Friday, October 23, 2015

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 11 - 1104. Outlaw - Review

Virgil Williams wrote a somewhat compelling episode. This episode started off very well. We’re greeted with just a masked face and what appears to be a crime in progress. We immediately cut to the team in the round table room with Garcia explaining the case. We see the crime playing out as a visual of what Garcia is describing to the team. I thought this was a new and fairly effective way of showing the beginnings of the case, and at this point I was sure Virgil had managed to shake off the horror of what was 'Protection' and be back to his usual compelling stories.

Sadly I was mistaken.

As the discussion continues with the team we learn that six years prior to this, this exact MO was used and the team, while not called into the field, consulted with the lead investigators from Quantico. They had a profile, or at least the start of a profile. Not knowing if this is the same killers or a copycat, this time the BAU is going to Las Vegas, New Mexico.

While we don’t actually see the faces of the Unsubs at first, they are very much front and center throughout this opening. What we don’t know yet is what is driving them. I will say here I don’t like when we see the Unsubs from the outset but this episode had a sufficient creepy factor so far that I was willing to overlook it if things kept going on the positive curve it had been.

Alas, from the moment just after the first commercial break until the end we’re left with a story that had gaping holes throughout. Plot points that were unnecessary - showing the Police Chief ‘sneaking booze’ into his coffee and Rossi’s ‘tempered’ suggestion that he go home and sober up, was just unnecessary. That aspect of the storyline did ‘nothing’ to move the story forward or impart information about the case.

Then we’re left with the BAU Unit Chief going MIA for +90% of the episode, (yes I realize that Thomas Gibson was prepping for his directorial episode, which comes next, but HELLO folks!, good writers can make great things happen with limited time from the star of the show if they actually try to do so). Sadly Virgil, like many of this crop of writers, doesn't, can’t, or won’t do that. They take the easy way out and just don’t write for the character.

Then to add insult to injury, we are left with an overabundance of corny Garcia and her magic computer, as well as an attempt to recreate the magic that was the Genius of Spencer Reid in earlier seasons and failing miserably at it. The director missed the mark on this badly by showing close ups of Reid’s eyes and fingers as he worked through his thought process. Reminded me of that blooper reel scene where Matthew is making goofy faces while the others are trying to deliver lines.

There were so many ‘missed’ opportunities for this writer and director to up the quality of the episode, but sadly all were... missed. By midway through it we know who the murderers are, as well as pretty much their whole story as it has already been told through their eyes. Throughout I had flashes of commonality to several previously done episodes ('Identity', 'Hopeless', and 'The 13th Step' come to mind) and was turned off at the writer’s bad use of the Unsubs’ names (Really, 2 Unsubs named Mason and Turner? Was Virgil trying to channel the excellent 'To Hell and Back' to boost this one?)

With regards to the Police Chief and his going home to ‘sober up’. In reading posts from around the ‘net’ I've seen comments about “did the drunk chief drive himself home? How could Rossi allow that?” “Miraculous recovery of the Chief to be able to make those sniper shots.” However for me, that whole plot point was just unnecessary and detracted from the team and the case.

I had thought this episode might turn around when we see Hotch and Lewis go to Dallas Prison to interview the Unsub's cell mate and we have Hotch telling the cocky bastard “Shut Up”. Sadly that was the best part of that scene. For me, while watching, I got the distinct impression that Thomas Gibson wasn't actually really in that sequence, but rather did voice over for Hotch's speaking parts. The camera showcased Tara Lewis with only a few brief glances of Hotch himself. Again, if Thomas wasn't available for a lot of this episode a really good writer will make good use of the time he or she DOES have with the actor on set. This wasn't done. And frankly without Thomas leading it the entire show falls apart. The other actors cannot carry Criminal Minds.

The rest of the episode is very predictable, too predictable for many probably.
  1. I knew that this was going to end with suicide by cop.
  2. I knew that Mason was going to try to get his son back.
  3. I knew by seeing his son before that Quickie Mart scene that Mason wouldn't shoot the father or son.
  4. I knew that even though Turner and Mason had the fight on the road, that Turner would show up again.
  5. The shootout was farcical to me, more like something one would expect from a Keystone Cops Serial Film rather than a modern day police procedural.
  6. While I think they tried to conjure up visions of the old west and the OK Corral, having the police officers stay behind the FBI agents and out of harm’s way was just bad directing/editing.
  7. Morgan, Reid and Lewis must have fired 15-20 shots and only one shot from Morgan and one shot from Reid hit one of Unsubs, but didn't kill him; the Sniper shot did. Where are Hotch, Rossi and even *shudder* JJ when you need the dead on shots!
  8. When I saw Turner go down to a sniper shot I got excited that maybe Hotch, who we know from cannon and from the episode ‘Final Shot’ has sniper training, was the one behind the scope. But alas, no, it was the Chief of Police with Rossi as his spotter.
I get it, I really do; Virgil said on Twitter that Thomas wasn't available on the set, but He had to be there at some point so why not use the star of the show and showcase at least ONE great scene. (The Sniper shots, Prison sequence?) I’m fairly certain that Thomas is professional enough that he would or could have flexed to make the writing of his character fit his schedule.

