Tuesday, March 10, 2015

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 10 - 1016. Lockdown - Review

In this week episode, the BAU is called to a prison in Texas to help solve serial murders inside the walls of the privately own prison. There the team will find 2000+ inmates not keen on talking to the feds and staff that is not running a clean operation. The team will have to fight, figuratively and literally, to catch the unsub.

What follows is a pêle-mêle of ideas, of what I thought of the episode.

At the start of the episode we have a nice scene with Hotch and Rossi, in Hotch’s office, talking on the phone with the Warden who tells them what he has been facing since his appointment, 6 months ago: two officers murdered, both left with a sock in their mouth (yuck!).

Our first introduction to the inmates population was brilliantly done by writer Virgil Williams and director Thomas Gibson. Many inmates are shown being stripped of their individuality, but still they all look different: tall, small, white, black, Latinos, some have hair, no hair, young, old, they all have different tattoos,... things that set them apart. In a matter of minutes, we see them being striped, washed, and clothed in prison uniforms, the system uniformity being applied to all. What will later set them apart even more will be how they act. The music for that scene was perfect, it did highlight the monotonous element in it as inmates are all photographed one after the other by the staff.

This episode had many possible unsubs in a pool made of prisoners and guards. I liked how we were kept guessing until near the end. Too often these days on Criminal Minds, the guessing part is taken out in the first minute of the episode.  

Another great feature of the episode is that there are lots of details. The viewer does have to pay attention to understand it all. Like why would an inmate, who was a sexual predator, be left doing meals distribution to other inmates locked in their cells? Usually this is done by a deserving inmate, so why this guy? Sexual predators often have to be keep away from other inmates for their own good. This inmate, as he distributes the meals, gives a warning to another prisoner: the feds are here, you better keep your mouth shut. Why is this guy saying this? Who is really pulling his strings? Guards or Prisoners? This will be answered later ,when he is murdered, and the team finds out it was done by another inmate, same who killed the guards, and why.

Love that we had so many interviews done by the team. There was lots of diversity in those interviews: some refused to talk, some said very little, others hinted they knew something but refused to talk... No one talks to the feds, and if they did, they made fun of what the profilers told them;
  • Rossi: "Mr. Watson, Sorry for the wait"
  • Watson: "I hope you all know I had to rearrange my entire schedule. I had back to back meetings after the conference call."
The way the episode is constructed it is as if the team are peeling the different layers of the prison until its rotten core is exposed. The team is looking for who is killing those guards, but as the team uncovers clues about the murders, they do find out why they were murdered. It is in retaliation for the illegal fighting and the guards betting on the result of fights they organize among the inmates. The man who is at the center of it all is an inmate, Patrick Butler, who was forced to participate in such a fight and killed his friend Devon White. So we have inmates killing guards, guards who are killing some of their charges, and the ring leader for the guards being Dale Shavers, the right hand man of the Warden. 

The hostages-taking scene was a big one and it was very suspenseful. The horror starts the moment Shavers unlocks the cell doors. From there it is total mayhem, as the inmates are let loose and one of them, who made a deal with Shavers, goes after one of the guards that Shavers had tried to silence. That guard, Tom Polinsky, is being interviewed by Morgan and Kate, and is telling them all about what's been going on in exchange for protection for his daughter, who Shavers' has been making treats to if Polinsky said anything. As the inmates rush in, the guard, Morgan and Kate have to fight for their lives! Love that on Criminal Minds the women can take care of themselves. Yes, Kate is one badass agent who can fight. One great thing about badass Kate is that she is not written as a super-agent who can take down EVERYONE ala JJ. The fight scene was believable (great use of a chair!) but not once did I go, "Oh, come on!"  

The end with Kate running out of the prison, just wanting out of there, I took it as her realizing she had come close to probably being raped and killed by those inmates. She needed badly to get out of there. 

There was interesting little details in this episode. The look one of the guards gives at Morgan and Callahan when they are discussing the fact that they could also have a bigger pool of suspects if they include the guards; added suspicion on both sides (guards and FBI agents). The well read books, most were not in good shape; I took it as this being an old prison, were the corporation who refuse to even do security upgrades, would not care much about entertaining the inmates, not even providing a TV from what we could see, so books are the only distraction available to the inmates.

By the way, what's with not having any covers, is this a prison rule? And speaking of details, always loved to see all the work put into showing the characters personalities by showing some of their home/office decor; noticed the trophies/medals in Hotch's office. All those little details make it even more rewarding re-watching episodes.

About the writing,Virgil Williams is now my favorite writer on Criminal Minds. The only episode of his I never really liked was his homage to Frankenstein "There's No Place Like Home" which was a bit too implausible for me, but apart from that one, I have enjoyed all of his episodes. "Lockdown" was solid from start to finish. I like that Williams tried to keep the unveiling of the unsub(s) until the end. Doing an episode in a prison could have been pretty restrictive in both, possible action and list of suspects, but we got multiple suspects, multiple reasons for what they were doing and the action was more than just the team reading files and interviewing suspects. Some have seen some political agenda in Williams writing, black inmates killing white guards. Sure, on a very simple level, one could take this away after watching the episode, but there was more to this than that. It had more to do with the differences between the men behind bars and the ones locking those cells doors; sometimes it only comes down to who has the power over the other. Control, who had it and how they chose to use it.

