Monday, December 1, 2014

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 10 - 1009. Fate - Review

The Press Release for this episode left me wondering and intrigued, but once I had the misfortune of watching the promotional clip CBS put out, that changed to nearly terrified, and certainly as angered as I have been too many times to count because, once again, they were disclosing a main plot point that should have been kept secret. Whoever makes those promos should have been fired several seasons ago!

I was, like many others, very concerned about Rossi's Plot, and hopeful the Case Plot would be fairly good even if a bit shorter than usual. I, like many others, was wrong.

Case Plot

I like female unsubs from time to time, not too often as in real life there aren't that many female serials, but I like to see how the female brain, physically damaged or not, processes and acts upon the same urges that lead their males counterparts in that small-bit different way.

Thus, the idea of a female unsub suffering from Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Trichotillomania, two mental afflictions very few people have heard of, should have made for a great case-of-the-week. "Fate", sadly doesn't, because of its poor execution and acting.

Tina Holmes playing the unsub was bad, there is no other way to put it, and was more irritating because the rest of the actors she interacts with on screen were as usual, really good. After hundreds of wonderful casting decisions failing in one only serves to give us an idea how good the Criminal Minds Casting Department is. Still is a real pity the fail comes with a character that was pivotal to the episode, especially with the excess of scenes she was in.

The execution was at times dreadful, and was so because of the same too-much-time-wasted-on-the-unsub complaint we have voiced time and again... and again!

Looks like the writers need to hear it again, so let's do so detailing what scenes made for a non-enjoyable case story line, and why:
  • Family breakfast scene: should have been cut at the point Ellen gets home and UNSEEN shouts her greeting to her family, or at most when she is running up the stairs. At that point we didn't need, less wanted, to know who the unsub was, and would have left us guessing about the importance of that family in the long run.
  • Work meeting scene: should have been filmed in a way we didn't see Ellen's face, only a long haired woman that stiffens at the appropriate time.
  • Bathroom fight with her Boss scene: waste of time, as the boss retells what's happened to her boyfriend, and worse, we didn't need to learn then and there about Ellen's accident and her need of physical therapy; the latter should have been left to be discovered AND explained by the profilers.
  • Unsub in car scene: should have been reduced to the call from her husband, and could still have been done without showing her face at all.
  • Boss' home murders scenes: should have been cut at the point Ellen's face is seen, blurred, behind the glass door. The 911 Call should have been discovered AND explained by the profilers.
  • Flashback to her rescue from car accident scene: waste of time, we learn absolutely nothing from it.
  • Unsub getting home and taking her wig off scene: waste of time. Find another way to show how worried her husband was getting, maybe with a couple seconds showing his face when she hung up his original phone call.
  • Morning after scene: this one was a good scene, showing how she lied and tried to cover herself in front of her family, but didn't work because she had a BIG, FAT BRUISE on her face and her husband didn't say anything??? Unbelievable.
  • Being confronted with memorial for her Boss scene: another one that was well thought, until it was butchered up showing how she pulled her hair. Gross factor out of the charts, and completely useless.
  • Confrontation between Unsub and husband scene: this one by itself was a really good scene, and the only one where I saw good acting - up to the point she gets murderous again- from Holmes. Mostly wasted because TOO MUCH about her wig and her actual looks had already been shown UNNECESSARILY.

Of course, the counterpoint is in the scenes that were enjoyable and interesting in themselves, but suffered for lack of time to make them well rounded ones:
  • Rossi and Kate at hair salon scene: Rossi was made to jump to conclusions too fast (unsub-lacks-physical strength doesn't equate to unsub-is-a-woman). At the very least, they shouldn't have guessed that point until AFTER Kate found the washed clothes, and that only during a longer discussion about what they knew at the time.
  • Hotch and Reid alone at the BAU scenes: we got a small glimpse of how good those two are at bouncing ideas out of each other, how Reid can allow his mouth follow his brain fast thought processing without fear of being interrupted for clarifications or losing his audience. When both characters are written correctly, has been proved time and again that Hotch can follow Reid without trouble, and makes for very engaging dialogue.
  • Garcia's searches scene: she came up empty several times, as Morgan and Garcia herself pointed out, but was nearly lost in first view because we didn't get to hear the profilers give her the parameters for the first one, or is a too short scene; the one time we have them talking back and forth about the case, in a rarely seen setting with Garcia physically in the middle of the group and able to search the moment they come up with a new option, we were mostly cheated out of it because... there wasn't enough time? Huge fail.
  • Missing scenes: pointed in the previous list, the 911 Call should have been discovered and explained TO us by the profilers; you have a clueless local SSA, make him ask. Same goes for us learning about Ellen's car accident and its consequences; you have Garcia there, use her to let them explain if you need an excuse. And talking about missing explanations, would have been lovely to have someone explain where this came from: "The unsub is a Caucasian woman aged between her 40s and 50s...", that is not from the left field!
Last, but not least by any means: how many viewers were left thinking the people responsible at the Criminal Minds Hairdresser Department did a horrid job with Ellen's wig? They didn't, the ill-fitting wig was intentional, and the cause of Ellen killing Jessica Randall; Ellen is the customer Jessica had an argument with, the argument her co-worker mentions to Hotch, and was about the wig. There was another clue in the document Garcia pulls up when looking for connections between the suspected killer and her victims. I needed to watch those too short, fast moments three times to really get the meaning. INFURIATING.

