Sunday, April 11, 2010

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 5 - 518. The Fight - Review

I love Criminal Minds. I continued to watch after my favorite character left the show because I still loved the show. It keeps me on my toes intellectually, I love the characters and I love the stories. I didn’t love this story. Well, maybe that’s not entirely correct – I didn’t love the episode, but I think that handled differently, the story could have been good. There was just so much that didn’t ring true about the episode that the story kind of got lost.

The case:

Day 1, the UNSUB is kidnaps a street person from the Tenderloin district in San Francisco and beats and kills them and dumps the body. He records the murder. On Day 2, he kidnaps a father and his young to mid-teenage daughter. He says to the father that if he gives his daughter to him, they will both live. But the father doesn’t want to do that, so he kidnaps another street person from the Tenderloin and makes the father beat the street person nearly to death to save the lives of both he and his daughter. When the street person is down, the UNSUB shoots him in the head and then dumps the body in Presidio Park. Oh, and at some point in the middle of all that, send the wife/mother of the victims a recording of the first murder and threaten that if she goes to the police, he will kill them. Lather, rinse, repeat for Day 3, with a tweak to the proceedings: after the father has beaten the crap out of the homeless man, tell him it is a fight to the death and that if he doesn’t kill the homeless man, then the UNSUB will kill all 3 of them. Then after the father kills the homeless man, kill the father and daughter anyway and dump their bodies. Wait a year, do it again. Then wait another year, do it again.

The Stressor:

Many years ago the UNSUB and his wife divorced and she got custody of their daughter. After the ex-wife died, the UNSUB lost custody of his daughter due to his severe psychological problems. When social services came to the house to get the daughter, he beat one of them to death and did 7 years at San Quentin for the murder. During that time, the daughter was in a car accident and was in intensive care for 3 days before she died. After that, the UNSUB started calling out other prisoners, challenging them to “fight to the death” and after he tried it with the guards, spent the rest of his prison term in solitary confinement. Once he got out of prison, he began his once yearly spree.

My problems with the episode:

I have read several comments about this episode and I agree with many of them – how can a foreign national and a felon become special supervisory agents in the FBI? What happened to Mary Steenbergen who was listed as The Director? She was never shown, and when they mentioned The Director, it was Strauss who came on screen. WTF? What was with casting Jason Wiles as Ben McBride, a victim, when he played the USBUB in Psychodrama in Season 2? Do TPTB think we don’t notice that kind of stuff or did they just not realize what they did? They should know we notice EVERYTHING. Why the heck was Strauss acting as if Cooper was a precocious child when she would have had Hotch’s hide if he had pulled what Cooper pulled? Where were Reid, JJ and Garcia in this episode? I have lots more, but they tend to get snarky, so I won’t post them here.

I did have some actual problems with the episode:

Everything seemed to be abbreviated. I think if this episode was a 2-hour or a 2-part episode, it could have been a lot better and might have felt a little more coherent. There would have been more time to flesh out the case and the characters.

Cooper’s team finds the identity of the missing father and daughter within minutes – it is too fast—we don’t see any of the process, it just happens and the prophet speaks (UGH – hated that cliché line). Hotch and Cooper go to see the wife, who is a wreck because the UNSUB has also contacted her and said that her husband and daughter would die if she involved the police. She has a video of the murder of the first homeless victim so they now have evidence that the cases are connected.

How does the UNSUB, who is working alone, find the time to: kidnap a father and daughter, kidnap 3 homeless men, and contact the wife/mother and threatening her as well? It seems as if there is way too much for him to keep track of in a 3-day period. No one is that organized.

The episode started with Hotch and Cooper agreeing that the BAU team would be working on the homeless men case, and then Cooper’s team would work on the missing father/daughter case, but they ended up teaming members of the BAU with Cooper’s team. It worked in LoFi/Mayhem, but there didn’t seem to be any reason to pair them up here, except to match them with BAU members.

