an apprentice?

The killer uses a wireless device to shut down the house's security camera – that's why you get a big dog, people, they don't need wifi to operate. Although, seriously, if your house's cameras are based on wifi you might as well tape a brick to the wall. Copper wire for life, yo. We get a moment of the killer menacing a baby – but is the show going to go that hard, that fast? The killer then heads into the bedroom, where he uses his handy wireless devide to shut off the baby monitor, which is clearly branded as VTECH, in what seems like baffling bit of product placement-

Buy VTECH – the baby monitor that can be remotely disabled by a murderer after he breaks into your house!

Anyway, the sound of the parents getting off-camera murdered wakes up a teen girl, who looks outside to see what the sound was, only for the killer to sneak up on her and grab her in the scene we saw in the trailer! Then we get-


But no opening credits montage or theme song, because it's 2022, and this is a SERIOUS SHOW.

Now we're back to Yakima county in the present day, but instead of introducing the authorities via a bunch of cars driving down the exact same road from the exact same angle to create a parallel between them, we get a swooping drone shot on a different road. Weird choice.

Hey, does the Washington State police drive awesome muscle cars? If so, neat! If not, this is not subtle product placement.

It's Tara! She's here! Yay! If you'd ask me who the first character we were going to check in on was going to be, I'd have guessed Joe, and obviously I was completely wrong. That said, with JJ moving to Louisiana, Emily chasing a relationship out west, and Joe Mantegna probably not wanting to tromp around a field in the middle of the night because he's too old for that kind of nonsense, logically it was going to be Tara or Luke out here.

Tara looks over the trailer – there are bodies stacked on the corpse trays, as well as a medical textbook opened to a page on the human arm. So that really is the killer's thing. Weird! The sheriff keeps talking about serial killers, wanting Tara to weigh in on how weird this is, and I'm hoping she'll point out that this isn't even top twenty of the craziest things she's seen.

The titles just told me Josh Stewart's in this episode! He's my favorite actor, so obviously this makes me happy.

Weird bit of dialogue – Tara asks who owns the property, and the sheriff responds that it's Old Man Jarvis' – but they don't know if it's his, or if someone 'buried' it. Which is a weird turn of phrase to use, since this container was profoundly not buried. Is that something you say? Why not say somebody dumped it here, or hid it here?

There are dried out corpses, a chest full of bones featuring four skulls – it's fair to say that they're looking at over a dozen victims in this trailer alone. All men as far as I can tell, just FYI. Was the guy hunting for a disciple by looking for people who'd previous tried to kill themselves, thereby hopefully finding someone disconnected enough from life to join his murder cult?

We hear that there was a couple of years worth of overgrowth in front of the container, so the killer hasn't been here for a while – I feel like Tara should ask exactly when 'Old Man Jarvis' died...

Tara decides she needs help, so she calls Emily...'s office, which is now where Luke keeps his treadmill? It's been two years and no one took over the office? Luke's too good to use the building's gym? Is there a shower nearby? I'd say it's unbelievable that there's just a bunch of empty offices to be repurposed in Quantico, but the previous president kind of hated the FBI, so there could have easily been a bunch of retirements with no one brought in to replace them.

Will the show mention that their job was made harder by the fact that the president was an open criminal who insulted the FBI whenever he could? I'm guessing no.

Tara needs him out there because there's 16 bodies, and it's definitely a serial killer. She predicts the DEA will blame drug cartels, which would be weird, because this is Washington State. That's not to say Washington doesn't have it's fair share of murderous drug growers who'd need to dispose of bodies from time to time, it's just that the government doesn't call drug gangs 'cartels' when they're made up of mostly white people.

It seems the Luke can't go because he's holding down the fort for Joe, who's off somewhere. Also they mention that their plane has been 'benched'. So maybe budget cuts will come up in the plot! It seems that Joe is busy in Virginia with a 'Family Annihilator' – I'm guessing they're using that term wrong, as usual – but is that going to be the same killer as the Maryland case from the teaser? Tara suggests they ask Emily for approval for him to travel, but Luke thinks that she's too busy with her duties since her promotion.

