Monday, April 13, 2015

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 10 - 1019. Beyond Borders - Review

December 2014, news alert about Criminal Minds:

"CBS is taking another stab at expanding its popular Criminal Minds franchise. The network is developing a new spin-off series that will first air as an episode of Criminal Minds in February." - TVGuide.com

Strong sense of foreboding + deep shudder running down my spine = Déjà vu anyone?

More tidbits about the hopeful-series started tricking in fast: the new team would deal with Americans that land themselves in trouble abroad, most of the cases wouldn't involve serial killers, the cast was announced actor by actor as they get on board... Those, for me, were all good news: the premise made sense and the cast was full of proven names on TV and made for a likable group as a whole.

But wasn't until after I started seeing behind-the-scenes photos of OUR cast with the new gang that I let out my first sigh of relief: OUR cast looked happy and carefree working with them, and that lead me to think OUR show wouldn't be hurt this time around - which, of course, is the only thing that mattered to me then, and still does now.


THE CASE

A family annihilator isn't new in Criminal Minds, but Tidwell's story was well thought of and developed to make sense per se and to excuse the need of these two teams to work together. It made for a good case-of-the-week, nothing stellar but the case wasn't the priority either, so perfect... on paper.

Allow me to repeat myself... again: too much unsub, his face on my screen too soon, too much learned from the unsub point of view, too many flashbacks, too much violence on my screen that added NOTHING to the story! What a way to waste time on an episode where time was, more than ever, overpriced real estate... #Argh!

As a result of the above, we got good profiling from our team but not nearly half enough, and the chance for the new team to prove their skills and specialties was mostly lost.

And then, they gave us the detail that baffled me in first viewing, and pissed me off in the subsequent ones: out of all those boats and ships remaining after discarding size and shipping lines, there was only one blue and white left? Tidwell was a fan of blue and orange so, if his boat had that unusual color combo, I could have bought the search-by-color giving them his location, but blue and white? Errr... nope! That felt like a cheap way to rush the resolution toward the cool take down they've planned, and a direct result of wasting so much screentime in unneeded scenes with the unsub.


THE TEAMS

Thoughtfully mixed, the established pairings worked mostly well, but still not everybody shone equally. In order of "creation":

  • Apparently if Beyond Borders is picked up to series, the FBI International Team will be too under Mateo Cruz's command. This is a good idea, because on top of the fact that using common sense is always a good idea, it links the two teams beyond the title, expands and helps explain the job of a Section Chief, and gives them a solid starting point if they want to make a crossover in the future.

  • Garcia & Montgomery: no-brainer if there was one, and the one that worked worst because of how they were written. Garcia being friends with Monty was very believable, but her deferring to him in everything they did was not. Garcia is bossy, - no matter how well she disguises that trait under her sweet talk, her colorful ways and her trinkets... when it suits her,- and Garcia understands better than most how the families left behind feel while waiting for news on their beloved ones. Letting them in charge of talking with the grandparents was a huge error, period; there were other profilers left behind much better equipped for the job, so Monty's "help" wasn't needed this time around, thank you very much. Monty is headed to Gary-Sue territory at lightning speed.
  • Callahan & Reid: they have paired well since the start of the season, and leaving Kate behind due to her advanced pregnancy (more in real life than in the show) made sense; leaving Reid behind not that much. When the reason to join these two teams together is the jurisdictional crossing (from International to Stateside then back to International), the expert in geographical profiling should have been where that skill was needed, and was needed most. He still managed to join several dots and prove how good a profiler he is (the case wasn't complicated enough to bring out his genius side). Kate could have profiled the family home, and work victimology, just as well paired with Morgan, or even better, JJ. Why better JJ? Because this pair should have been the one interviewing the victims' family, and that is JJ's true specialty.
  • Jareau, Morgan & Simmons: was another no-brainer sub-team given how the previous two had been established, the subordinate agents doing their elders bidding. They worked together well, but for the little they had to do, three was one too many (something else that would have been solved leaving JJ behind). Simmons left in me the impression of being a well thought of, well rounded character, able in his job but still with the potential for some personal drama and/or comedy; his "4 kids under 3" with a job that forces him to travel even more than the BAU does, and probably for longer periods of time, alone offers multiple possibilities if the writers feel mischievous enough!
  • Hotchner & Lambert: the winning pair of the lot, great chemistry between both characters without detracting anything from the other. They transmitted trust in their capabilities, showed their particular skills, and fell flawlessly and easily into a good working relationship in spite of the fact that they were clearly unaccustomed to do so. They were solid, unassuming and yet powerful, thus they stole the show as a whole, and certainly every scene they were in.
  • Garrett & Rossi: they hadn't sleep well that night, or at least one of them hadn't and rubbed his sleepiness off on the other. Garrett in boss mode was good, but not great. Rossi in profiler mode was good, but not great. Their personal interactions lacked more than half the energy they demanded. Garrett sounded emotionally stunted when talking about his family, too detached, instead of madly in love with his wife as his words lead to believe, and that mix of worried/pissed/amused-by-the-irony the situation created by his son joining the FBI Academy warranted. Rossi's sass wasn't as sassy as his usual; the words and quips were well placed, but the smartass that comes along with his by now infamous one-liners was nowhere to be found. Why they didn't reach greatness if it wasn't for lack of sleep? That's my explanation about what went down with them and I'm sticking with it. 


