Monday, October 19, 2015

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 11 - 1103. 'Til Death Do Us Part - Review

To start, I once again must say thank you to the Criminal Minds Round Table staff for inviting me back again this season as a guest reviewer. I’m truly honored and humbled by their invitation.

So let’s get this show on the road for the episode written by Karen E. Maser and directed by series regular Joe Mantegna. The cast is all stars in my world.

Teaser/Introduction

The episode starts with a woman, obviously the shop owner saying something about a delivery that came to “Dana”, who is unseen. My first watch, I missed the Dana reference; I knew better the second time. Enter Rob the photographer and then a bridal party. As the scene goes on, we see a shot of the owner looking a little perturbed about the attention Ryan is showing the ladies of the bridal group. While this was a great set up shot by Joe, I immediately knew I was getting fed a red herring. To me, this is the proverbial good news/bad news: the writers have heard the fans that we don’t want to see the Unsub in the first 30 seconds. Their alternative: the red herring. I'm scratching my head. I thought writers were supposed to be creative.

The opening segment then rolls into Play60 PSA (public service announcement). All I’ll say about this is that CBS signed an agreement with the NFL to promote Play60 during the month of October. I totally agree with what Play60 is about; and as an NFL fan, I’m glad to see the league and its current and former star players support it. But really?? *shrugs* I’ll let it slide because Michael Irvin is a huge Criminal Minds fan and it gave a little homage to Morgan’s backstory of being a standout college player until he blew out his knee.

I giggled at the Garcia line to Morgan about "it feels like high school being called into the principal’s office". And the short scene with the two of them and Hotch gave us fans a quick update about the season long Dirty Dozen Arc without taking away too much time from the "real" episode like they did with the Prentiss and Replicator arcs. That was a nice touch; just keep it in the viewers' minds. And none of those scenes was the usual over the top Morgan/Garcia so I was OK with that as well. My kudos to BJ Rogers and the Criminal Minds Costume Department for Garcia’s shirt.

The case layout in the Round Table room was pretty standard. I don’t expect a lot with them that’s going to really give me more clues about the who the Unsub is.  My only question was do people in that region of the US really go to Savannah to get married? No offense to that beautiful Georgia city with its great southern charm and atmosphere.

And Tara Lewis, keenly played by Aisha Tyler, delivered a great line with "weddings have become their wakes". I’m still on board with the Lewis character. It just goes to show that given a "proper" introduction into an elite FBI team, it can work. Breen delivered that in the first episode. And thank you Criminal Minds Hair Department for toning down Lewis’ hair.

The ending scene is shot from the Unsub's POV while still not tipping me off who the Unsub is. If the idea was to make me think it was Ryan, then it failed. But at least, I was still guessing. The alley scene with the bottle rolling and then the homeless guy was pretty telegraphed and really wasn't needed. However, the shot at the end of the hooded Unsub striking Madison/Maddie didn't give away any gender specificity so I was still thinking it was a male, like the team.

Act 1

"And if you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course."
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet quoted by Tara Lewis.

The scene opens, like many episodes with the stock footage of the team’s Gulf Stream jet. Are we ever going to meet that jet’s crew? And for the record, Google that jet’s specs; it’s off the charts. When JJ said back in the Season 2 episode Legacy "this is a pretty fast jet", that is a total fact.

The first part was pretty standard; I've come to expect that in the Jet briefings. I might be getting a nugget of information to form my viewer profile but I don’t know it. Lewis got another great line with "I’m not victim blaming" as the team discussed the behavior of the victims. Through the internet chatter I've read, some Reid fans have complained about the red cape explanation; that it was another moment for the team to roll their eyes at him. I didn't see it that way; I just saw it as the team expects Reid to spout facts like this so the “wow” factor isn't there anymore. Save, of course, his Lake Mead one in Season 10 that earned Reid a Hotch fist bump.

The rest of the opening part of this act was also the usual. Hotch and Dave received an update from the local lead police officer of the case. The ME scene with Morgan and Reid profiling a bit based on the findings was good; but can I get an Ugh, Ugh and Ewww on the nail biting thing? That was gross, but typical Criminal Minds. However that provided the team with their first major clue.

