Sunday, November 23, 2014

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 10 - 1008. The Boys of Sudworth Place - Review

THE PLOT

First of all, I must admit to an odd circumstance in viewing this episode: normally, I watch from 9:00 PM ET onward. Due to my schedule, I was only able to start watching (the first time) about midway through the episode, when Morgan Looks Pensive. (Okay, it wasn't the scene below, but you get my meaning.)


As someone who assiduously avoids spoilers of any form WHATSOEVER prior to an episode (yes, I am one of THOSE people), I am not sure whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that I was instantly able to determine the entire plot of the episode at a glance: "Morgan is Thinking Deep Thoughts. This must be an episode that NAMBLA would like."

So when I watched the entire 10x08 episode through for the first time, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. (Plus, WHY oh WHY is the BAU investigating the abduction of single defense attorney? Not a federal prosecutor or a child, but a private individual -- an adult, whose spouse had not received any ransom demands. Thanks for not explaining that in a deftly inserted comment, @iKimHarrison.)

GUEST CAST

Veteran actor Jeffrey Nordling as prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney Jack Westbrook was excellent as the manipulative pedophile (yeah, manipulative is a redundant adjective, I know, but really, really deserved here). Possibly because he is the "victim" here -- and so his character is given much more screen time -- or possibly just because he is just that much better an actor, I found Westbrook to be much more engrossing than any of the three younger victims-turned-UnSubs. (It's not a good sign that I care more about their childhood photo than their adult selves.) This verges dangerously close to violating Classic Hotch's mantra about glorifying the perpetrator over his victims, but perhaps Kim Harrison was trying to show how the lines become impossibly blurred when victims of abuse turn to violence.


S10 CAST ADDITIONS

Finally, my turn to weigh in on the addition of Jennifer Love Hewitt.

I've given up trying to fathom the workings of EP Erica Messer's mind, but I am glad to see that the writers are at least trying to flesh out Kate Callahan. Her character entertained me in the season premiere (and I look forward to more Garcia-Callahan bonding). I've also been impressed by JLH's ability to change genres. However, I am just not sure this is the right fit for either the actor or the show. (See: Showrunner Erica Messer Bewilders Me, above.) And her awkward "I love you" while on the phone to her niece Meg at the end of this episode -- what was up with THAT? It had all the conviction of a soon-to-be ex-boyfriend who hasn't summoned up the courage to break up with his partner yet!

Sidenote: To me, adding a teenager to a long-running series is never a good thing. Never. You might as well have Evil Knievel show up and tell The Fonz it's time to jump that shark. Remember Dawn on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER? Well, I try not to. (Trivia note: Michelle Trachtenberg also played a pivotal role in the heartrending 8x12 ZUGZWANG and acquitted herself admirably. I would NOT mess with Diane Turner!)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

What the heck is up with the eternally dim lighting on the show? I get that bad things happen at night and in abandoned warehouses, but evil can also occur in broad daylight! Or at least light the damn sets better: I do not have a private, windowless screening room (or blackout shades in my living room) to enable me to see what's going on, so I just throw my hands up in the air in aggravation.
Lifestyles are changing: people watch shows when they can (hello? L+3? L+7?) and not only as it airs in primetime. If even the antiquated Nielsen ratings system can reflect that, then perhaps the people behind Criminal Minds need to take it into account as well.

Note from CMRT Caps-Catcher: this 4 images are unedited beyond the addition of the frame and watermark

THE UPSHOT

Criminal Minds is no longer appointment viewing for me. In fact, I am seriously starting to dread watching the show. With wildly inconsistent quality this early in SeasonX, (10x03 A THOUSAND SUNS was truly amazing! I developed a whole new level of respect for Sharon Lee Watson and magic man/production manager Harry Bring, a\k\a @LLPOS. 10x04 THE ITCH was just a gross out, without the depth I'd come to expect from Breen Frazier.) I can't even begin to imagine what things will be like by 10x18 or so, when the writers have been at it for months on end.

Sadly, I must conclude that Criminal Minds is showing its age. Procedurals -- which I love, and watch whenever I can -- are tough to keep fresh, especially after more than 200 episodes, but no amount of Febreze is going to help SeasonX, I fear. Please, Criminal Minds, prove me wrong.