BEYOND BORDERS - THE EPISODE

Overall, it made for an enjoyable 42 minutes for several reasons, the most important being that this time they respected the skills, intelligence and experience of the BAU team.

Others that come to mind are the pace - they were in a hurry and showed; not bringing Lambert and Rossi to the final take down - none are the physical type unless there is no one else available; using Hotch and Simmons as the snipers they are - great way to showcase their origins; and finally the mix of action and brainstorming was balanced, as was balanced the use of all eleven characters (a chore in itself, because ELEVEN!)

Still there was too much wasted time by the already mentioned, but looks like always worth repeating, over-exposition of the unsub (a few of those scenes were needed, but got lost in the overabundance, go figures!), by Lambert with the three hopeful new agents for the unit (??? - not even sure what they were, but the scene didn't belong here), and... can anyone explain to me why on earth we see the family reunion TWICE? The scene in the boat made perfect sense, was timely and rightfully emotional. The scene in the BAU HQ couldn't have been more cheesy, unnecessary and plain idiotic if they had tried, and worse, took away the opportunity for both teams to interact and learn more about each of the agents, new and old alike.
Glenn Kershaw's directing deserves to be highlighted. He not only gave us some great shots of each of the main characters, but gifted us with two magnificent scenes: Hotch's chase through the market felt scarily real and the search for the kid at night in open waters produced some of the most compelling images I have seen in this show.


BEYOND BORDERS - THE SERIES

Because of its premise and because of the cast, I do believe it has potential as a solid, enjoyable CBS procedural, even long lasting if enough viewers agree with me. It has too the potential of pissing off the world at large once it hits the overseas markets.

Being in a foreign environment puts you in a vulnerable place, as you rarely are as knowledgeable as needed in the culture, religion, customs and/or laws of the country, so screws up came easy. Most times is a faux pas solved after an embarrassing and/or fun interchange. A few times, a legal mess is born. Americans can and get in legal messes with the best of them; at times as victims, at times as innocents wrongly accused, and at times they are as guilty as charged.

Very much doubt there is a law enforcement agency anywhere in the globe that takes kindly to a foreign one stomping on their turf and trying to take over, and none are staffed with dumb people. What differentiates them is funding, resources and training; every combination is available out there, and most get excellent results with what they have.