Rossi's Plot

Janine walked a very dangerous line while writing this part of the episode, the possibility of turning Criminal Minds into a dreadful soap opera was sky high. She avoided it brilliantly on paper, and Joe's fabulous acting skills did the rest.

Before I delve in the details, I need to highlight Amber Stevens performance as Joy, so expressive but with subtlety, beautiful acting in every scene. I read someone who noticed she resembles Joe's daughter Gia... that is something I had missed, but is true nonetheless, and helps tremendously to make Joy even more believable as Rossi's daughter.

Springing a "secret daughter" on a main character of a veteran procedural translates 99 out of 100 times into "cliché", "lack of fresh ideas", "soap opera" and/or "jumping the shark". 100 out of 100 times translates into terror in the hearts of the fans.

We got the 1 out of 100 times when is so well done and explained, that not only makes sense, but gives us a very deep insight into said main character younger self versus his actual one. Have to say that this plot would have benefited greatly if it had been told as events happening through several weeks, instead of everything going down in the span of a measly 24 hours.

Who would confront a possible stalker, and do so with so much tongue in cheek? Only Rossi, that's who.

At this point was interesting, and mostly funny, to watch Rossi's reactions to Garcia's joking and how Kate learned a bit about the man behind the renowned name. I learned too that Rossi has been feeling lonely...

Rossi: "This is why I don't get remarried, struck out three times. I'm better off just doing my job, writing my books,... and living alone."

... said the man who had been in a serious relationship with Erin Strauss and was devastated by her death. Need another clue? In the context of the conversation, voicing that insight into his thoughts was completely out of place; you don't associate "marriage" with a supposed "admirer", less when you're trying to discover who's stalking you.

Wait! We are "fangirls",... did Rossi call us "crazy persons"? Bad boy! Of course, then he goes and tell us, and Kate, that one of his invaded his home six times, which explains his point of view too well. I felt like I couldn't be angry at him for that after all, but be happy for having learned another piece of trivia about his past.

Next time we saw him, we learned how Rossi reacts when getting scared and rightfully indignant at once: he won't listen to you, but give you a piece of his mind, and will have you removed from his presence. And he won't shout, but be forceful enough to make you to shut up, unless you've something truly powerful to say...

Joy: "I'm your daughter!"

... that shocks him into incredulous silence.

Joy's straightforward explanation and details delivery was what put the profiler in him in motion. Rossi did know she wasn't lying, even if he was still both, incredulous and in denial.

Until then, the "stalker" had been work related, being it about his job as an agent or about his job as a writer, and that was all right to be talked in front of and with Kate. But had become personal, and he clamped down; she isn't a friend yet, he is a private and confused man, he won't share anything else with her. Kate may have needed to learn that, we already did.

The very short, on point, flashbacks of Rossi's memories went from corny to deeply insightful. We tend to remember better what we give importance to in the moment, more so when decades have passed after the events remembered. His marriage to Hayden had been the cliché "summer romance in Paris" to a T, and his first and easiest to access memory of it was as corny and cliché as the first flashback was. All "summer romances" end when reality calls to the door, and for David and Hayden meant the impossibility of remaining together due to their jobs, but more importantly due to their goals in life; the second flashback of their break up reflected perfectly the painful feeling that comes with that awareness. Because the feelings remain, at least for a time, the couples try to remain in contact; that's what we saw in the third flashback, and that was the moment Rossi realized why Hayden had sounded off and the moment he fully accepted Joy as his daughter.

And we got the end, the most powerful performance I've seen Joe deliver in the show. He hit all the right notes while doing so, and as a result, Rossi's confession of his present feelings and his younger self's were worth all the fears and all the anxiety this story line had given me, and then some. BRILLIANT.

The End

The Case Plot is thankfully finished and can be forgotten.

