Monday, February 16, 2015

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 10 - 1015. Scream - Review

It's all about expectations. Mines, when confronted with a Kim Harrison penned episode, hit rock bottom several seasons back. So when the time came for her last episode of the season to air I read the summary, watched the promo and perused the promotional photos, and adjusted my weekly expectations accordingly.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE SUMMARY/PROMO/PHOTOS? Kim, as usual, had a good idea to work on, was going to show us who the Unsub was before the credits rolled, and was going to show us too much "Unsub At Work" (yes, is a thing, and I despise it!)

WHAT I WAS HOPING FOR? That this time the development of her good idea would make sense in the end, the explanations would come mostly from the team, and that the team acted as such, instead of being reduced to JJ, Morgan and Garcia doing all the work and solving the case, while the rest were downgraded to background wallpaper. Certainly very low expectations (everything listed should be a given for each and every Criminal Minds episode), but as some, or even none, of them have been met in the past...

WHAT I GOT? This time I felt lucky... somewhat; happy surprises tempered by a mix of strong and tame negatives, still felt like an improvement over my initial expectations.

The main point this episode was aiming to make, showing the catastrophe that domestic violence inflicts on the lives of the abused women and their kids, was cleverly highlighted using flashback scenes, and those being the only flashbacks of the Unsub's childhood made the point more than clear enough.




Sadly, that cleverness was nearly fully buried by the uber cliché decision of making the women of the team the stars in solving it, as if only they could understand what the victims had gone through and only they would really care about this kind of crimes. As if Hotch, who possibly was a victim himself of domestic abuse, couldn't sympathize. As if Reid, whose mother was abandoned at the lowest point of her illness by her husband, couldn't sympathize. As if Rossi, faithful lover of all women alike, wouldn't want to protect and cherish them. As if Morgan, who's constants are his mother and his sisters and his cousin and his aunt and now his fiancée, wouldn't go ballistic against a woman abuser. As if NOT showing men taking a strong stance against domestic violence is going to help honest, caring, normal men to be aware of the need to take a stance against it... AS IF!



There was something else, though, that should give hope to any victim out there who happens upon this episode. The last victim not only was saved, she rediscovered her self-esteem and self-worth, and tried everything in her power, and then some, to save herself. Congratulations to Lisa Brenner for playing the myriad of emotions Greta Thomas goes through, being as expressive as needed without overacting in any of her scenes.

There was lots of Unsub on my screen, and while Brian Poth did an stellar job showing us Peter Folkmore's stiff OCD and his mental devolution, we didn't need to see that much of him to learn about said OCD and said devolution, and we certainly didn't need to see his face at all, not even during the scenes at his workplace (he only had one kind of clothes, all in the same color; we are smart enough to deduce it was always the same man if we only saw parts of him - as we did ad-nauseum during the teaser, along with seeing his face time and again, of course), but he didn't explain himself at all; we learned very little from him about what his real problem was and why he was killing those women, which in turn forced the team to do the explaining (shocking, I know... In case someone missed the memo, we call that "profiling", and is THE reason we watch this show!).

There was too a fair amount of our team on the screen, and for most of the time devoted to solve the case it was mostly balanced... until you paid attention. I have mentioned above that the solving-the-case part had fallen on the female agents' shoulders, with the males playing sidekicks, and why I think it was completely wrong.

Let's add to that, starting with Morgan, our true and proven expert in obsessional crimes; few criminals are more obsessive that those who, through domestic violence, try to control the women on their lives, and yet Morgan was reduced to adding small tidbits of insight, but wasn't allowed to carry the core of that part of the profile.

Knowing that Thomas Gibson is the next episode director, I wasn't expecting for Hotch to have a huge amount of screen time (we all saw how much prepping work to direct entails, and I doubt Mr. Gibson can be in two places at once). What I was expecting was for his part to be quality, as one of the leads of the series deserves, not utterly generic lines that could have gone to any other character without changing a comma.

With her family making an appearance, it was obvious Kate Callahan was going to be given the spotlight, and my only complaint isn't directly related to her per se, but to the obnoxious fad developed in the last seasons of giving the character that has something not-case-related going on the most important insights in the solving-the-case part. Mix things up, people!