The scene rolls into Morgan and Lewis interviewing the maid of honor about the night at the Wolf and Rose. I really liked that Lewis suggesting the cognitive interview but letting Morgan do the actual interview. To me, that’s a rookie that has some chops but still understands she is a rookie on the team. And I loved Joe capturing the shot of Lewis pushing the tissue box to Kelly. But the next part with Lewis blowing off the call from Douglas on her cell was a total tell. Oh goody; another team member having problems in their relationship with the job! This has been done Criminal Minds writers; too many times. I get it. The job is tough on relationships; I figured that out with Hotch and Haley.

Carl Albrecht was another overused red herring. But I loved Rossi’s interview with him capped off by “Ooooo (great dramatic pause) we will.” And Joe can deliver a line like that to maximum effect.

This moves the episode into our introduction of Dana. With a plus sized woman, my brain is already putting things together. When Ryan puts his hand on hers and then leaves with Nicole, I’m done doing my viewer profiling. I know who the Unsub is. And I’m sure everyone else did as well. It’s just a matter of “why”. Then throw in our first delusional scene with Dana and Ryan together and I've got Dana’s goose cooked. That’s even with Joe’s great over the shoulder shot of Maddie and then the nail biting. Plus, add in Garcia’s phone call to Rossi and Morgan ruling out Albrecht, and I’m looking at my watch thinking "So, how are they going to keep me interested the rest of the way?"

Act 2

This is where the episode sadly bogged down. It seems to me that Maser wrote herself into a corner and decided to stay there. Don’t get me wrong; this act wasn’t a total bust. The shot of Dana looking through her picture book of her and Ryan together as the team gave the profile was done very well. And the team profiling worked for me with Hotch figuring out to check the vendors, along with Reid’s backing. This is all pretty much moot for me and strictly window dressing.

At this point, the fantasy scenes between Dana and Ryan are just too much. I’d rather see the team profiling, digging more information than see more of Dana’s psychosis. And we did get a bit of that with the Morgan/Lewis scene and the tie into the profile with an engagement. Plus, I questioned on my third watch during the Nicole/Dana scene in Dana’s room if Savannah had a lake to walk around. However, a Google search confirmed that, so Maser gets let off the hook on that one for a continuity issue. We then get taken to the restaurant scene. Dana’s breath of anticipation only to have Ryan propose to Nicole was disappointing. I knew exactly where this episode was going and who was going to be Dana’s last victim; especially when Dana started biting her nails.

Act 3

I did enjoy the snippet with Reid and Lewis working together. That’s two great minds on the team and it worked for me. Plus Garcia coming in with just the right amount of clues, along with the flashback scene of the shorter boy dancing with the taller girl worked as well. Then add in we got to see some consciousness on Dana’s part as she is torn between reality and her psychosis of Nicole being her next victim.

While everything is so obvious by now, I felt there was some redemption in this act by Maser. Hotch was totally in charge handing out assignments for the team once Dana was identified. And his command to Morgan to open the locked door was spot on. And a great shot by Joe. You all know by now I’m a Hotch and Rossi fangirl (in that order please); so the scene of those two characters coming down the steps into Dana’s workshop aka kill zone left me a happy camper. Hey! It’s my review; I’m allowed. :D

Reid and Lewis making the final discovery of Dana’s meds in her room and the two of them putting together the diagnosis of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) was quite good as well. I didn't understand all the medical mumbo jumbo; but I usual don’t anyway.

However, it was Reid looking around the floral shop that sealed the deal. By recognizing the flowers, Reid gave the team the biggest clue to where Dana had Nicole. Hotch deduced that it was a greenhouse. And then the closing line: "Ryan’s mine you slut" which tied in the slut reference on Maddie’s head. But like I said earlier: too little, too late.

Act Four/Finale

To do my reviews, I re-watch the episode a couple of times online at CBS with my headphones on to catch more of the dialogue. And yes, that is getting just about as bad as watching the episode air on regular TV. But I gotta say the Amazon ad with the little white dog with the broken leg is just too precious... Oops, back to reality!

Hotch, Morgan and Lewis doing the take down/final profile with the wedding music playing in the background was very fitting. It started with Hotch reading the scene and having Morgan and Lewis lower their weapons along with him. The greenhouse scene was one of the best of the episode. Dana in her wedding gown; Morgan getting Ryan to play along with Dana’s delusion. And Hotch finally talks Dana into submission by saying "Dana, you and Ryan can be together like you were meant to be."

