Monday, April 14, 2014

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 9 - 921. What Happens in Mecklinburg... - Review

PLOT AND PACE...
... otherwise known as the basic elements that determine the quality of any episode.

As I did know this was Ticona Joy's first ever written script I wasn't expecting perfection, just a well researched (Ticona is Criminal Minds researcher), well plotted episode that, at the same time, would show the inexperience of the writer. I found about what I expected.

The prep work she did was painfully perfect. A simple foray into Wikipedia allows to find a slew of similar cases to Lauryn-Anne Harrison's gang rape, by frat students and/or college sports stars who were subsequently protected by those who should know better, but more important, who should use their positions of power to protect the victims, not the criminals. "Painfully" indeed...

About the pig mask that surprised many of us: a friend mentioned that could be a homage to Amanda Young, a character of the Saw franchise who wore a similar disguise in those movies. Would like to know if this is true.

The plot had a small hole that disconcerted me. Rossi tried to explain how Sheila managed to move her victims from the abduction site to her torture chamber, but fell a bit short; although Christy was petite, Sheila didn't look big enough or strong enough to be able to move the men, even if it was a small distance, especially since it also included a set or rickety stairs.

The storytelling would have been better served cutting a couple of the torture scenes out, or shortening all of them; we don't need to see the unsubs hurting the victims, our imaginations can fill the gaps better than any image, thank you very much! That saved screentime should have been used to expand the cognitive interview Reid did. Instead of doing just one to a single party attendee, interviewing several more party-goers would have given more credibility to the process; different people remembering different parts of the sequence of events that led to the gang-rape would have been much more believable, instead of being just one guy seeing everything.

In any case, wasn't the above what made this episode way less than it could have been. My bigger complaints are the pace and Sheila's portrayal.
  • The pace was wrong: when the BAU suspects/hopes the victims may still be alive, even if only for the fact that no bodies have surfaced, they hit the ground running and don't stop running until the case is solved. Never got the impression they were in a hurry to find the victims in this one, never heard in my head the "tick, tock" sound of the clock eating the victims' time.
  • Sheila Harrison portrayal: don't know why they cast this actress to play such a pivotal character, but I didn't believe her. Sheila wasn't grief stricken enough, furious enough, mad enough, nor unbalanced enough. To me Sheila wasn't expressing any of those feelings enough to justify any of her actions. I don't like dramatics or overacting, and yet many other actors convey any or all those feelings without having to resort to that.
All in all, I found this episode to be a fair first try. Ticona tried to give all the main characters quality parts during the investigation of the case and profiling of the unsub; was far from perfect, but was better than what we have gotten in many previous episodes. The "minor" problems I have highlighted should be corrected by nearly all writers in staff, as they are sadly common to many. And the main problems detailed above can be solved in future tries, with a bit of more help from her fellows, and more importantly, thanks to all she must have learned during the writing and filming of this script.


TO COMMIT OR NOT TO COMMIT...
... otherwise revealed as Derek Morgan's conundrum.

This line: "Meanwhile, Savannah vents her frustration to Morgan about the amount of traveling he does for his job." from the episode press release sit badly with me. Fortunately was misleading...

Derek Morgan is a really good FBI agent and profiler, but unlike Hotch, I think profiling is a job he is good at, not part of who he is. Savannah Hayes is a professional in a similarly demanding field who, contrary to Haley, has already proved to herself that she needs nobody to have the life she wants.

How Morgan handled Savannah's disappointment for another canceled dinner with her parents was smart of him, he didn't dismiss her feelings, he tried to make sure she was all right... and because he has had commitment issues nearly all his life, and of course, because he is a man, promptly managed to royally screw up! Loved Savannah's reaction: she was angry indeed, but she didn't rage at him like a spoiled-brat would have done; she made very clear what the root of the problem was, and dismissed him to think about it.

The scene between Morgan and JJ in the plane could have been fun, and certainly what she says to him is pointedly accurate, BUT... JJ imitating Morgan was a bad copy of the funny tweets from Paget imitating Shemar way back when he still didn't have a twitter account, and that took the fun out of that scene for me, because Paget was genuine, and funnier by a mile. Why had Morgan have to have that conversation with JJ instead of someone else? Do (all) the writers want us to believe that now the only person any of them can confide in and get good advice from is JJ? The relationships among the characters forged through the previous seasons are to be dismissed and forgotten? Canon and/or variety mean anything to them?