Emily's been promoted? After getting all of those agents killed two years ago? Wow, I guess a LOT of people have resigned.

It's over to Emily, who is managing assignments of agents throughout the East Coast! A deputy director shows up and they talk about why the team was split up – turns out they solve more cases that way! Which isn't a surprise – spoiler alert, having six profilers working on a case doesn't give you a lot more insight than having one profiler on the case. Emily still misses her team, though. Oh, and Reid and Matt are working on 'Undisclosed Assignments', which I guess is all we'll be hearing about that for a while. With Reid, that's nonsense, dude basically retired in the last episode, remember? But Matt has a history of working... Beyond Borders... so him being off doing something secrete makes total sense.

The assistant director is also concerned that Joe isn't coming into the office, but Emily says that he can't be bothered with things like 'running the BSU', which is his actual job, because he's so busy trying to catch this guy who kills entire families. Apparently it's happened a BUNCH. So they're going with Manhunter, basically. Too bad there's no one living in jail he can check in with about that... except for the Fox, obviously, but is anyone going to remember him?

We check in on Joe, who has a conspiracy board on the wall, hasn't shaved, and is obsessively watching crime scene videos. Not a good look.

Then it's over to JJ and Jr., who didn't move to Louisianna, after all! They talk about how fast the kids are growing up – presumably they are still played by AJ Cook's actual sons – and then we learn that she's looking into a murderer in Silver Springs – which I just learned is a suburb of Maryland, because it's featured prominently in the game The Devil In Me – weird coincidence!

Jr – being the best husband ever, brings JJ some tea while she looks over the crime scene photos for Joe while he talks about being sure the guy is going to kill again. Then we get a hilarious cut, because the editor decided to put in a sound effect of the call being disconnected even though everything about the scene clearly suggests that they're going to keep talking about this case.

Now it looks like JJ got bored of listening to Joe rambling and hung up the phone.

The next scene is very cute, as Joe wakes up to a call about the new murdered family, and is in such a rush to get to Maryland that he forgets his badge and gun. Also, why isn't he living at home? How did he screw things up with Crystal, exactly?

Don't worry, the baby's fine. Luke thinks he's being merciful, Joe's not so sure, especially given how brutal the deaths inside were. Then we get a slightly confusing scene as Joe and Luke are confused about why search and rescue are there – it turns out the daughter was kidnapped! Uh... how did Joe not know this already? He just said that he was inside the house and saw the brutality within. So he would have noticed the daughter's bedroom, since it was one door away from the site of the murders, and likely asked where her body was. This is information Joe should already have.

Then Joe goes to confront the grandmother who's looking after the baby. And instead of her being freaked out or overwhelmed with worry about her missing granddaughter, she gets a soliloquy about love and loss that's... well, I don't want to say contrived and artificial, but it seems like the kind of thinking you'd be doing weeks after a tragedy, not while the only thing you can think about is WHERE YOUR OTHER GRANDCHILD IS.

Then it's over to Quantico, via an establishing shot of the actual building, rather than the Capitol Dome, so at least that's been fixed! The Deputy wants the whole team on the kidnapping family slayer, but Emily thinks that the 16 bodies – which she calls a 'mass grave' even thought it's obviously the killer's lair – is the higher priority. The Deputy says they're going to kick it over to the DEA because it looks like a Cartel thing, unless, of course, Emily deals with the kidnapping effectively – in that case he can pull some strings.

Emily calls Tara to get her back to the East Coast, and they talk about the absurdity that this is Cartels – there's an elderly couple in there, so it's obviously ridiculous. Unless, you know, they were hikers to stumbled on a drug farm or something. They talk about body preservation, and the killer's records – we get another line about the killer keeping his victims 'underground' for privacy. Again, they are NOT underground. The moment she says this we're looking at a profoundly not underground shipping container. It's just sitting against the side of a hill with some bushes around it. Did the script call for a bunker lair, and they didn't have the time to build that set, but then they didn't change the script?

