I want to start this episode review with a statement for Mr. Williams first. Last year I reviewed "Rabid" and well you weren't happy with it. For this episode however, Mr. Williams let me start this review with saying "IF I COULD KISS YOU I WOULD" – You my friend have given this long time Criminal Minds fan one helluva well written episode! And the combination of you and Thomas working together, well Dynamic Duo comes to mind.
This episode opens up with what seems to be an ordinary pumpkin patch in a nice rural area, with nice normal families milling around looking for their "perfect" pumpkins. We quickly to find out, however that things are anything but "normal" at this family pumpkin patch. We see a Mom trying to pick out a pumpkin only to realize that her son Tyler is not at her side. Every parent's worst nightmare plays out and we follow Mom as she frantically calls for and searches for her son. Thank God, young Tyler is apparently safe, but we soon find out that there's more than pumpkins inhabiting this particular patch. Tyler has apparently found a sleeping skeleton. Fortunately Mom quickly realizes that it's a little boy in desperate need of help, for as she tries to see what's wrong with the boy he begins screaming "Let me Out, Let me Out". Oh what horrors has this little one been through?
(By the way, on side note, little boy playing Tyler was just too cute for words. Great casting!)
We next see Hotch pulling up to a psychic's house in the pouring rain? (Say What?) SSA Aaron Hotchner going to a psychic? Has Garcia finally pulled him over to the "schmush" side? Will we now have Hotch wearing Pink? Be still my heart! (Breath, Mordred, Breath).
Onto the case. First the lights going out in the Roundtable Room was "spooky". Great job, creating the ambiance Thomas. The horrible pictures we see of poor Joshua Parker, and Garcia's explaining what was done to the boy made my parental heart cringe. I noticed that Hotch tells the team then "why" Joshua wasn't reported missing, that the boy was a constant disciplinary problem and runaway, so the police never filed the report as a possible abduction or missing child. There is a good balance between all the team in discussing the case and fleshing out early questions. Same goes for their time on the jet. The cast all worked well and seamlessly in these scenes, which for me is a testament to the director's ability to know his actors and what each is capable of. Thomas gets an A+ for that.
I must say I liked the fluidity of the whole episode. Going from scene to scene seemed flawless. We were not "treated" to too early a view of who the unsub was or why. Yes, we saw him but we were still wondering how this all came about. The darkness of the
washing out the "box" heightened the awareness that this
wasn't done yet. The
scenes shot in light and shadow made it possible to "see" without really knowing who and what he was.
The assigned tasks for each team member was done well. JJ and Reid were excellent at the Hospital talking to the victim's doctor. Reid, pleasantly carried that conversation and his working through that the boy was held in a box was wonderful. Hotch and Rossi at the station was just a wonderful look into the symmetry and knowledge that their years' experience bring to any investigation. Of course what is a Rossi scene without a little "snarkiness"? But that was tapered with understanding and compassion. Billy Dec provided a very realistic portrayal of the detective.
One thing I do want to point out is, so far Kate's introduction has been wonderful. She's brash, crass, snarky and I get the feeling that overall she wouldn't mind meeting out her "own" brand of justice. (I think Rossi would partner with her for that) And I can't say that I disagree with her about some of the unsubs we're shown. But she's professional and does her job well. She and Morgan were excellent in dealing with the diversionary unsub Rodney Tanner. Gotta love it when you can get a perv to squirm because his life was going to get a whole lot tougher in jail.
Only people who have children, I think can understand and appreciate the absolute rightness of the family scene with Hunter's family, who turns out to be the "next" victim. How many of us out there can say we've had that same dinnertime interaction in real life. Mom, making sure Hunter took care of his chores, Hunter rolling his eyes and taking short cuts to get out to his friends, and Hunter stealing those eggs, brings back memories...
I absolutely remember dialogue so similar to this when I was that age:
Hunter: "I don't know why you make these things. I hate 'em."
Mother: "Because I am your mother and your suffering is very important to me."
And my mother took great pride in making us squirm.
Seriously though, Braden Fitzgerald did a fabulous job in the role of Hunter. And Travis Gibson was equally wonderful in his role as Hunter's friend Jake McCauley. That biking/egging the houses scene is every child wildest wish. Ah, the good old days! The whole mood was set for Hunter's kidnapping and done in such a way that you were on the edge of your seat wondering "what was going to happen". Thomas clearly ramped up the tension and suspense by shooting Hunter hiding in the bushes the way he did. And by god it worked so well. Bravo!
