"The Return" was written by Kim Harrison and focused on what looked like gang initiation murders happening in Chicago.
The teen, Daniel Morrison, was abducted a few years back, and was a victim of extreme Stockholm Syndrome (when a kidnapped victim starts to do their kidnappers bidding willingly). In this case, Daniel was supposed to kill as many as he could in a park, but was stopped by Morgan and the Chicago PD Detective Reyes - played by Maurice Compte. Later, when reviewing what this unsub did, the team realized he wanted to get caught; they just did not know why. They tried to interrogate him, but all the kid kept saying was his name, his function (a soldier), and a serial number (supposedly his). In the end, Reid figured out that the serial number was actually a cop badge number.
With Garcia's help they find out whose badge number it was: a cop who, with his partner, was kicked out of the force after a rookie cop, - who turned out to be Detective Reyes, - denounced them for beating up a suspect. Wayne Gulino, the unsub, decided to get his revenge against the City of Chicago and the Chicago PD, and especially Detective Reyes. And this was where Hotch, Reid and Rossi did their disappearing act after going to the empty suspect home, to never be seen again.
While the latter was happening, another unsub, this time a young teen girl, showed up at the police station with a bomb vest strapped on her and a dead man switch in her hand. JJ, Morgan and Blake, all tried to talk the girl down, but Morgan had to shot her because she was about to blow up everyone, with JJ having to race to the girl before she released the switch in order to avoid the imminent explosion.
This reviewer really loved the episode until the last few minutes of it; the case got me interested up until the very end. Loved that we were made to guess about what was going on, and why those teens where killing people. LOVED that I could discover what was going on WITH the team, and not before they did. Too often during the last seasons, the viewers knew what was going on way before the team, thanks to the writers showing us or telling us via the unsubs actions or words, why and how they committed their crimes. This was annoying because the team became at times just a tool to arrest the unsubs, instead of the experts they are at UNDERSTANDING, PROFILING the unsubs. This year, I am glad that the team is back at doing what it does best; profiling unsubs and making the viewers understand their minds. In other words, happy to see the team at the CENTER of things and not just as an afterthought. In this episode, Hotch and Reid figured out the why and how, and Morgan the who, and with JJ, saved everyone from an untimely death.
I loved that we were thrown many theories; gang initiation murders, home grown terrorism, and finally, we found out that it was all about personal revenge.
One of the best scenes was when the mother of the arrested kid was asked by the BAU to try to talk to her son. The kid - played by A.J. Achinger - was so great; it was heartbreaking seeing this kid who was trying so hard not to give in and talk to his mom. The actress playing his mother, Jan Broberg, was so convincing, you could feel her pain at seeing what her son had become, and her guilty for losing him years ago. By the way, in a twist that shows that really life is stranger than fiction, Jan Broberg was herself kidnapped at the age of 12, and her mother did write a book about it “Stolen Innocence, the Jan Broberg Story” .
Another very good scene was the one where the first unsub - played by Ronnie Banks, - shot almost everyone in the restaurant; that scene was stolen by the actress who played the waitress, Karly Rothenberg. The actress played it so well, that she was able to give a very minor character some depth. Great casting here.
As much as I loved the episode, what left me unhappy was the ending of the case. The writer built the action very carefully up to when the girl shows up at the station, Morgan and JJ stop her, and right away they go after the man behind the whole scheme. Why not use the MIA agents, Hotch, Reid and Rossi, to go after the guy instead of AGAIN using Morgan and JJ, who had just been involved in taking down the bomber? Did Thomas, Matthew and Joe, all had prior engagements they needed to attend to?
This vanishing act happened a few times in Seasons 6, 7 and 8, and is VERY annoying when writers seem to run out (?) of things for some members of the team to do. But this should not have happened, as Hotch, Reid and Rossi could have been the ones going after the unsub; there was no reason, - except maybe personal preferences by the writer? - to write the scene for Morgan and JJ just after their big scene in the station.
Anyway back to that scene; the arrest of the unsub felt as a let down: instead of trying to end the confrontation as we would have imagined, with something bigger, or at least have the man do SOMETHING, like maybe trying to kill the object of his hate, Detective Reyes, the man put no resistance to the arrest and went out peacefully. The writer went with trying to surprise the viewer instead: when JJ opened the trunk of his car we found out that he had ran away with another kid. This made no sense because the whole Chicago knew who he was and would have been on the look out for him. How did he even think he could rebuild his group of killers? I know writer Kim Harrison was trying to go for the shock/surprise here, instead of confrontation, but for me that ending fell flat, unsatisfying. Wish the writer would have cut the last scene with Morgan and Savannah, and had used more time to resolve the case and give us a much better ending.
When it comes to the storyline with Morgan, I found interesting that Morgan is involved with a woman for more than just a one night stand. Could Morgan be growing up and settling down? Only time will tell. For what little we saw and found out about Savannah, she seems like a good character, independent woman who, like Morgan, has her priorities well established; the job comes first.
What was surprising was that Morgan, who makes his living of profiling people, needed Garcia to tell him that he had no reason to be angry at Savannah for answering the call of duty while they were together. That him, Morgan, did this all the time and never though anything of it. Loved how Garcia called this 'got Morganed'! That was a great scene that showed the friendship between those two characters. Yes, they do love each other, but they do know things will never go into the romantic realm (too bad, as this writer ships those two!).
Last, did I mention how cute that dog was at the start of the episode? So adorable with its leash in his mouth!
If it wasn't for how the case ended, and for the disappearance of some of the agents, this episode would have gotten a 9/10 but alas, it is getting a 8/10.
NOTE: All the images can be seen full size clicking over them