See – I'm not crazy. This is weird. Also, what's going on with that interlocking eye symbol on the top-left of the container. Is that the logo of the serial killer frat, or am I reading way too much into tiny details? Tara says she'd be he's revisiting the site – but isn't it worth mentioning that it's pretty clear based on the brush and state of the lock that no one has been there in years? They literally just told us that a couple of scenes ago. We also get a look at the killer's surveillance photos of the first victim –

-note the 'we didn't have time to go to a location, so these were shot in the alley behind the studio' vibe. Also that the first victim was likely homeless.

JJ and Luke look over some photos in the house and decide that the MO is obvious – he's selecting families with teenage daughters. But why did one get killed and the other get taken? Also that's a bit of a leap, both of the families also had sons – and in the first case both children were killed, and in the second both lived. Yes, you can say that the daughter is important because she was kidnapped, but the living baby son is just as important a change in the MO as far as you know.

While talking about the case, they literally crib dialogue from Manhunter, talking about the father's throat being slit and him rushing to protect his family as he was bleeding to death and the killer taking out the biggest threat first. I'm not going to be too hard on them for this, though – Manhunter's great. Joe yells at the team for not getting the Amber Alert going fast enough – Luke points out that you can't do that until you know what car is being driven, but Joe doesn't want to hear it! Obviously this case is taking a lot out of him – but why is it such a priority?

Back from commercial we see the killer texting with someone about selling the teenage girl for ten thousand dollars. OMG, we're doing the season 10 victim brokering thing again! When I first hear about this season's premise I talked about how this was the third time they'd attempted a 'network of serial killers' thing, so I'm super excited to see if they pull it off this time!

Is the new boss at the FBI in on the murder ring? Or would that be too obvious. The last time they did complicit higher-ups was the season 11 assassins storyline, which was... well, I'm sure you remember.

Back at the office JJ and Luke talk about how Joe is lashing out and it's making their jobs that much harder. Also Luke swears, offering the first profanity in the history of the show! It seems that Joe's processing grief, and taking it out on everyone around him – so I guess Crystal died last year?

Alright, the stupidest thing ever happens. They get the security footage from a neighbour across the street, and it shows the killer walking down the street towards the house, then driving away in the family car with the teen tied up in the back. You're telling me that no one noticed that the family car was missing? The whole family was dead, and the garage was empty, and not one cop or FBI agent picked up on that until this moment?!?

Also, these are the AMERICAN SUBURBS – no one walks anywhere. Entire towns are built without sidewalks to specifically discourage people walking places. This guy walking down the street in a hoodie is basically the most suspicious thing in the world, and it's crazy no one called the cops. Basically, if you're out at night in the suburbs, and you're not either walking a dog or jogging, you're going to get the cops called on you.

And where did he come from? Did someone drop him off, or did he walk all the way from his place miles away? That would be even more suspicious.

Back to Tara and the local Sheriff – he suggests the killer died of COVID, since he stopped bringing new victims in 2020. That's actually a really solid theory. Tara thinks that it's more likely that it became too risky to grab new victims since everything was locked down. I'm not going to make a big deal about this here, since I'm sure it will come up later – but let's just get it out of the way – this is a guy dragging homeless people off the street and killing them. What paltry, minor lockdowns the Pacific Northwest had would have done nothing to slow his ability to find victims. The takeaway is – Tara wants the team to take over the case – so they'd better find that girl alive!

Gosh, I wonder if it's going to turn out that the two cases are connected.

Back at Quantico, the Deputy director says that they don't want to pay to move the trailer because it's probably a cartel thing. Um... there's stalker photos of a homeless guy that he killed, and boxes of jewelry as souvenirs. I know the guy's supposed to be an idiot, but there's literally no evidence of organized crime here.

Now things get weird – it turns out the ten thousand dollars actually was about the car – some schlub bought it from the teen in a Walmart parking lot that afternoon! Apparently she just walked off into the parking lot after getting the money? So how is the killer controlling her? Does she think he has the baby brother stashed away somewhere? Also, where is the killer's car? Did he walk from the Walmart? Oh, and the car sale was planned two days earlier, so the killer is mapping things out fairly long-term.