Garcia was one of my happy surprises; for once she came out in a Kim's script as the smart professional Analyst we all know she is, instead of the too often unbelievable Analyst able to solve the cases all by herself, and with a bratty attitude to boot.

Reid was a half-happy surprise; don't get me wrong, he wasn't allowed to play with his genius side and he ended pulling a vanishing act, but at least he was allowed to appear as the experienced, professional agent he has become. With Kim I'm always expecting the socially awkward kid of many seasons past...

Rossi was bland... What...? Mr. Sassy, bland? How do you manage to write Rossi bland? Never thought it was possible, color me baffled!

JJ was normal - nowadays normal, - until they reached the Unsub's house. Making half the team disappear leads to idiotic situations, like having the agents conducting a search without back-up. That wasn't the character's fault, nor was the fact that again we got to "enjoy" another Ninja-JJ fight. See, that part was written for Kate, but this episode was filmed half before the Christmas break and half after, at the same time that Jennifer Love Hewitt discovered her new pregnancy; direct consequence? No filming stunts for her. Because of how the scene had been written - leaving all the men out, - their only option left was using JJ. Another consequence? Ninja-JJ gets bested by a very normal man. Instead of re-writing it, we got a scene that looked off, and the chance to give the male agents some weight in the episode was wasted... again.

And we finally met Kate's husband, Chris Callahan. The scene in their kitchen proved to me that once again the Criminal Minds Casting Dpt has scored big, - for the umpteenth time,- getting Greg Grungberg for the part. Grungberg is a weakness of mine, another phenomenal actor that never resorts to histrionics to play his characters, but my preferences aside, Kate and Chris just work as a couple and as "parents" to their fearless teenager. And they better do, because said teenager and her sidekick have put themselves in a situation that is way over their heads (Little Ladies, at 13 years old you are NOT a grown up and even less, know it all).

I'm liking how this season's arc is being set up, because while these two girls are acting like typical young teens, is not that usual to give them parents/guardians not only aware of the risks that surround them, but that are proactive in protecting them. I wasn't expecting for anything bad to happen to them in this particular episode, but I wasn't expecting either for "dad" to show up and keep a firm eye on them. With the conclusion of this arc being co-written by Jim Clemente, my expectations remain firmly at "sky-high" level.

Bonus point: the amount of gore was really contained and mostly out of our sight.

Neutral point: can accept - barely - that the murder/suicide of his parents wasn't fully investigated because it was too obvious what had happened, and the cop forgetting to check the recorder in the middle of the mayhem that surely ensued is believable - barely.

Unclear point: upstairs/downstairs. Upstairs lived Peter, with his OCD, his tidiness, and all his manias. Downstairs Peter channeled his bloody, messy, untidy father... Or not? Nobody explained why the differences between the ground floor and the basement of that house.

Minus points: the details are important and need care. A nurse, a teacher, or any other professional who is constantly in direct contact with public and colleagues, are missed right away; chose other professions that allow for working alone, there are more than enough. And wouldn't have been better to skip the whole "mom's recorded murder is always IN his recorder", and to simply say "is always CLOSE AT hand"? Mostly because he would have saved it when he saved the recorder from the fire if the tape was always IN!

