Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 9 - 903. Final Shot - Review

Criminal Minds new episode "Final Shot" was the third episode in this new season and it hit all the right keys! We had it all; an UNKNOWN Subject that was just that, clever writing, lots of profiling, team work, excellent acting, and the BAU team front and center!

First, let's start with the case: in Dallas, Texas, a sniper shoot people for what seems no other reason than just sports. The team worked the case and realized that all those shootings were to throw off investigators as to whom the real target was and to whom she is related - the target being a woman who left her abusive husband, who works at security firm. The husband did hire a former soldier to kill his wife, but the killer kills other people in a LDSK spree killing so he can hide who his real target.

The team was called to help with this LDSK case. The local FBI noticed that he killed 50% of those he targeted, making him a very average shooter, but the team noticed that all the shots were kill-shots, making the sniper VERY efficient. We do get lots of misdirection in the form of theories, it starts at the Plaza shooting, courtesy of the media asking if this was an act of terrorism. By the way, nice comment made by someone commenting the news; they commented about the state of news media reporting another mass shooting, then moving in the moment another 'scandal' involving a celebrity shows up. Sad, but truthful insight, about the state of news media.

Another theory, this one from Rossi, involved the anniversary of the JFK assasination. Of course, this turns out to be false, but we got to guess and wonder about if Dave was on to something.

Another misdirection comes from Brooke, the girl who was dared by her friend to approach 'creepy programmer' Axel, who turned out to be the first victim; she said she saw across the street a white bald man at a window.

There were some more misleading elements in this story; at first the team thought that a white supremacist inmate, who now says he has changed his ways. They thought he was behind the shooting, or related, since he was arrested in the murder of a black city councilman and he was being prosecuted by the lawyer Bukowski, one of the fatal victims at the plaza. Supporting this theory was teh fact that both, the riffle used to kill the councilman, and the one used by the sniper, were the same make and model. JJ and Morgan were sent to interrogate the man, which gives us a VERY good scene where JJ and Morgan draw the guy out, and exposed him for what he is, the same racist he has always been, but he was not the killer.

In the meanwhile, we follow Colin and Maya, who seem to have fled the scene of the shooting. From their conversation, we gathered they were hiding from an unknown person/s. One of the two interesting parts, is that first we followed those people, got involved into their fear of being seen/caught, - Colin appeared to be very protective of Maya, - only to discover later that all this was in Colin's head, a fantasy to keep his focus on his target... Maya! We learn from the team that snipers will often have fantasies about their targets, so they can stay focused on the victims for long periods of time. Very nice twist!

We really had to pay attention and see all that links the shootings, from some of the victims to the ultimate target, Maya, the wife of a controlling and abusing man. The first shooting did hide the real first target, a woman who helped Maya enter an organization that helps abused women escape their situation. That woman was the third victim at the plaza. This lead us to the second shooting at the gas station, where another woman involved in hiding Maya was shot. At the gas station we saw Hotch and Rossi profiling the scene, and how Hotch realized that the shooter was not a simple sniper, but a sharpshooter. He profiled that the kill shots had come at 1.5 seconds intervals, and those were fired with moving vehicles around, and from a hidden position, maybe the trunk of a truck. Yes, the unsub was not just good, he was one of the best. But he would meet his demise at the hand of another great sharpshooter, SSA Aaron Hotchner!

The link between the woman killed at the plaza and the one at the gas station was found by Garcia, who was able to dazzle everyone with her skills at retrieving data that was previously thought lost... You go Penelope!
Finally the teamwork lead us to the person who hired the sharpshooter, who Colin talks about with Maya in his fantasy without ever naming the man. The team would learn that Maya was an abused wife who was trying to run away from her abusive husband, a man with a military background who ran a security agency, and who hired Colin to kill her. Eric, the husband, had to hide that Maya was the real target because the cops had been involved in their problems. He hired Colin to use counter measures, hence why Colin killed all those people at what at first seems like random shootings, but including those involved in Maya's escape!