While the ending with the team attending the services for the murdered girl was sweet and heartfelt, it also didn't ring true for the team. There have been many victims that affected the team over the years BUT this was the first time that, together as a team, they attended the funeral services for a victim. I will say that the song 'Amazing Grace' was performed beautifully, kudos to Alaska Reid.

I’m sad because I want to find some good in episodes. But as long as the writers continue to have the Unsubs drive these episodes, it doesn't seem possible. When the writers showcase these transient guest characters rather than the main cast it is inevitable that the main characters become very beige and generic.

I realize that there are many fans across the net saying the same things I am over and over again. Maybe the definition of insanity is true? Hoping week in and week out that the writer’s will wake up and realize fans want to see episodes through the eyes and work of the TEAM, not some guest star playing the Unsub, apparently makes myself as well as many fans across the board insane to continue hoping.

Criminal Minds was always about an elite team of Behaviorists hunting the worst that humanity had out there. It was about the process they go through to uncover the why and what for that drives these criminals.

It was never supposed to be about the criminals telling the tale of how they got caught. I get that the writers want to showcase their creations (which is usually unsubs and guest cast roles) but the writers need to keep in the forefront of their minds that it is the FANS who watch the show, and watch for their favorite MAIN CHARACTERS, what keeps Criminal Minds on the air. It’s simple really: lose the viewers, lose your job.

My conclusions are this. Virgil had what should have been a fantastic episode with a very compelling theme. But sadly he fell short in the ability to capitalize on that storyline by writing bad plot points, underutilizing the main cast and allowing the guest cast to drive the story.

Over all I give this episode a C- with a 6 out of 10.