                     Morgan: You know? I think I liked you better when you were the Press Liason...
                     Me: No, Derek, I don't think so, I KNOW I liked her then.


Derek Morgan committing to fight for a life with the woman he loves, - taking such leap of faith and trust, - was probably the biggest step forward this character has taken to finally solve the trust issues that had hindered him since well before we met him, and that had troubled him at one point or other with many of his colleagues since the series debuted. Shemar nailed the scene; the air of vulnerability Derek exuded when he declared his love to Savannah said it all.

Aaaaaaaaaah, Savannah is very smart... "I've seen you driving. I'm driving!" I like her!


THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM...
... otherwise known as SSA Jennifer "JJ" Jareau.

Was she badly used during this episode? Many could argue that no, she was fine in most of her scenes. Many too could argue that once again she was too prominent, maybe not as much as other times in quantity, but definitively in quality, and in one glaring instance completely out of place; JJ, the rookie, is the one deciding when "to give the profile"? REALLY??? In one little line she took the decision from Hotch, - the Boss, experienced agent and profiler, - Rossi, - the Senior agent, who can't be more experienced in a field he helped create, - and even Morgan, Blake and Reid, who all one way (years as agents) or other (years as profilers), or both, outrank her.

Of course, we got our overdose of JJ paired up with Morgan... again, and again, and again, and one last time just for kicks. Morgan isn't my favorite character, never has been; something about his personality rubs me wrong, and I'm sure has nothing to do with how Shemar has portrayed him since the start of the series, but more with the particular type of man he represents. In any case, I've never disliked him to the point to not notice that he has some great skills, and that he has a fantastic ability to connect with people, that takes a turn for the awesome when dealing with kids. For a couple seasons now I've been struggling to figure out why I disliked so intensely that particular pairing, and watching this episode finally I got it (and yes, I'm feeling slow); while Prentiss wasn't either my favorite, even if I liked and enjoyed her since her first foray into the show, she balanced Morgan and they were equals. JJ, paired with Morgan, sucks the life out of him, and dumbs him down. There is no balance, there is no equality, only a jarring feel that in my head sounds more and more like dragging nails on a chalkboard.

JJ has gone from being the smart, intelligent, witty, funny, and compassionate agent who us, the viewers of Criminal Minds, could relate to, and who gave us "permission" to feel for victims and families to the fullest, and even the agents themselves, to being a know-it-all superagent that strongly resembles the worst examples of the Mary-Sues of the fanfiction world, making me not want to see her on my screen with the same intensity that those fic characters make me scramble for the "escape" button in my keyboard.

JJ was my favorite female character from her first scene on Criminal Minds, when in the 2nd episode of Season 1 she floored Elle with information about herself, her job, and her offer of help for anything she may need. That ended on the 2nd episode of Season 6, when the character I had loved for over 5 years, the character I fought along many, many others to keep with us, and later to get back, was yanked from my show to never be seen again. We got a look-a-like back, but she had lost all the qualities that made her unique, lovable, and in some instances, just plain extraordinaire.