Lambert stating plainly that her brother went abroad thinking his American passport made him invincible gives me hope they are on the correct mind track and intend to keep their storytelling as close to reality as possible. If they keep this up, I plan to give this one a try.


~~~~Sir Elyan the White

6 comments:

  1. Very good review. Agreed with most of it.

    Excellent point about Garcia and Monty. Garcia never gives up anything and is usually a take charge person. Look at her in 7 seconds or LowFi/Mayhem. Monty is played by a very good actor but they need to write better for him. He was so close to be too perfect, can do it all. This is what was/still is annoying with JJ. They writers should learn from that mistake.

    Agreed about Reid and JJ, they should have swamp place. Why is it that JJ have to be in EVERY take down scenes? Did AJC have it in her contract?

    As for Rossi and Garret scenes, they sure were missing some ennergy. Nothing standing out.

    A big surprised for me was how I ended up liking Henney and Gunn characters. I sure will be watching for them if the show is pick up next season.

    Hotch and Lambert were the one that did shine in this episode. Totally loved the chase scene with Hotch!

    Btw I could be wrong but I think Lambert was in the helicopter with Hotch.

    Again Great review Sir Elyan the White!

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  2. How does someone 'add' to a spot on review... Well the answer is you don't... You hit all the highs.. and the lows too, with clarity.... Thanks again Sir. Elyan...

    And yes, I too believe that Lambert was in chopper with Hotch..

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  3. This episode was amazing on so many levels, as is the full-of-potential concept born out of it. However, I disagree about this review being spot-on... there were only 42 minutes with which to work, and I think it was necessary to fully show ( to the extent the did) the extreme psychopathy (he was profiled as a sociopath by Rossi, and rightfully so, given the info they had, but once it was seen how sick and sadistic he is, he proved psychopathic) and, consequently, showcasing the scary concept of how these international unsubs, with heightened intelligence, knowing how to blend in with the culture - the 'Culture shock' as put by Lily - will be another obstacle to overcome.

    On the other hand, if some of the unsub scenes were taken away, Reid and Callahan would've had more screentime. (which was my ONLY complaint about the episode) Also, I have to disagree that the situation with Reid and Monty was unfavorable, as this episode's purpose was to highlight the skills of the new team, and Monty's skill of relating to the family members is a unique twist. Penelope deals with families in her group AFTER THE FACT, whereas she is horrified to do so while the crime is taking place and their fate is up in the air. Garcia's assertive personality with her stateside team has been cemented, but the way she meshes with this team hasn't. Garcia loves to learn, and I think the intention was for Monty to help her do so, and his tech skills are presumably just as formidable of a force as Garcia's. I enjoyed it.

    Finally, Rossi and Garrett, Mantegna and Sinise's first time acting together, plus I don't think Rossi was as sarcastic as he usually is with his own team with Garrett as he wanted to sincerely show respect for his skills and most importantly, this is how Gary acts! He is not a flashy actor; I love is simple but effective, "blue-collar" as Rockie brillianly put it, approach to acting as shown here and in CSI:NY. Also, the ending scene was amazing, IMO. Btw, I know Lily was in the chopper with Hotch. Overall, this episode deserves a 9/10. Please give us Criminal Minds, Season 11, followed by Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Season 1.
    LONG LIVE CM!!!

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  4. Dear Sir Elyan the White,

    My letter to you begins with once again congratulating you on a wonderful review for "Beyond Borders". You always seem to have a firm grasp of the episode and state it quite eloquently.

    I agreed with many parts of your review, especially your insights into the background of this episode i.e. the announcement, how you felt as the cast was announced etc. It was all my same feelings exactly. And I totally agree with your final assessment that Beyond Borders is a worthy next installment of the CM product. I could add more about the scenes with Montegna and Sinise; but my judgement is completely clouded by my deep, deep respect for these two fine men hosting the National Memorial Day concert so I'll just stick to my original episode comments and leave it at that. Thanks SCMA! ;)

    While I could quibble with a few things about this review, I'll just get into my biggest one. That's is your assessment of Monty. And mainly because you tripped my trigger more than a little. Monty explained to Garcia upfront why he was going to interview the grandparents. He is the one that has to do that. While the team is in which ever country trying to help, there are relatives back in the US that are worried about those said individuals. Unlike our heroes, who can interview the families, because they are in the same city or in US, the only person that can do that on the international team is Monty because he is the only team member still at "home". I had total and complete buy-in.

    So pleeeeeaaaaaasssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeee do not bring out the over-used, more irritating than fingernails on a blackboard phrase "MarySue/GaryStu" comment. It's older than I am and needs to be taken to the remotest desert, shot and buried. Gee, can you tell that was the "trip my trigger" moment. Sorry; my letter, my POV, respectfully submitted. And old f*rts can wish; we're allowed at our age.

    And I really hate to pile on but Lambert was sitting up front with the chopper pilot.

    All that said, Sir Elyan you were spot on about too much unsub. Erica Messer, of all people, should understand this show is about the team or in this case, teams, that chase down bad people. While this episode provide ENOUGH of a great start for the spinoff, as you stated there were greater opportunities to show those teams instead of unsub time. One less flashback and kidnapped family scene would have greatly served the overall story like you said.

    Let me add the pictures dispersed with the review were wonderful as usual. They always add so much to the review.

    I apologize again for my venting on the one tiny thing; otherwise, fantastic review as usual!

    Luvs and hugs,

    Your friend Rockie

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  5. Great review Sir Elyan. I didn't agree with all of it but you put your points so well. I did agree with your evaluation of some of the characters. Unlike some others, I especially did not like Monty who I agree was presented as a "Gary Stu" character. The way they introduced him made me feel as though I was being manipulated to think he was the most amazing, multi-skilled agent the world has ever seen! That's the way it came over to me as a more senior and discerning viewer. I felt Garcia was written very badly in her scenes with him - she has often dealt with families and victims before both during and after crime situations so to write her as such a wimp was too much.
    I do have reservations about this show as a non-American. I found little international flavour beyond the flimsiest of window dressing in this and felt it missed a chance to be really different. And of course, too much of the episode was used up on unsub scenes which added little to it overall. It failed to inspire me and I doubt I will pursue it - except perhaps if they set it in my country where I will watch to see just how much research they actually do.
    But a great review Sir E which gave me plenty to think about. Thank you.

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  6. I liked your review, Sir. Oh, and if a character is a Mary Sue, or the male equivalent, by all means use the phrase. In this case it was well-earned IMO, but even if i disagreed he was Mary Sue-ish, you must speak your piece. Call a Mary Sue a Mary Sue.

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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.