This was the second episode this season where a Virgil Williams episode was directed by Criminal Minds' Star Thomas Gibson and once again they did excellent work together. First, I like that Williams doesn't make Hotch disappear just so Thomas can be free to have more time off camera. Hate when one of the cast is directing and their character is just put aside, worse, they go through a door never to be seen again! Thomas works here was all about setting up an atmosphere of what it is like to be in a prison; it is claustrophobic, everyone lives in close quarter, no privacy (cameras are almost everywhere), the undertone of violence in everything that is said or done in between those walls... Since everyone are all in close proximity to each other in a prison, Gibson did film very close to his cast and the action. The fights scenes, all filmed at very close quarters, make the viewer feel as if they are in the scene, that they too are in prison.

Thomas Gibson gave us one of the best scene of this season when we see Reid working the huge pile of files. That scene was amazing! In a few seconds we not only see how Reid works, his ability at high speed reading, but at how things are for Spencer compared to everyone else. We know Reid is a genius, but how to show this? Thomas Gibson did an amazing job at showing how Reid can go through LOTS of information in a short time, but also not just that, but how Reid is able to put together that information, sift through it and find clues. In the scene we see how different Reid reality can be compared to another team member, especially when he is in full genius mode; we see him work at an incredible speed while, when Hotch comes into the room, he is shown in slow motion. Just brilliant!

Finally, a writer finds a way to use Garcia in a manner where she doesn't do ALL of the team's work! Because WiFi reception is pretty bad, the team had to go outside to talk Garcia. Too often some writers have Garcia finding all the clues that will lead to the unsub, leaving the team to just give a short profile and show up for the arrest. Not this time, the interaction with the tech analyst is to the short, and more realistic. She did find the clue that did set the team in the right direction as to why the guards may have been involved in illegal betting, but the team could not rely so much on her "magic". Nice twist.

I have to mention the casting. Great casting, all those actors playing the inmates looks tough and mean.

I love to see Rossi decency, it came out again when he did bring back to the inmate his books and he showed him respect by calling him "Mr. Pritchett".

Best line:
  • Garcia (To Morgan): "take care of yourself"
  • Morgan: "come on you know me"
  • Garcia: "yeah I do, That's why I'm saying it"
Babygirl sure knows that Morgan too often gets into trouble, and boy, was she right!

I mentioned the music in this episode, here are the songs that were used:
  • "Muddy Waters" by The Gospel Whiskey Runners
  • "Echoes" by Handsome Jack
  • "Ancient Light" by Allman Brown
I tried real hard to find something I didn't like in "Lockdown" but could not come up with anything! This Criminal Minds fan was totally happy with the episode. Williams and Gibson did great work once again and I hope that, if there is a season 11, they will both again work together as writer and director.

I give this episode a 9.5/10.



  1. "By the way, what's with not having any covers, is this a prison rule?"

    I would just suggest they were old books that the cover came off from being used so much. that being said I am sure rules vary state to state.

    That scene with Reid was absolutely brilliant.

  2. I also really liked this episode. Loved Watson's comments about rearranging his schedule, and the mention of a conference call. Makes you wonder what he did before he was put in prison. And the sped-up motion of Reid against the slow motion of Hotch was genius. I also liked the way the scenes of the team driving out of the prison grounds was an exact reversal of how they drove in; the same bus outside the sliding gate, etc. It emphasizes how everything is routine within those walls, day after day after day. Wonderful writing, and fantastic directing!

  3. I loved SpeedReid! OK, I'm being silly, but seriously that scene rocked.

  4. Nice review, thanks, Merlin! I know there was some accustomed swiss chess in this plot, but i did enjoy it, especially the attention to Reid's genius, and the lack of Garcia's (fake) genius… That's not a slam on KV, I like her a lot.

    Overall, decent writing and balance of characters. Kate was believable and sympathetic.

  5. Like always Merlin, your review was excellent. You hit all the points I liked/loved about the episode and a few more I hadn't noticed. Thank you for that. I haven't re-watched the episode yet; so I'll make sure to look for things I missed.

    Rockie gives you your usual "A" Merlin. ;) :D

  6. Great Review Merlin. You highlighted all the things I loved about this episode - especially the Reid scene. I loved the direction, the atmosphere, the casting, the music... Lots to love about this one.

  7. Just watched this episode and add usual I loved it... It was funny when Reid read all those files so quickly and it was cute... I couldn't believe the unsub actually thought he could get away with killing while the team was they're.. He should have known, other team would catch himself.. I just wish he would of stayed alive to pay for his crimes.. It was cleaver though when he released the hardest prisoners..I was screaming at the TV saying where the team at, hurry up and get to Morgan and Kate.. This episode was intense though and very this.. Thank you all for another great episode


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