I didn't fight to get this JJ 2.0, I didn't ask for this JJ 2.0, I can't stand this JJ 2.0. JJ, sadly for me, disappeared into the horizon in "J.J." to never return: "There are [...] people we can't live without but have to let go."


~~~~Sir Elyan The White

19 comments:

  1. Bravo on the review.... You hit the nail on the head with all the things I found right and wrong with this episode....

    I too have found that sadly the over indulgence of JJ by writers has brought me to the point that I do not want to watch her on my screen anymore.

    The other glaring problems or symptoms of this episode and of the season in general is that there has been little to no quality Hotch, Rossi, or Alex Blake. Even Reid has been used much less then his intellect would dictate. Their scenes and story arcs are mediocre at best and often supplanted by a case that again puts JJ to the forefront. While we know that CM has been renewed for at least one more year, I personally hope that the tweety bopper story lines are finished and that there will be good quality episodes in the future.
    I should explain that I use the term 'Tweety Bopper' because apparently this type of one dimensional characterization of the BAU Team is favored by the young high action loving fans that frequent Twitter and other Social Media outlets. I believe there is a commercial for ION television even says what he likes about Criminal Minds is that it takes place in the 'mind'.... Or at least it used to....and I hope they get back to that type of stimulating story telling...

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    1. Well,... Episodes running on ION are about criminal minds. The last three seasons have been replacing that part little by little, and now there isn't much left...

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  2. Great review! You pretty much said all I wanted to say about the episode and JJ.

    As a first effort Ticona didn't do too bad, and the episode for me would have been more enjoyable if we had less JJ. Her DECIDING that it was the time to give the profile was wrong. No one but Hotch gives this order but since JJ is now this super awesome, ultra competant agent who of course had to be asked to go to the middle East to interrogate prisoners because they needed a profiler ( when she wasn't a profiler yet) it is just another step in the 'JJ take over the BAU'. I would have prefered if Morgan had his talk with Reid. Spencer is Morgan's best friend, sure he is not the most experienced in the affairs of the heart but would have been an opportunity to see Reid be the one who Morgan would have confided to.

    Still pretty decent first try. Hopefully we will have another episode from ticona next season.

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  3. You are so spot on about JJ. So many of us share the exact same view of her as you do. Hotch has a story line coming up in the next new episode involving Jack.Many of his fans are already getting pissed off and are speculating that it'll also end up with JJ giving Hotch parental advice.
    And of course JJ would actually be a logical choice since she is a parent just like Hotch. Except that so many of us have gotten beyond fed up with her. Likewise many people are also speculating there will be some major focus on her in the season finale and getting pissed off about it.

    I guess it's silly for people to get upset, and I include myself, about something that hasn't even happened yet. However with the track record this show has when it comes to shoving this Mary Sue down our throats,can one really blame us.

    I too petitioned to get AJ/JJ back,but now greatly regret it. But to me,probably the saddest thing of all is that the actress herself believes that this JJ is a vast improvement over the JJ from the earlier seasons.

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  4. Stupidity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome.... This is how I view the character of JJ now... Erica and AJC wanted to do something new and exciting with JJ..... it's failed, yet they are still doing it over and over again.....

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  5. Bravo, Sir Elyan. You nailed this one. I have the same feelings toward Morgan as you. I have never disliked him, but he's always been one of my least favorite. For me it's because I value intellect over braun, and as the show progressed, he seemed to react more than think. And I'm in total agreement with you on JJ. I loved the old JJ. I can no longer stand the character, and I'm really irritated by the amount of screen time she gets and her brash demeanor. I especially hate how little Hotch, Reid, Rossi and Blake we get while this paragon is shoved down our throats at every turn.

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  6. An excellent review - even though I disagree about Morgan and Savannah. I feel no chemistry between them and felt Morgan came over flat. But you absolutely hit the nail on the head about JJ! It has reached the point where I cannot watch a scene with her in without getting wound up. This season has been blighted for me by JJ2,0 and, if the rumours are correct, her PTSD is going to feature heavily in the finale so we are far from done yet!
    But bravo on a great review.

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  7. AGREED WITH ALL OF IT !! hotch rossi blake needds to be more on screen ..
    wouldnt it be great if some how cbs reads this review .. then may be they'll consider to replace jj

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  8. I couldn't sit through this a second time. With exceptions such as Jane Lynch, Ken Olin, and the young actress who played Gabby, some of the supporting guest actors are below par when compared to other shows. And sacrilege, Jack is adorable in his episodes, but the child can't act. While I'm at it, what grates me is AJ's portrayal of JJ. The acting, hair, makeup, nothing works. I very much dislike the leap from liaison to profiler, but if another actress were in place, it might be different. JJ imposes herself on the others, it isn't as if they are seeking her advice. As I've carried on about, she's thirty-something years old, married for a nanosecond, and her one child is six years old. There's no credibility in her advice and what she says. Obviously, there are savvy and smart young people out there. But we're talking an elite group within the FBI, not corporate America, where I could believe her delivering a business presentation. The wisdom and life experience, whether it's when to deliver the profile or love life advice, would be better served coming from a character like Blake. It's demographics and ratings. They want to appeal to the younger audience.