Cue the Joe Mantegna now much loved slow motion shot of Dana dropping the weapon. He’s used the slo/mo before; but if it works for him, I can live with it. Joe gets the skate on that with his shot of Hotch gently touching Ryan’s back to tell him he did it right as he then gently leads Dana away. Add in Gia Mantegna’s very lovely song and it was a good scene.

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote,
"I hold it true, whate’er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’."
Final quote delivered by David Rossi.

Remember when I said just a bit ago that the greenhouse scene was one of the best of the episode? The final jet scene was THE best of the episode. Rossi started it with his line “Wow; so that’s where the sun went” as the team flies into the dark sky. That was an excellent shot by Joe.

And the terrific scene of learning about the “third ex-Mrs. Rossi”. When Lewis asked if there was a story there and Hotch saying “oh there is” I was laughing. As Rossi tells the story and Hotch says “wait for it”, I’m peeing my pants. It’s soooooo obvious that Hotch has heard this story before, which gives more validation to how close these two agents are. And it was another Hotch-smiled in the scene! Good lawd! Are they finally showing the human side to our stoic Unit Chief? Then add Morgan’s question with Rossi’s comeback, imitating the King and the rock and roll music provided by the wonderful Criminal Minds Music guys, I left this episode with a huge smile on my face.

Doing the Grades

I’ll start with Joe Mantegna first. While I’m a fangirl, I won’t let that cloud my judgment when it comes to my review. I read some of the comments here about the episode concerning the direction being choppy. I have deep respect for everyone’s views. However, I’d like to add this. Each scene of an episode is filmed from multiple camera angles by the director, with the much valued assistance of the Greg St. John, the Director of Photography. But in the end, it’s the director’s call. I don’t doubt Joe’s direction of the filming. Where I totally agree with the “choppy” part comes with Joe and Michael Schweitzer, the episode editor, in the editing room. That’s where the chop happened. As much as I loved that final scene, the two close-ups of Rossi instead of maybe showing a team reaction shot, just seemed totally off to me. Joe gets a B- on his direction/final cut.

To Maser's script: I think I've pretty much pointed out the errors of her ways in my review. That said, I have to give the Criminal Minds newbie two grades. Notice I didn't call Karen a rookie; she earned her writing chops in my world with her work on ER. Karen is no rookie at writing; and it showed with her complete understanding of the core cast of Criminal Minds. For that, Karen gets an A.

That said, if Karen can find some creativity to drop the red herring rouse and write a solid second act, I can’t wait to see her next penned episode. But for her first on the Unsub portion, her script gets a C-.

Putting those grades into my curve, this episode gets a Rockie C.

And before I exit, I’m going to get ahead of the game. My deepest thanks to Sir Elyan for the amazing, awesome screen caps that add to any review. It’s a pleasure working with you and seeing “our” final product. ;)


~~~~rockhotch31 (Guest reviewer)

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for your interesting review, only one remark, in the beginning you have name Rob and it´s Ryan. :)

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  2. Agree with pretty much everything you said in your review. Have to admit, I liked this episode better on my second viewing. Masser does get high points from me about the CM characters, she did write them all in character, not all new writers, even some of the writers who have been there for a few years still cannot write for some of the characters. Masser obviously did her homework on the characters side.

    Wish she would have avoided the 'let's be obvious about who the unsub is'. by the time I know who the unsub is, I am left with wondering when the team will catch up with what I already know. So annoying when this happens!

    the last part of the episode with the take down and later in the jet Rossi telling everyone about his Vegas wedding was awesome, those scenes really saved the episode for me.

    my ratings for the episode is a 6.5/10. Good first effort, would have gotten a much higher rating if the team had not been playing catch up to what I already knew but despite this and I am looking forward to Karen E. Masser next episode!

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  3. Can I just point out that you have spelled Karen E.Maser's name incorrectly throughout.

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  4. Typos corrected!

    Can I say #Oops in my name (I did the last spell-check) and Rockie's? #Oops ;-)

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  5. Great review, Rockie! Even though I may not always agree with your stance on a select few episodes, you always give extremely thorough and honest reviews! You never bash writers, directors, or cast; (which is quite unwelcome when seen) you simply tell it like you see it in a respectful, dignified manner! Cheers, friend :)

    p.s. I was kinda hoping you would be the one to review Virgil's episode; it looks quite good. (fingers crossed)

    Long Live CM!

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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.