Why did Gina and Morgan tell the wife/mother all about what the UNSUB is doing and why he is doing it? I realize that it was necessary exposition, but the wife/mother certainly didn’t need to hear it. Couldn’t it have been done while Hotch and Reid were giving the profile to the local police? I guess they needed to give Gina a couple more lines, but she is forgettable. I had to watch it twice to even realize that she had any lines at all or was in more than one scene. I only remembered this scene because she and Morgan were wearing his and hers leather jackets. Instead of showing shots of Gina studying Jane’s room and the mother looking pitiful, they might have had a little more exposition about how they came to figure out how the UNSUB was targeting his victims through a family therapist in the Tenderloin who also did social service evaluations. I still am unsure how the UNSUB did this. Did he stake out the therapists office and follow likely victims home? Did he break into the therapist’s office and go through files to find his victims?

And the Prentiss/Mick scenes. The mild flirtation while Prentiss is fishing for information about him and Cooper was a cute moment, and told us a little about Mick. But the scene in the Tenderloin where she was on the street and he was on the roof scoping out the scene? What was that all about? It did absolutely nothing to further the story, it didn’t even establish Mick as a sharpshooter – he was just up on top of the building giving a bird’s eye view.

The last 10 minutes or so were very frenzied. There was a whole lot going on and I guess I feel that it could have been dealt with less frenetically. There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary activity to ramp up to the finale. Why did Rossi and The Prophet have to go back to San Quentin in a helicopter when he had his snitch on the phone? Couldn’t he have imparted that 30 second bit of dialog over the phone? At the same time this is going on, Hotch is reading names to Garcia and the phone rings and The Prophet is able to give Cooper the UNSUB’s name which Garcia matches to the therapist and social services and we get the story as to what happened to make the UNSUB go berserk.

From there to the end it is a dead run to find the UNSUB and victims. Why did they ask Garcia, who is in DC, to call the local SFPD and ask for a helicopter? Maybe that is just my own pet peeve, because there have been many times when people have asked me to do something for them that they could have done during the time they asked me to do it for them.

The ending is a bit unbelievable: Prentiss, Morgan, Gina, the UNSUB and Jane are on the roof of a building and it appears that the UNSUB has jumped off the side of the building. Prentiss runs over to the edge and looks over the side of the building only to see the UNSUB lying on a ledge a few feet below her with his gun pointed at her. Then we hear three shots as Mick, who has miraculously run up a dozen or so flights of stairs in the building next door, which coincidentally happens to be a taller building, sets up his sniper rifle, calms himself and takes three kill shots, kills the UNSUB and saves Prentiss' life.

The characters for the spin-off are over-the-top. I know Forest Whitaker is an Oscar-winning actor, but he just doesn’t do it for me. Gina? Forgettable. Mick? How clichéd is that for a name for a Brit? The Prophet? I kind of liked him, even though it is a little far-fetched to believe that a felon is now a fed. Will I watch it if it gets picked up by CBS? No.
~~~~Lady of the Lake


  1. Agreed! That is a BIG N.O. for me as well!

  2. That episode was a slap in the face of the cast and all the true fans of CM. I agree with that review a 100%!!! Thank you for posting it!
    My mind was set before the showing of the episode and I still stay with my choice, there will be NO spin off for me either.

  3. I totally agree! Forest is a good actor, but he's not cut out for this kind of show. Everyone from the original CM cast look serious and mean business (even with occasional Morgan/Penelope banter) while Cooper looks like an over-enthusiastic kid. And no offense, but I just can't visualize him as a guy from BAU.

  4. I disagree with you 80% of the time! I agree that it was a bit frenzied and think that a 2-hour, 2-part series would have been better to introduce the new team and draw out the story in true CM style.

    One thing that really bugs me about the story is what happened to the missing wives, mothers or significant other who was told not to contact the police otherwie the man and young girl would be killed. There was a line in the movie that said the unsub left no survivors so how come a family been killed was not mentioned?

  5. One thing that really bugged me is that guy with the sniper did tell everyone that they guy is just sitting on the ledge and still there. he should lose is badge for that, He could have gotten an agent killed, or maybe brought the guy in instead of killing him and stroking his own ego.


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