Rossi's Plot is not, and we have been promised follows up through the season. This Knight will wait with bated breath for those moments, fully aware that reaching again such high point as this episode does will be complicated. This Knight will be seriously pissed of though if we are cheated out of the conversation Rossi owes to Hotch about all of this.

~~~~Sir Elyan the White


  1. Sir Elyan,
    With regard to the case this week. You're spot on in your review. It was bland, generic, disjointed and honestly poorly written. You've said everything I could have and more.... so bravo for that.

    As for Rossi's 'surprise' Daughter.... There we differ. I didn't like it. It's too cliche'd to over the top and quite frankly David Rossi going from thinking he has a 'stalker fangirl' to accepting a daughter/grandson/son in law in less then 24 hrs to me is just ridiculous. My reasons are simple, I am adopted, I did search for my biological mother, it took me years, and when I did 'find' her it sure wasn't 24 hrs later that we were being friendly and loving and planning visits. I know many many adoptees and others who've lost touch with biological parents who will tell you the same as I am. It just DOES NOT HAPPEN the way Janine depicted. TV Show or NO TV Show that aspect should have been researched and maybe even used to make a statement regarding 'opening records for people searching'. But alas, that didn't happen either.

    Maybe the storyline would have been more successful for me if
    1. It was spread out over several episodes to be thoroughly explained?
    2. Rossi went to Hotch and told him what was happening, and fearing for his friend Hotch had 'Garcia' check out this woman. With details turning toward this being a fact about Rossi's past.
    3. The 'team', who's supposed to be a family, rallied around Rossi to help him deal with the whole situation and the myriad of emotions that would come with a revelation like this.

    I find it highly dubious that a man of David Rossi's caliber as an Agent, Profiler, Author would simply fall over to accept the claims of someone who's already lied to him, especially after what he's seen happen in the past?

    Erin Strauss said it best "When Loved ones are concerned this team tends to go 'rogue'." I would have preferred to see 'that side of the team'. Not to mention the whole situation could have been used to trigger upcoming future events betwixt the team.

    Alas, Janine for me failed to hit any high notes on this episode and I fear that CM has turned that corner towards being a night-time Soap Opera rather then an intelligent Criminal Procedural.

    My overall rating for this episode.... Solid "D"

  2. Sir Elyan I really, completely agree with your assessment of the Rossi/daughter subplot. It was wonderfully executed and is a welcome relief to the general grimness of the show. I look forward to further development of the relationship.

    In general I liked this episode much more than the previous couple.

  3. Sir Elyan, I agree with your review 100% in both your assessment of the unsub plot line and the Rossi plot line. Great work!

  4. Sir Elyan
    I agree with your review of the case plot but disagree about the Rossi sub plot. You were right when you said it was a cliche and for me it fell into the "fail" category. Maybe if it had been explored over several episodes and developed more believably it would have been different but the way they played the "Wham Bam Happy Ending" was almost laughable despite JM's best efforts. It is inconceivable that a character like Rossi would just roll over and accept the situation as Janine wrote it. Inconceivable. I understand that there are viewers who like the soapy, sappy turn the show has taken but it is not for me. It isn't even done well IMO. The ending this week was almost as unbelievable as the infamous JJ at the bar scene in 200. When it comes to the personal stories they sadly just cannot do them .

    1. Thanks for that, Mary. I agree with you more than the others here (as usual). I don't like to be fault-finding, but, when there's fault to find, we fans should not be silent. I didn't like the unsub story at all, and the Rossi story, while he did his best with the cliche, fell flat as could be.

      Reid being "in the room" and sometimes onscreen for less than 5 minutes total is inexcusable. What the hell are they saving him for? Are they saving him for something?

    2. The case of the missing Reid has reached the point now where it seems there must be a hidden agenda behind it. As for the quality of this episode, for me it is another clear example of "dumbing" down the show to pull in a wider, less demanding pool of viewers. But that's just my opinion as an older viewer who has been obsessed with the show since 2005.

    3. @ Suegypt and Mary The case of the missing Reid is what it is, I HIGHLY doubt there will be ANY huge storyline for Reid this season, let alone a teeny storyline. And that is just what the show is now. "With the characters: JJ, Morgan, Garcia, Hotch, Rossi, Kate, and there anyone else--oh I don't think so, oh well" That seems to be how it goes when the writers are preparing scripts.
      Can they at least pretend they aren't trying to phase him out??

  5. To me was a solid A episode.It would better if the entire team 'team', who's supposed to be a family, rallied around Rossi to help him deal with the whole situation. But i still iked... i don't mind a litttle be soaped, because i love creepy, tension drama, fun, stories of the characters.


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