It's a maybe not on the threatening about the baby brother – we see the teen in the car with the killer, who announces that she did what he wanted and now just wants to go home. The killer gets a call from an encrypted number, and then destroys his phone. It's visually implied that this is Joe using the schlub's phone to call the killer's number – although if that's the case, why would it show up as encrypted? That can't be what's happening – Joe wouldn't be dumb enough to just call the phone, he'd go get the number traced.

At Quantico the team wonders how the killer is controlling the teen – they assume it's a threat against the family and she doesn't know they're dead, although pretending to have kidnapped the brother is the better play. It turns out both teen girls were on SOAR – a new social media site just for teens who don't want to deal with creeps, stalkers, and ads. Could the killer have stalked them there? They'll need Garcia to figure that out! But they promised not to call her...

Luke goes to see Garcia, who's in the middle of a great british bake-off themed party. Time to backfill some exposition – Luke and Garcia went on one date three years ago, so they're not a couple. Sad. And they're going to her because she built the security system for SOAR, so it should be unbreakable. Unless, of course, the guy who owns SOAR is the one running the serial killer fraternity, and he used Garcia's unbreakable security format to generate a way for serial killers to talk to one another without being observed by anyone? Maybe he started SOAR just so he could non-suspiciously hire the best internet security people in the world to build him a serial killer social media site without them realizing what they were doing?

And that's why the killer was getting an encrypted call and he destroyed the phone – the guy who owns SOAR and KILL.NET is pissed at him for using SOAR to find victims, because it risks exposing KILL.NET!

Okay, now I'm just writing my own season of Criminal Minds. Let's keep going. Luke emotionally blackmails Garcia into helping by saying that the girls were definitely targeted on SOAR – which he 100% does not know.

It's a very cute scene, because the two performers have great chemistry, but we learn something interesting apparently the killer couldn't be older and experienced the way Joe thinks, because you have to be under 22 to use the site. Unless... maybe the killer is faking an identity to get on SOAR? How hard would that actually be?

They quickly Skype with Joe, who's sure the killer is older based on the sophistication and nothing else. He yells at Garcia, and she understandably hangs up the call. She says that no one but her has access to SOAR – so did she just build it on her own? She and Luke start looking for teenage guys who have problems with their family – because they're extrapolating that he's killing his own family over and over again based on an abusive childhood. Which, you know, fair.

The killer brings the teen to a trailer and, after leaving her in the car just long enough to watch a section of the video in which her parents are about to be killed, he grabs her and drags her inside.

There's a scene of Joe and Emily where she reaches out about Crystal's death, but we still don't know how it happened, and he's not super-receptive. That said, he's willing to admit that he's not doing his job, which is good!

Now we get a bunch of profiling stuff in a hurry – it turns out the first victims were all killed in and around the daughter's bedroom, and the murder weapon was a baseball bat that the father kept beside the bed. Um... how was this so hard to profile? You were thinking it was your idea of what a family annihilator is, but the guy didn't even bring a weapon with him to the first murder? That should have been at the core of how you were looking at this case!

Turns out both teen girls talked to the killer on SOAR, and he's a guy who claimed to be abandoned and was was looking for his birth family. They've got his picture and everything! So is SOAR'S thing that you have to use a video camera to confirm your identity all the time so people will know you're actually a teen?

The guy's name is RJ2003 or 2003RJ, so that's initials and birth year, obviously. He mentioned in his texts that he was from Maryland's eastern shore, so Garcia goes looking for his family. She immediately finds land that was seized by the government in 2007 when the parents died of Oxy overdoses, and the state took their son RJ into custody. So now they've got a name, face, and probable location for the killer! And all it took was Garcia breaking a bunch of privacy laws!

The killer confesses that he's in love with the teen, and that he killed her parents because they wouldn't let her go to university in California – now they can go together! Yikes. The team shows up with lots of guns, but before they get there the teen hits RJ with a hammer, and his so disappointed to discover that she doesn't love him that he shoots himself in the head.