Sincerely,
~~~~Chaucer (who owns CM S1-S7, and dons non-FBI Kevlar in advance of comments)

14 comments:

  1. Have to agree with you Chaucer and have to add this;

    About the writers;

    My problem with some of the writers is that some are very predictable. I know that if writer X is writing and episode then I know the episode will feature some specific characters and some other character will get very generic lines that any of the character could say. Also, some writers are so predictable that I know their episode it will involve a specific storyline, example; pedophiles.

    Was watching older episodes of CM on A&E yesterday and even if I have seen those episodes 5 or 6 times already, I am still in awe at how good the whole Frank Breitkopf storyline was. It was all about a mind game between him and the profiler, the scene at the dinner was classic and what CM should be, the profiler getting in the head of the unsub in order to understand him and stop him. Now we have barely any profiling ( Kim episode had so few that if you blink you would miss it) unless Jim Clemente ( Ex-FBI profiler) writes an episode! Maybe some of the writers are bored with profiling? ( not all are, just look at Sharon Lee Watson , or Virgil Williams episodes) This would explain why we get unsubs fill episode where the team feels like an afterthought. I don’t know all I know is, as a long time viewer when I watch an episode like this week I wonder why they had the whole team at the scene when all they needed were really only Garcia to find all the clues that lead to the unsubs and Morgan to talk them into surrendering.

    In recent years CBS made cast changes maybe it is time to make changes in the writer’s room, refresh it with new writers. We all know things start and end’s with good writing, CM still have some good writers but some need either to go or look closely at what they are doing because predictability and bad writing is what will get CM down and not competition from ABC, NBC or FOX shows.
    Basically my post is about making the writers/producers realize that CM is slipping, it used to be a show that thrilled me, it is still appointment viewing for me on Wednesday night at 9pm mostly because I still love the characters of Hotch, Reid, Rossi, Garcia, JJ, Morgan and Kate but even my love for those characters may not be enough for me to continue to watch if the writing doesn’t improved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ok... My first thoughts on the review were Chaucer has pegged the issues with perfection...

      AS for CMRT's reply.... what can I say I agree... These writer's.. and I mean all of them in one way shape or form have lost sight of the fact that CM was always supposed to be a thinking person's show. Profiling was cerebral, not visual, not action packed. Yes in earlier seasons we got cute, kitschy scenes showing us how bound together and insync these characters are. How they actually 'clung' to each other knowing there were so few people in the world who did what they do day in and day out and understood what each case did to each of them.

      Don't get me wrong, some of the writer's are very good, and maybe could do well writing for different types of shows. But alas, they do not seem to have a grasp on writing for Criminal Minds...

      Whether we want to believe it or not, whether they want to believe it or not there is a hierarchy on CM... Hotch is Unit Chief, Rossi is Senior Agent/Profiler, Derek is next, then Reid, then JJ and finally Kate as the profilers on the team. Garcia comes after all of them as she's an agent, but not a field agent just a technical analyst. (Mind you this order has NOTHING personal behind it. IT's the way the show was designed from Day 1 episode one)

      When these writer's try to switch those rolls up and make subordinate characters the focus of the show I tend to think that it falls flat. Very flat as some of these episodes have shown us recently..

      CMRT is also correct in saying that there is a certain amount of predictability to what and which characters each writer will put to the forefront. That bad thing with that is most of the writers then have difficulty writing for their 'non' favorite character. I firmly believe that with 'generic' writing one gets 'generic' performances. And that is never good.

      So for me, if CM is going to continue for S11 or even more major changes need to happen in the writers room, starting with getting rid of the generic writers... For me that would be in order Kim, Rick, Breen, Bruce. Janine, Sharon, JC and even Erica can write very good 'team' oriented episodes and should continue to do so.... Of course I would prefer it if Erica was removed as show runner and then another good writer could be brought in.

      Delete
  2. As "CMRT Caps-Catcher", I would like to thank my dear Chaucer for addressing the lighting issue on Criminal Minds.

    I hope to have been able to make obvious the differences between the raw, unedited screencaps from low-light scenes, and the usual screencaps you all see in the posts we add them (Comments Threads, Reviews,...). And I dearly hope that if anyone from set reads this review, see those screencaps, and/or even reads this comment, they understand that I'm NOT complaining about the additional work needed to lighten those images (is not that much), but to pay attention to what Chaucer has so plainly and accurately explained.

    Sir Elyan the White

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with so much of this review and my opinion is that the writers either need to find a better grasp of what was so unique and riveting about CM and give us some intelligent profiling, or they need to bring new writers on board.
    Having said that, there are viewers out there commenting and reviewing who astonishingly found this episode "phenomenal" and "awesome" which I guess is indicative of the shift in the direction of the show towards a more action oriented production with much more of the personal and romance stories of the cast. It is, for me, dumbing it down into just another procedural but there is obviously a large audience for this kind of show. At the moment they are reaping the benefit of long term viewers hanging in for a glimpse of occasional profiling and the newer viewers attracted by the less demanding flashy drama it is becoming. There will come a tipping point when those of us longing for the cerebral profiling that drew us in to begin with actually stop with the masochism and give up watching but as long as they keep getting the numbers they are not going to change.
