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.
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 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!
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!
~~~~Sir Elyan The White