Criminal Minds came back after the long summer hiatus with a very good episode, but unlike previous seasons, it wasn’t the conculsion of the usual season ending cliffhanger. Also, Criminal Minds came back minus one character, but introduced a new one. How good was the Season Eight opener "The Silencer" compared to previous seasons?
The episode was all about dealing with the new BAU agent Alex Blake and working the case of 'The Silencer", an unsub who sewed his victims mouths shut!
The episode started with a man being transfered from a prison to an ambulance. The prisoner escaped after the ambulance was involved in an accident but he before he escaped, he killed the guard who tried to trick him into surrendering and sewed the dead guard’s mouth shut.
The ambulance crash was a well done stunt. Filming in such a small space (inside the ambulance) must have been difficult for all involved but it was all well done!
Back at the BAU, Morgan and Garcia are back in DC from a stay in London; Morgan was there as a consultant for the Olympics, while Garcia was there to visit former BAU agent Emily Prentiss, who now works for Interpol. Loved that writer and showrunner Erica Messer gave us an update on how Emily was doing in the Land of Her Majesty, The Queen of England!
Upon their return, Morgan and Garcia meet with the BAU new agent SSA Alex Blake (played by former Big Love star Jeanne Tripplehorn). To say that Garcia was not happy with someone replacing her friend Emily was an understantement! Garcia – whose sentiments echoed some of the sentiments from some of the fans who are not happy about about losing Paget Brewster's character of Emily Prentiss, again, and are less than entusiastic about getting a new character – made it clear to Blake that she was not ready to welcome her, at least not yet! But by the end of the episode Garcia did have a change of heart, and welcomed Blake to the team by giving her a souvenier from England and asked her to forgive her bitchy attitude. Hopefully Garcia's improved attitude towards Alex will find some resonnance with the fans who have not been too receptive with this change.
As for the case, loved it! Finally a case where the unsub doesn't take all available space and leaves the team to make an apparence! The fact that the unsub was deaf and mute may have been Erica's way to address some of the fans biggest complains from the past two seasons ‘you want to learn about the unsub but not with him telling you? Well he won't cause he is deaf and mute!' Most of what we got about the unsub, his motive, who he was, etc., came from the team profile! We got the team working together, doing lots of profiling! Yes, we do watch for the team doing what they are suppose to be the best at: profiling. Another frustrating thing about the last two seasons was the lack of focus on Reid and Hotch work, and this episode didn't address this problem but hey, we still have 23 episodes to go!
That said, "The Silencer" was a very good episode. The unsub was interesting, as was his motive for killing. We felt sorry for what happened to him as a kid. The way the unsub sewed his victims mouths was particularly gruesome, and the reason why he did so was inventive: he did it to shut up people who lied to him! Have to say that the actor who played the unsub, was excellent! Little fact, Troy Michael Kotsur is deaf in real life.
Loved how the team worked together to get the profile, worked the case and caught the killer. I had the feeling that the team was working well together, not feeling the loss of Prentiss as much as I thought they would. This feeling must have come from the fact that when we, the audience, catch up with the BAU they, with th exception of Morgan and Garcia, had been working with Blake for a few months. It shows in how Morgan questions why Blake left out some information when the team was giving the profile but no one else questioned her reaction. Derek was right in questioning Blake. Alex may have Hotch’s trust, as they had been working together for a few months and he knows how she operates, but this was Morgan’s first case with Alex. Blake found out that Morgan does not hesitate to question his fellow agents no matter their rank! I like that about Morgan even if he sometimes clashes with Hotch!
Speaking of clashes, I love the tension between Blake and Erin Strauss. Blake doesn't like or trust Strauss, and no one can blame her after Strauss refused to back Alex and let her take the fall on a previous case several years in the past. Strauss’s actions cost Blake advancement in the Bureau and probably cost her an earlier placement in the BAU. Will those two ever come to like and even trust each other? Maybe futures episodes will tell us!
So, the question is, does Blake make a good replacement for Prentiss? Too soon to tell. As a Prentiss fan, I am still missing Emily but I am not closed off to Alex. What I saw of her in "The Silencer" I liked very much and I found that her being very different from Emily makes her less of a replacement and more like an addition to the team and this I find very refreshing.
Overall, as a Criminal Minds episode, "The Silencer" was an excellent episode, it had many of the things I like about a CM episode: lots of profiling, no heavy focus on the unsub, lots of the team working the case, some VERY creepy moments (sewing people's mouth is VERY creepy!) personal/funny moments (Garcia going all British, LOVE her dress at the beginning!). But have to say, as a season opener, this episode lacked the tension of the season 7 ender. "Hit/Run" had lots of action, a team member in peril, the sense of urgency...all the excitment that a season opener episode should have. Seasons enders and openers have to set themselves apart, they have to make people feel like something big will happen. "Hit/Run" had it, unfortunately "The Silenecer didn't until the very last seconds when the season long unsub was introduced. THAT got me excited! Why? Because he is going after the team! Plus I was left with many questions; why is he/she going after the team? Who is the unsub? What will he/she do to them? How will he/she do it? When will he/she strike? This is all very thrilling!
For this episode, we will give a 8/10: solid writing, the episode did a good job introducing the character of Alex Blake and the season long unsub but the episode lacked the spectacular "something" that the fans expect from a season premiere of Criminal Minds.