    Oh and count me in on the thoughts on the overly dark sets - I get so fed up with trying to make sense of Morgan and JJ running through dark sets waving guns.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CM had some great episodes this season, 'A thousand Suns', 'Boxed in' but this week was not and neither was 'the Itch'. Yes some viewers love the action and the romance aspect the show does have now but that was not what CM was all about. Yes the ratings are still good, is it because of those changes or like you said viewers that are still watching in the hopes that CM will go back at being what it use to be; a show about a TEAM of profilers profiling the unsubs in order to catch them? I think there is room for all type of viewers but a show like NCIS it is stil widely popular because they do not try to change what the show is at its chore.

      Delete
    2. Mary & CMRT - couldn't agree with you both more. Bottom line like you both said, I stick around 'hoping' to catch a glimpse of what made me fall in love with the show in the first place. Sadly each episode that goes by that, that doesn't happen drives me more and more to simply walk away DVR the episodes and watch later on or wait for reruns.

      CM isn't NCIS or Alias, or Revolution, or what ever other show that is out there.. It is CM and the minute TPTB tried to change it into those other types of shows, the quality of the show diminished drastically.

      Delete
    3. I agree 'A Thousand Suns' was a stand out episode this season so far - because it was TEAM episode written by someone who understands what the core of the show was all about. There are fewer and fewer such episodes over recent seasons and I think it is the showrunner steering the show into less cerebral and team focused stories and more towards the action and romance. It is becoming more of a generic procedural and less original sadly. There should be room for a wide roange of viewers as you say but only with great writing that stays close to the heart of the show.

      Delete
    4. CMRT, even when a show has "jumped the shark," it takes a while for viewers/fans to come to grips. A lot of us thought CM jumped with 200. It has yet to be proved to be false, but i have hopes the show can recover, if not go back to the lovely "used-to-be."

      I think the show needs a new runner, and needs to fire (at least) half the writing staff, and some of the producers (who aren't writers). I wish they had kept JT and not hired JLH, but the show did not know what to do with what was there, so they fired and hired. Again.

      Nothing is perfect, and this is just a TV show, but I wish the folks who would have their necks on the line would be the folks who have taken the show so far off course, starting with the present show runner.

      I have no delusions that any of this will happen. But I miss my show.

      Delete
  4. I completely agree with this review and it reflects things I have been thinking for at least a year now. If you look at the first five seasons of Criminal Minds, the writers had some core writers, but they also had a continuing revolving door of other writers. For the most part, I loved the core writers (even if I didn't love all of their episodes), but the other writers contributed good episodes as well. Of course now, the show has had the SAME group of writers since the start of season seven, and it shows.

    There are some very predictable storylines and characters at this point. We can usually imagine what we are going to get when we know who wrote each episode. It's why many of us brace ourselves for Kim or Janine episodes, because we know we are going to get way too much unsub. It's why I know we will get some weirdness with Bruce's episodes (though thankfully he can bring some good Reid at times). It's why I anticipate Sharon and Breen's episodes (though they too have written episodes that disappointed me, which makes them all the more disappointing). I know that when Erica writes the finale, it will likely be weak on interesting story with way too much action.

    I think the show could definitely benefit from an influx of new writers, writers who know about and/or are interested in criminal psychology. Of course, this show could also benefit from a new showrunner who can bring that sort of creative vision to the show.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have to address the dark sets also.... My opthamologist would probably prefer it if I didn't strain my eyeballs so much. And when these dark scenes come across the screen with such frequency trust me my eyes are straining. If it's an intense episode that I really like I have even wound up giving myself eyestrain triggered headaches.. which no one in my house likes me to have as I am way to grouchy when I have a headache.
    Even in the daylight scenes for some reason some of the directors prefer to soften and darken the lighting.. which can be painful to watch... ME's offices are supposed to be brightly lit... and yet every time it's darker subdued lighting... That to me doesn't fit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can add something else to the negative effect the too dark lighting has: each and every single scene is staged magnificently, giving a very rich background for the actors to play their parts and us to delight our inquisitive eyes... only in most scenes we cannot delight at all, because we see nothing, or nearly so.

      Darkening the scenes so much that we can barely distinguish which characters are on screen while we miss everything around them is a gross disrespect to our dear and caring and HARDWORKING crew; there are few things able to anger more this Knight that any disrespect directed to our crew.

      Sir Elyan the White

      Delete
    2. Raises my sword in salute!

      Yes Sir Elyan you are correct. Dark dreary forests of dread are wonderful to set mood and ambiance. But to slay the dragon you must be able to see the dragon. Unfortunately our intrepid group of Grail (Justice) hunters often face formidable odds not only from the dragons that lurk within the forest but from the imps who don't realize the roadblocks that are placed before them in the dark.

      Those who labor untiringly week in and week out to stage and set up the props, sets and locations to better enhance all of the teams abilities deserve so much credit for their amazing work. And this Knight too is quick to anger when there is disrespect towards what they contribute each week.

      Delete
  6. One thing I do have to say... is "NEVER" drink coffee when reading Chaucer's reviews... LOL LOL
    The Nambla comment had me christening the laptop at the same time is was sucked up my nose! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've always liked your style of reviewing Chaucer.

    And once again, Sir Elyan did a great job.

    ReplyDelete

Respectful opinions, and constructive disagreement is welcomed, but insulting/foul-mouthed, malicious, or just plain disrespectful comments towards anyone are not, and will be removed.