Random observations:
  • What this reviewer absolutely loved was that Criminal Minds was back to what made it a great TV show: focus on the team and what they do so well, profiling. Did we see the unsub in the first 2 minutes of the episode? Yes, but he was masked and we had no idea who he was. How refreshing not knowing who he was and having to rely on the team to find out who it was and why he was killing people! We did learn about part of who the killer was and about his 'job' as a hired hitman from the man himself. Usually that would have been a complain of mine, this have been used way too much since mid season 5 to end of season 8, but this time it was all hidden in Colin's fantasy, and we the viewers didn't know it was all his imagination at play. Once it was revealed who Colin really was, near the end, when the team figured it out, the viewers were left with the joy of going 'I didn’t see that one coming!'.
  • Back was also having one of the profilers, in this case Reid, walking the scene of the latest massacre and explain what happened and why, as if Reid was there when it all happened. This is such an effective way to show profiling, We were used to have that a lot in seasons 1 and 2. Glad it came back for this episode. Of course, as great as this is, been overused, like showing the unsub too early or having the unsub tell us why they do things and not let the team profile the unsub, would get the viewer less interested if overused.
  • Another throw back to past seasons was that everything about the unsub came from the team working the case. Not once what the unsub did or said explained why he was killing, - and yes the unsub did lots of things, BUT not once did we know he was the LDSK until the last 10 minutes of the episode, and by then once this was revealed it came as a shocker! That piece of writing by Sharon Lee Watson was very clever. Not once while watching Colin Bramwell, - very well played by Mike Colter,- running away and hiding with the sniper intended victim, Maya Carcani, - also well played by Yetide Badaki,- did this reviewer had any idea that Colin was the sniper, and that everything I was seeing was actually just a imaginative tale.
  • One of the two best scenes in that episode was the one with JJ and Morgan interrogating that racist inmate: JJ and Morgan read the man well, and knew exactly how to behave to make him reveal that he really had not changed and was still a racist. Excellent writing and acting.

  • Another favorite scene was the last one, where Hotch took down the sniper. Way back when Criminal Minds was created, it was said in the note about Hotch, that he had been a sharpshooter with SWAT before joining the BAU. Was pleased to see that that Sharon Lee Watson remembered that and used it in this episode. Last shot with Hotch hugging Maya was just beautiful.

  • One thing that I wonder about is that, in the scene where Reid and JJ are talking with someone working at the shelter for abused women, Reid mentions that it would not be easy with this sort of secrecy (funny coming from Reid after he was so angry at JJ for lying about Emily not being dead!) . Is he refering to when JJ had to lie about Emily? Does it have to do with the scene at the BAU when JJ was talking to Will on the phone and Reid asked her if everything was OK? is that something that will be addressed in the 200th episode, as it was hinted in recent interviews? We shall see.
  • Have to mention that camera work in the locker scene where Hotch open one up, with the camera inside it, and we see him take out a big rifle. Love that view, it is as if we, the viewers, are getting a glimpse into what is going on.

On a side note: the second victim, Daniel Bukowski, at the plaza shooting, the lawyer, was played by Criminal Minds Stunt Coordinator Tom Elliot!

Funny moment:

At the hospital, when Brooke, the girl who went to talk to that 'creepy programmer' - we, programmers, disagree; we are not creepy, just a bit weird ;). At some point during the interview with Reid and Blake, Brooke, while recalling the moment Axel was killed, lost it and hugged Blake. Blake is SO uncomfortable! Blake strikes me as not being very maternal type, unlike say JJ!

Best quote:

Garcia:I have checked all the assassination buffs and conspiracy theorists, including myself and I’m all sad to say, we are all in the clear!

Funny quote:

JJ:Who uses a 308 rifle?
Rossi:In Texas? Hunters, Minutemen, housewives,...

Last, have not to praised writer Sharon Lee Watson enough for an excellent story that had the viewer guessing from start to finish about who the killer was. Many fans have complained a lot about Criminal Minds taking out much of the guessing who the unsubs are by showing them in the first seconds of an episode; in this episode Watson did this, BUT the killer was masked and we were left guessing who he was and why he did what he did, while we watched the team profile the killer and his motives. This IS what most of us love about Criminal Minds, well one of the many things we love about the show.

So far Criminal Minds  is off to a great start. We had very solid, entertaining episodes with "The Inspiration" and "The Inspired", "Final Shot" took it one notch higher by also going back to what made Criminal Minds a must see TV show. If the rest of this season is as good as this episode, we will have one of the best season in Criminal Minds history!

This reviewer gives this episode a 9.5/10

~~~~ Merlin

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