Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 10 - 1003. A Thousand Suns - Review

A little kid, a cute baby, impatient businessmen, families on vacation... People, normal people traveling unaware that the delusions of a madman would interfere with their lives before their flight could reach their destination, would steal their future. Sometimes I find those first scenes of an episode a bit too long; this time they were needed for us to really grasp the tragedy about to unfold - it wasn't about a machine smashed to pieces, but about all those unique lives being lost.

From there on we are treated to what we never see when, in real life, our news suddenly fill with the images of a plane crash somewhere in the world; what happens during the investigation to know the causes and what kind of actions can be ordered if the situation warrants the most extreme measures for the safety of the many.

We never see the crash. Instead we get JJ and Kate during their morning coffee run talking on the phone with Penelope; nine out of ten times this set-up would give us some silly and funny conversation among the BAU ladies, this time we get a very serious Garcia sending the agents directly to their jet to fly to the location of their next case. The mood was set with a very short, perfectly on point scene. And is followed with another very short, perfectly on point one inside the jet, with the agents learning the few known facts, including the first big piece of the puzzle - highlighted by Reid and his statistics, because yes, is really unusual for a plane to just go to pieces in the middle of a flight without "help", - and their role, they will be part of the Joint Task Force just formed to investigate the "accident".

There were some small differences with real life images of a crash site, but have to say the crew did an outstanding job recreating it all, too good if the shudder that went through my spine can be used as an indicator because I was forcibly reminded of another plane from the Netherlands shot down in the Ukraine a few months ago.

For Callahan, the memories brought to the front were those of 9/11, but of course there is no more closeness than the one had with loved family. On the jet, when learning what the case was about, Kate looked disturbed, subtly enough that nobody caught on it then. But her disquiet continues, and she is alone with Reid, and he notices and comments, and we learn how she lost her sister and brother in law and how she has since raised their then baby girl Meg, the teenager we were introduced to in the premiere. Was great having Callahan pointing right away that she doesn't want to be, and isn't, the "weepy agent", and was fitting that Reid shared Maeve's tragedy to help put her at ease.

For me, though, Reid sharing so casually his mom's schizophrenia was a bad shock; while is true that now the others know about her and her illness, he has never been "casual" about it, took him years to let the others know, and even then was under duress. I interpret this as big of a fail as the casualness Reid showed when he talked about Diana's apparent improvement and learned about her trip in season 9. Just no, Reid isn't a newcomer to the show whose background is still being written, we have too much history with him to accept such changes in how he reacts to important, personal events blindly.

Other than that, there was so much good in this episode, that I will forever think of it as one of the best of the series. Why? In no particular order:

  • Hotch, the boss and profiler, taking command right away without stepping in anyone's toes, avoiding useless confrontations (if the Captain thinks the witness is uncomfortable with her due to wrong reasons, why tell her otherwise before being sure and having proof?), talking down the unsub, slowing him down, and stopping him as the great marksman he is.
  • Rossi, savvy and showing his experience, asking pertinent questions, caring for the team, and making the final connection that leads them in the correct direction (was that a shout-out to Rossi-plays-videogames from season 6?).
  • Morgan, knowing when to push and when not while doing interviews (that's profiling on the go, people), finally paired with someone else, showing patience (while Hotch tried to talk the unsub down), and knowing what and when to act swiftly (shooting the remote control unit in the nick of time).
  • Jareau, as good and emphatic as we want her with the victims, following orders and not acting on her own (she is not one to make decisions outside of emergency situations). And yes, asking the questions we would ask to fully understand, showing she really does not know it all.
  • Garcia, worried for her babies, sad for the victims, never went overboard (when we met her in season 1 she was like this, and we fell in love with her for it).
  • Callahan, showing she is inexperienced at this level but willing to pay attention, learn, and contribute. And forcing herself to remain professional in the midst of her internal turmoil.
  • Reid, Doctor in Engineering, proves he earned his title, not only finding an explanation for the miraculous survival of the co-pilot, but more importantly, finding the reason the plane exploded, which would lead them to the correct path to find the unsub.
  • Once again, Sharon gives us back the green screen... Can we have it back more often? (once per season is not enough, since it's such a wonderful resource to explain the team's findings).
  • Not a single second of footage was useless, doubt anything important was left on the floor of the cutting room, hence the complete understanding of all plot points by us, the viewers (including a fairly complex technical explanation).
  • The pace of the team's actions, and the episode as a whole; urgency but not rushing their conclusions (always a bad idea to run when in a hurry, you make mistakes and end losing time).
  • Yes, Writers, you can organically integrate in the main plot the personal storylines of the main characters without having to make the episode about said character (once here and there is all good, more is overkill), without having to bookend the main plot with those tidbits (sometimes this works, most times just feel disconnected), or without separating them from the team and their jobs (again, once in a blue moon is good, more is too much). Instead, having them talk about their things during small moments while working feels sooooooooooo right!
  • Secondary actors and their characters; great choices the former, well written and well used the latter.
  • Last, but not least by any means: Profiling, profiling, profiling, lots of profiling!
What earns this episode the Brilliant adjective is the sum of all of the above, plus the fact that the reasons behind the unsub's behavior weren't outrageous but terrifyingly believable. There was no conspiracy, no complex terrorist organization, nothing far-fetched (all that was thought of and discarded), but a run-of-the-mill serial killer using his skills to feed his delusions; back to square one and let's study his victims to catch him, is business as usual.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Viewers and Writers, this is one of the main reasons we got hooked up to Criminal Minds; we were given a believable idea and, without really seeing anything (no gore, no gore, no gore, no unsub wasting screentime doing their thing), our imaginations were freed to do the work: terrify ourselves. What Vashar did is possible (thankfully, not probable), we can easily imagine it happening... to us... next time we catch a flight.

~~~~Sir Elyan the White


  1. I must be losing my mind because I swear there was another review written and posted about this.

    1. Not here, maybe in some other site? This one should have been up sooner, that's true, but alas!, real life interfering again has made it impossible until today.

    2. It was a guest post by Rockie? Please tell me I did not dream this. Oy.

      Anyway I like yours too. :P

    3. Rocky indeed wrote a review for you all, but was for the previous episode, 1002. Burn ;-)

      Thank you!

    4. Many of us on the episode comments threads tend to break down each episode and somewhat review what we like or dislike.... That said, only 'formal' reviews are marked as reviews and given their own thread!

    5. Clearly I have had a whack to the head by the wand of the confusion fairy.

  2. Elyan

    Again you wrote what alot (more specifically) this fan thought of the episode... For me it was made better by one simple word... "BALANCE"... It was a perfect balance between story, characters, profiling, unsub and conclusions...
    I've said it before I will keep saying it... THIS Episode or more specifically this TYPE of perfectly balanced episode is what 200 should have been!!!!!
    Everyone involved brought their A games.. and it showed on our screens for 42 minutes!

  3. Excellent review of an very good episode. I wish Sharon Lee Watson would write more scripts as she is the one writer who really gets the essence of Criminal Minds. Team, profiling, suspense and as Barbara put it - BALANCE!

  4. Great review! you touched on many of the good points I had with this episode. Agreed this one made my list of my all time favorite CM episode!

  5. Very good review of a very good episode. All that was said, the balance, the profiling, the team, the PROFILING….

    A few minor sour notes, as was mentioned, when Reid seemed to so easily share about Maeve and his mother, I can see Maeve, but it bothered me that he blurted out that his mother was schizophrenic, as if checking off a list of tragedies. One that wasn't mentioned, and i won't belabor it too much here, this was not the work of a serial killer, as they had Reid intone, it was, as Rossi had just said, a mass annihilator.

    Loved the green screen and Reid's explanation of how and why the plane came apart.

  6. Suegypt,

    The team isn't used for 'just' serial killers.... they've been used in kidnappings, terrorist threats, Negotiation, child abdution etc... over the last 10 years... actually way to many 'non-serial killer' cases to list.

    1. I know, but they made a point of calling this unsub a serial killer, which he was not, and if they had left it a mass annihilator, that would have been perfect. I'm questioning why they had Reid say he was a serial killer when clearly he was not. Unnecessary.

      I agree with you that I'd like to see a lot more cases not dealing with (real) serial killers.

  7. I would chalk that up to the fact that 1. it's a mistake or 2. technically anyone who kills more then 3 people is considered a serial killer... as the show said once before "It's more quantitative then gualitative'..

  8. Or actually the reverse... brain not working tonight...

  9. Excellent review Sir Elyan! You touched on all the things I loved.


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