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    1. I do not agree with you about the acting from guest’s actors, we’ve had very good ones throughout the years and a few that were not so good. C. Thomas Howell as the Reaper was excellent so was Meredith Monroe as Haley Hotchner, In the Inspiration John Michael Herndon who played Bill Robbins the twins father, Beth Riesgraf - Maeve Donovan and I could name so many others.

      As for Cade, please let's leave him out of this. At his age, same for Mekhai Andersen, no one is asking them to be giving the same performance as the adults, who for some had years of training in school or had years doing this job.

      As for AJ, part of the problem with the character isn't her acting (let's not forget acting also depends on the director and what he/she wants) but the writing as well. The writers change the character in a way they think would make the character more exciting. Some fans like the new JJ others do not. Yes CM needs to appeal to the demographic because as a broadcast show it DEPENDS on ratings, no matter how much we like it or not, what drives the business is the demographics. CM does appeal to a very young crowd. CM was always, drama wise, CBS’s youngest viewer skewing show, things have not changed there what has changed is that while CM does attract the 18-49 demo (worth it to mention, CM is after TBBT and How I meet your Mother , CBS’s best performer in the 18-34 demo) it also used to attract the 25-54. This is the demo that's been falling for CM lately. This, loss of viewers, is why CM ratings, in the demo, is weaker this season.

      If time permit, I will be posting ratings for the season, the 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 both live+ same day and Live +7 days viewing. Yes ratings are down but CM is still CBS # 2 drama after NCIS.


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    2. I don't doubt your facts but why then is NCIS LA always being promoted as CBS's #2 drama.Including the recent press release by CBS when they renewed a bunch of shows recently. Were they going by overall viewers then and not the demo.

      Also,I seem to remember a time not to long ago when CM was getting a couple of million or more viewers than CSI. But now the 2 shows are almost neck and neck. Although CM still gets a better demo.

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    3. I take into consideration the demo only while for promotion reason CBS goes with the number of viewers and yes by number of viewers NCIS:LA is # 2. The reason why I do not take into account the number of viewers is that despite having very good number of viewers Without a Trace (CBS) and Harry's Law (NBC) were both canceled because of their demo numbers.

      As for CSI's numbers, remember that CSI doesn't have much competition at 10pm (FOX doesn't program the hour while CM does face bigger challenges with Modern Family (ABC), Idol(FOX) and SVU (NBC) which mean CM gets DVR more than CSI ( Have not done all the data gathering for the CBS shows but from what I saw that was posted through out the season on Tvbythenumbers CM almost always have higher DVR numbers than CSI)

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    4. Well now that does explain it. And the reason I wasn't doubting you is because I''ve seen the numbers for myself. In fact, rare though it may be, CM has actually beaten both NCIS and NCIS LA in the demo.
      And I've also noticed that CM seems to get a bigger increase in its demo than either one of those shows. In fact the increase "LA" gets is so insignificant that it doesn't even make the chart.And you are right about CM getting dvr more than CSI.
      I still am not really happy with CM's overall viewership lately.

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    5. Aw, Hotchfan, I know Cade isn't much of an actor, but I find him utterly adorable. I just love him to pieces. I'm always happy when he's in an episode, unless the horrible stalker Beth is in it.

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  9. Wow alot of JJ haters here. Well im not one of them, I absolutely love JJ and she has definitely gotten stronger and stronger throughout the seasons. She is still her loving, caring, funny self and it's about time she's able to kick some butt. The only thing that does bother me is that JJ is not as close to Reid as they were in the first couple of seasons.
    Morgan and his new girlfriend are definitely super cute, its nice to see a different side of him. He's always just portrayed as the bad boy/ladies man type.

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    1. stronger and stronger? more like annoying and even more annoying...I roll my eyes every time she is on my screen...and she needs to stay away from Reid, it is not like she ever cared about him anyway

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    2. I put her on mute as much as possible. Except it is hard to do that when she's with Reid

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    3. Well, I press FWD anytime she is on the screen, and at this point, I don't even care with who is she. I may be one of the few that really likes when she is paired with Morgan, but that is only because I can skip both at the same time. I don't even care about what they may have been saying, since we all know nowadays the cases are solved magically.

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  10. I don't like super JJ either but it would be a dull world if everyone liked the same things. Different strokes for different folks.

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