"Scream" was an improvement over Kim's previous scripts since "Into the Woods", but is too little an improvement and certainly too late; too many years have passed since she started to write for the show, too many disastrous scripts in between, and still too much to learn about the voices, strengths and skills of the main characters that should have been learned and used years ago.


~~~~Sir Elyan The White

13 comments:

  1. Excellent review Sir Elyan..... I couldn't agree with you more over all the points you've made.
    Sadly, one area I do disagree is about Into the Woods.... I am of a belief that Kim Harrison didn't write the whole episode, she had a ghost writer with her, more then likely Rick Dunkle. WIth that belief it is why I feel Into the Woods is an anomaly for Kim's writing. Everything else she's done has been medicore to extremely poor in quality. After so many years she should have been able to get a handle on the Main cast and be able to write quality for each of them.

    Her work as well as that of Hannelle Culpepper is choppy and disjointed at best. And Seeing as HC has admitted in an interview that they see what the fans are asking for but don't care apparently I will not be watching another episode from either of them....

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  2. Great review. You touched most of my problems with the episode. Too much unsub, we see him from the get go which kills any mystery, the evacuation of the male cast from the case, Reid making a dissapearing act, again. Yes we get it(Thanks Hannel Culpepper), Matthew Gray Gubler may have been busy/sick/needed some time off but why not write something as to why he dissapeared? Same with Thomas Gibson, yes he was busy with preparing to direct episode 1016 but again why no explaination?

    You touch something that I often have a problem with some of the writers, the fact that some lines are so generic anyone could say them. This results in the characters losing what makes them interesting in the first place; their personality.

    The overuse of JJ is getting old, why not use Morgan or Reid or Rossi to get the unsub? Is there a clause in AJ Cook contract that says she got to be in all action scenes? This is very repetitive.

    The best part for me was Kate and her family, this was well written and acted.

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    1. I agree, about Kate and family being the best part of the episode, and maybe there is a "JJ must be in every action scene/take down" in AJ Cook's contract and boy, is that predictable AND annoying. I would have loved to see Kate (JLH) throw down with the unsub. Too bad she is pregnant. You know what that means: more NinjaJJ on the way, which I am not happy about, especially when other characters are bounced to the background.

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    2. callahan and her family....JLH' show. No sorry, what about Garcia's family?

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  3. I've only seen the episode once and when I saw the big mistake of people didn't kept attention if teachers and nurses disappeared I was surprised!

    A teacher for 25 students and nobody say something? A nurse who has her patients and her boss don't say something aobut her disappearance? Sorry but not. That's a rookie mistake. Sorry Kim but you did a BIG Mistake. These works are the first where the coworkers know if something happens. It's what doesn't work alone!

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  4. Personally, I think this was a successful bridging episode, ... I am of the belief that Hanelle Culpepper is a superb director, giving an amazing eerie, creepy feeling to this show - as I've previously stated, episode 1019 "The Edge of Winter" is a great example. Even though Kimberly Ann Harrison may not be the best writer of the show, possibly the worst (whoppdie-do, she's still a good writer for my favourite show, not every writer can be the best so someone has to be the worst), I believe her episodes have improved and also, c'mon guys she had learned to write much better for Reid. "The Return" is proof. Although this was not her best work, I was still quite entertained.

    As I have said it served as an excellent bridging episode, thanks to some awesome acting by Greg and JLH (who is awesome, BTW) I like Meg, but I think they could've found a better actress for the part, anyhow it still works for me. Since the finale, Co-written by Jim Clemente, will be the culmination of not only this increasingly creepy storyline, (the chains in the car was quite the touch, KH and HC) but also the culmination of the second unsub and his online human trafficking ring from "X," I am extremely excited to see how this storyline plays out! :)
    Long live CM, and bring back Andrew Wilder and Chris Mundy lol.
    - severeCMaddict

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  5. I'm teaming up with Barbara here; agreeing with just about everything she said except this: I too was none too pleased about HC's article comments. However, I'll still watch the upcoming mentioned episode and then make my final judgement.

    Let me add this comment. I get that our beloved actors that put on their directing hats are busy before and after the episode they direct. I was one of a few peeps that said that long ago when MGG did his first directing gig (and the 1st cast member to do so) and the Reid fans complained about him disappearing.

    Knowing I was a TG fan, when he finally decided to direct, I got the "see how you like it" comments. And rightly so; but that doesn't change the fact that whether it be MGG, TG or JM, directing is a time consuming part for them for many weeks. I still accept that and will defend it again.

    That said, with the fans' complaints, why is it SO hard for a writer to give those overly busy actors/directors a good scene when they ARE around? That would take them being MIA easily off the table for the fans. Yeah, they hear us; but they'll just keep doing the same.

    And I also agree with Barb to the bottom line; excellent review Sir Elyan, as usual. :D