Except the teen gets the gun and threatens so shoot herself because she's full of guilt over getting her family killed. Joe talks her down, and we get a happy ending! Honestly, the whole thing seems super-contrived as a way to get Joe to talk about his own emotional issues. There's no reason to think that the teen would take the killer's word for it that her family was dead and just kill herself in a fit of pique. Now, if he'd showed her the video to prove that not all they had was each other, that would be one thing, but no, nothing like that actually happened.

Still no info on how Crystal died. COVID? Wildebeast stampede? Inquiring Minds want to know.

Turns out I was wrong – they were the same goggles from the case at the beginning – turns out that RJ was using the same murder kit as the killer from the container! There's your connection, people! Then it's over to Tara, where we learn that no, it's not the exact same kit – it's a standardized 'serial killer starter kit' that someone is making and distributing! But where did RJ find his buried? In an amazing coincidence, Tara manages to see the matching kit on a news broadcast about the abduction – which was apparently national news? So now they have to bring the container back to Maryland!

Then we cut over to the Mastermind (hereafter MM, since we'll be seeing a LOT of him I'm guessing – he even gets the end of episode quote), who's burying a case so another one of his disciples can pick it up. Interestingly he doesn't look old enough to have inspired the 2005 killer – was that guy the original, and this guy franchised the idea after meeting him?

In 'the news only talks about the BAU' news, the radio that's playing while he's burying the box mentions that the shipping container was found in Washington state, and gives the name of the killer they caught – which he's shocked to hear. I guess this was the guy who phoned Rory earlier, although him being pissed about the use of SOAR doesn't appear to have been the motive.

Also, the radio refers to the team 'unearthing' a 'burial site' – one more time for the cheap seats -


Bedazzled Crone (aka Dr. Redmond) said...

Excuse the typos, etc. but The Count was doing this in a hurry. Listen to Profiling Criminal Minds, which was recorded right after The Count finished watching. We are soooooooo happy that Criminal Minds is back.

Bedazzled Crone (aka Dr. Redmond) said...

The link ( in case you are too lazy to look it up :-) ): https://profilingcriminalminds.podbean.com/e/criminal-minds-1601-just-getting-started/

Anonymous said...

“Mandy and Hotch”? Will we never hear from Greg again?

Liz B said...

I'm so glad you're back to review the new season! It's been so long since season 15 I'd forgotten how dumb this show is and equally how much I love it.

One thing I noticed and hoped you had mentioned was this: in the first scene between Prentiss and the Deputy Director, Prentiss says 'Agent Rossi has forgotten more about serial offenders than we will ever know, the Bureau is lucky to have him leading the BAU'. I went back several times to make sure I hadn't misheard it, I just couldn't figure out why they were lucky that he had forgotten information about serial killers when his job is to know things about serial killers...am I missing something?

He's really not doing his job well right now anyway. If my grandchild had been abducted it wouldn't give me much confidence in her being rescued if the agent working the case clearly doesn't have his shit together. His speech to Chrissy was SO contrived. Does she even know for certain that her parents are dead? Rossi essentially confirms it for her by acting like she already knows but she didn't watch enough of the footage to have proof. Surely her little brother is the best leverage to use here. Also maybe don't keep pointing your gun at her whilst you attempt to appear non-threatening.

Luke and Garcia had better get more scenes together, they have great chemistry and I was sad that they apparently only went on one date!

The most realistic part of the show now is that they can use swear words. It was always so jarring to me to see such gruesome murder scenes and mangled bodies but no one ever says anything worse than 'darn'.

Excited for episode 2!

Liz B said...

And another thing: do you really need the make and model of the car before you can issue an Amber Alert? Surely that's only essential information to share if you already have it, and you could update the Amber Alert later right? Of course it's a moot point in this situation as they would have known exactly what car it was just by looking at the empty driveway.

Anonymous said...

Joe with the win for the first f&$+. Loving it. And your coverage. I was reading season 10 when the new series started airing. So I'm still way behind. Just overall loving every part of this (once again) ongoing journey. Thank you.