I liked Hotch opening up a bit about his regrets with Jack, we rarely if ever have seen that and it was refreshing. Finding out that he's "never" missed a Halloween until then, but has missed some other Holidays and a birthday and the sadness that came over his face, made me "hurt" for that lost time for him. I know I'm somewhat alone in my thoughts, but I felt that JJ was the perfect pairing with Hotch for those revelations, as well as the happy and good natured joking between them. JJ more than anyone else on the team would understand from a parent's perspective how Hotch felt. And the fact that they've known each other so long made talking to her about it easier. Yes I know Kate's a mother too, but as she's new to the team I do not believe Hotch would be that open with her as of yet. Hotch's goofy face and his comment "we absolutely should" with regard to using web shooters at the FBI was priceless. What I love about Thomas is that he's able to go from stoic and all business to loving and goofy in the blink of an eye. It also helps that at least in my opinion Hotch talking about Jack is his trigger for "the inner child" to come out in him. And yet, for all the lighthearted moments the reality of why they're in San Diego comes right back home. They find out Hunter was abducted.
Watching Hunter be unceremoniously dumped in that hole in the ground and covered up actually "hurt" coming from a parent's point of view. The scene was so well written and so well portrayed on screen as a fan and a parent my heart clenched.
Another point in that scene, Reid has this way of saying absolutely "nothing" yet the viewers can see his wheels spinning in thought. By having him do that with the egged garage doors as well as seeing that brilliant eidetic memory of his repeating verbatim what the dead victim's mother said in her statements from several years ago, we're able to piece together that the boys taken weren't all such "good boys" and there's a correlation between them and the unsub because of that.
I very much liked the way the profile was given. Having some of the team still at the abduction site, and Rossi and Callahan back at the police station quite simply "worked". And it was nice to see change working well. Shannon Lorance and Pamela Reed were spot on as he Unsub's mother and sister. I liked how Hotch and Kate interviewed the sister and managed to piece more of the puzzle together about the horrors she and her brother went through as children. Listening to both of their chilling tales about the life those two kids had was heart wrenching. Rossi, taking the lead in interviewing the mother with JJ was very well done, and it worked for me. Virgil and Thomas did a wonderful job of conveying their childhood horror, within those two scenes.
With Garcia doing some familial tracking, finally we know the
's name, John Bidwell. Finding out that the mother indeed murdered the abusive father/husband to save the
as a child was a twist I was not expecting, and for a moment I felt sorry for him just a little bit. But then we see Hunter begging to be let out of that box and ultimately being beaten for it, and all sympathy washed away.
Of course watching John's mother ask so sadly if she could say goodbye to her son, was so sad. It is true I think, a Mother's love knows no boundaries. The scene cutting to Joshua waking up to his parents and his parent's joy at having their son back with them, was also very moving especially with the music of TAPS "What have I done" playing in background. That my friends was a perfect musical score for the ending of this episode.
In the end we are treated to a smiling Aaron Hotchner marveling at the bright dawning of a new day on the jet. Yet, we are also reminded of Aaron's fears when the joy of returning to Jack's side is for even the briefest of moments clouded by the fear of where is he, when Aaron opens Jack's bedroom door and Jack's not in bed. I at least felt Aaron's fear and anxiety in that moment. Thank god Jessica is there to laugh it off because Aaron missed his son on the couch, Jack having fallen to sleep after desperately trying to stay awake to show his Dad his costume. Aaron's smile at his son's love for him and his love for his son could light up Times Square. It is a tender loving moment that lets us, the viewers, know that while SSA Aaron Hotchner is tough as nails and ready to battle the evil the team sees daily, Aaron Hotchner is if nothing else a loving caring father to his son.
Merlin once said, "In order for magic to exist one simply has to Believe". Thank you Virgil and Thomas, as well as everyone involved in bringing this episode to life, for keeping the magic alive, and making us believe!
Mordred's rating: Solid 10 out of 10.
Thank you for reading!
*I want also say a HUGE thank you to my friend and cohort Merlin, without whose help this review wouldn't be possible. Thank you my friend!*