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  6. Great review Sir Elyan and I agree with all the points made by Barbara. The only solid episode written by KH was Into the Woods so it does seem probable that she had a huge amount of help with that one. All the rest. including this latest effort have been well below par. And I agree with all the comments about members of cast preparing for directing - it should be possible for them to have their shortened presence to be quality scenes instead of just a generic scene or two to be phoned in. I do have a problem with the story about Kate's daughter. As a mom myself I really don't believe that teens these days are so unaware of the dangers on the internet - and especially given that she has an FBI agents as a parent. It does smack of a bit of an outdated cliche.

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    1. I actually hated "Into the Woods". There were so many plot holes in it. Like, Reid started the geographical profile on the plane but halfway through the episode he still wasn't done. The dogs didn't smell the little boy when he was being held by the guy with his mouth covered. The little boy was out in public surrounded by people and never once yelled for help (after he already showed he was willing to fight-- and he did fight later).
      And I don't buy that a place that is known to be the home of multiple child molesters didn't have a single watchdog person or off-duty cop keeping an eye on the place. Someone would have noticed the child being dragged into the building...
      At least I still have Midnight Jo's review to re-read to amuse me when I think of that episode.

      On a side note, over on the Previously TV Forums, someone did a tally of screentime for each character and how long "Scream" was. This one was less than 40 minutes. I think it was the shortest episode of the season thus far. I think Hanelle mentioned that some violent scenes had to be cut and then they had to add back other scenes. Too bad they didn't have more team profiling scenes to add in.

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    2. You can find big plot holes in most episodes sadly! I liked Into the Woods because it was such a different storyline and for once they didn't catch the unsub - very rare for CM. I also saw the screentime tally for Scream on the other forum - I think the unusb came out well on top with about 17 minutes of screentime in a 38 minute episode which is such a sad indictment of the way the show has been taken.

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  7. Great review, Sir Elyan. Unfortunately, there is no balance or grace in Kim's writing. The canon suffers when she is writing, i'm afraid.

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  8. While I tend to cringe when I know an episode will be written by Kim Harrison, one thing I have noted is that she tends to create interesting unsubs. Unfortunately, that is not the reason I watch the show. Other than the interesting unsubs, the weaknesses: Profiling, Dialog, team member personalities, and believable behavior from pretty much everyone.
    I agree that teachers and nurses are NOT people who could easily disappear without it being noticed. Even when they are not working, they often get called to be asked questions or asked to fill in for someone-- they generally are in contact with people in the community.
    I also agree that the male team members were shoved into the background and this was some sort of "girl power" type trip. Most of the team members showed no personality and their skillsets were not utilized.
    Even if I can accept JJ going into the basement by herself, why did she not call out to the rest of the team when she encountered the unsub? She didn't have to scream. She could have shouted "Down here!" or "Basement!" or something to alert the team so they could have come to help. I do admit that I laughed when the unsub whacked her on the behind with the bat. That was some bad choreography there. He should have gone for the legs just below to knock her down.
    I do NOT buy that the cop never once asked to listen to the tape from the recorder. And the tape was conveniently out of the player/recorder when the fire happened? Too much off a stretch.
    And why did the guy have to kill women? Oh, and if part of the dialog was "put the knife down", why did he have a bat and not a knife? Why didn't he terrorize them with a knife to get them to scream? He didn't have to cut them.
    But why did he have to hurt them at all when he could have hired someone to follow a script.
    Despite being interesting, we still had almost no insight into his motivations. We saw his OCD ad nauseum, but it still didn't tell us more about what was going on inside his head.

    I think Hanelle did what she could to make the episode visually interesting and I think the music worked and such, but I think the fatal flaw was a weak script. The writer should be the one to explain why people disappeared.

    And I have to agree with the comment about why they don't make the best use of the characters/actors when they have them available instead of just wallflowering them and giving the lion's share of dialog to other characters. The generic dialog that can be said by anyone is getting old.
    I don't get why they are still having scheduling conflicts with getting the actors available for filming days. This speaks of poor planning IMO. And I don't fully buy that as an excuse because it seems like AJ is almost always available.

    I did really like Chris Callahan and I wouldn't mind seeing more of him. I like the actor, so I think that is a big plus. But OMG, I don't care for Meg. I didn't buy her acting and the bratty attitude... I didn't act like that as a teen. Why do they have to have the teens be so stupid? There are plenty of intelligent teens out there... I'm tired of the cliche dumb ones...

    I wouldn't call this one a total fail, but it had major flaws and needed improvement. Maybe Kim needs a co-writer to do the profiling and team parts....

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