Thanks for reading this review.


~~~~Mordred

18 comments:

  1. Agree with everything you say, but would like to add something about the last scenes, the funeral.

    When the team, or one of its member, attended a funeral in seasons past, was because they had - or felt - a strong connection with the victim and/or the people left behind. Best example I can remember right now is Morgan attending the funeral for one of the cops killed in Brothers in Arms.

    This wasn't the case here. Only Lewis interviews briefly the parents, and the victim wasn't different from the rest, wasn't even a targeted victim but one of opportunity. As a result, none of the Agents had any reason to feel more for her than they do for anyone else, which makes them attending her funeral baffling and a waste of screentime, screentime that should have been put to better use.

    IF the intention was to show how these kind of crimes affect not only the immediate family, but the community as a whole, the mark was missed... because the very presence of the team was a distraction (they catch our eyes like nobody's business... because we care for them but barely do for the guest characters?).

    If you want to show what's left behind when the team leaves after solving a case, show images of the team corralling their things in the Police Station and boarding the plane and flying home, and intersect them with images of the community getting together in grief and support of each other, maybe attending that same funeral where the team didn't belong.

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    1. Oh I agree with you Sir Elyan. I think the final scene would have been so much more powerful if we had seen the 'town' coming together at the funeral with the team packing up and then being introspective on the plane ala the plane scene in To Hell and Back all while Amazing Grace was being sung. No dialogue need just the imagery of what these cases take out of not only the victims families but those around them also as well as the team. We don't see that too often on the show anymore. I keep hearing Emily Prentiss' voice in my head telling Hotch "I need to know I'm human"

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  2. Ouch. I didn't think it was THAT bad. But then the last 2 were so bad to me perhaps that is why this one seemed better. But only a bit better. I do agree with you though, no one can carry the show like Thomas can and they really need to make quality use of him and what time he has available.

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  3. You nailed it Mordred. I'm afraid nobody connected with the show gets it anymore.

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  4. As usual, your review is spot on Mordred. I disagree on one point about the team attending the funeral at the end. However, I respect your opinion; and I know I'll get the same from you.

    And bravo for telling the writers that us die hard CM fans are getting restless. SOME of them have completely lost sight of the concept of this show. Remember what Garcia said in House on Fire (S4)? "You guys choose this, turning people over like rocks and looking at their creepy, crawly things underneath. And I get it; I really do. It's the only way to catch them...........And getting into someone's mind and trying to find the god awful thing that happened to them to find what makes them do the god awful thing to someone else......" This is totally lost on some of the writers. And Virgil is now a veteran writer at CM. So I applaud your stand. I just wish it didn't fall on deaf ears.

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  5. Mordred, I don't think I could have said what I've been feeling about the episode and show any better. I'm one of the long-time diehard fans that keeps saying to myself that I'll watch to the end, hoping that someone on the writing team will wake up one morning and will have had an enlightening dream about what the fans want and will turn our beloved show around, but alas.... This episode wasn't bad, but it could have been so much better with a little more thought put into it, a lot more Thomas Gibson put into it, and a lot less unsub put into it. I say this not because I'm such a TG fan, but because his absence in this episode was GLARING, and it pointed out to me what this show would be like if he left. It would not be Criminal Minds.

    With the spectre of a regular cast member leaving soon, it made me wonder again who it would be, and it made a believer out of me that if Thomas Gibson did leave, the show wouldn't survive as we know it. I think anyone else could leave and it would still be Criminal Minds, but without Thomas Gibson, it wouldn't have the heart and soul that it has now.

    I do agree that the team staying for the funeral for the victim was "out of place" for lack of better words, but I think it would have been better had it been for a victim that the team had really gotten involved with, such as one that a child had been kidnapped and murdered and they hadn't caught the unsub since Hotch and JJ have children, or where a law enforcement officer was killed where they stayed for the funeral as Morgan once did. That would have been more appropriate.

    All in all, I'd give this episode a 6/10...it wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't stellar.

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  6. Good Evening everyone. I want to thank all who've read this review and especially those who have added their thoughts and comments. I realize this wasn't truly a review of just the episode and perhaps that is just my frustration coming out. But I have watched this show from the very first episode. Some episode's I have loved, some I have hated but rarely did I feel apathetic about an episode. And sadly this episode made me feel apathetic.

    I would as anyone who read this that if you agree or even if you disagree with what I've said regarding the direction of the show that you say so here. If you know other fans who come here and read the reviews and they agree with the comments have them say so. I do know that there are cast and crew who read CMRT and maybe if they see the respectful urgings of we the fans something can be done before our beloved show is a memory.
    This show was never really about just one or two characters it was about a group. A group who made me think. Who made me understand. Who made me want to keep coming back each week to root the BAU on as they hunted the next sicko in line. So spread the word, tell those who are of like mind to make a post and a comment about their feelings regarding the shows direction.

    One more thing I wanted to add. I read on the net that CBS actually was on Twitter asking fans if they felt 'sorry' for one of the unsubs? The more I thought of that the more I kept thinking "What the hell is that person on?" NO! I didn't feel sorry for the murdering, raping, thieving bastards.

    Thank you all again
    Mordred

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    1. Unlike you Mordred, I fell in love with this show after MP left. And that's no knock on him. I had watched occasionally; but the Gideon character (more importantly, how the writers wrote that character) grated on me to no end. Hotch was the BAU Unit Chief; Gideon giving orders just didn't sit well with me. Rant done.

      Why I'm responding is your phrase "it was about a group". AMEN! That's why I fell in love with this show in S3. I was a huge JM fan; so I followed him to CM, reading all the chatter about MP leaving and Joe "replacing" him. IMHO, when Joe joined the cast and the cast came together, CM gelled into a solid show. And along the way, I discovered another brilliant actor like JM. The two of them completely meshed Joe's 2nd episode in.

      But more importantly,with all the angst of MP leaving, the ENTIRE cast hung together, along with the very talented writing staff at the time and the drop dead, totally awesome and amazing CM crew. And I, as a fan, could see that each week. Not just the cast blending so well together; but the wonderful, talented peeps behind the scenes that gave the cast the words and brought it all to life. I had absolute full buy-in on a "team"; whether it was in front of the camera or behind the camera. And it showed, week in and week out. And every cast member got their time to "shine". It was a total "team" effort.

      I miss that; and like you, would dearly love to have that back.

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  7. I'm trying to remember the things I liked about this contrasted with things I didn't like:

    Likes:

    Reid gave extra info about the area and nobody gave him side-eye, rolled their eyes, or told him to shut up
    Reid got to show how his brain works like a computer
    The local sheriff actually had personality
    Rossi was perceptive about the sheriff & actually did something about it
    Tara seems intelligent, I like her voice, and she does a good job in interviews-- since her job thus far has involved interviewing criminals after they were convicted, it did make sense to me for her to interview the guy in prison
    They actually had a valid reason to break into the house-- exigent circumstances-- because they could hear someone trying to call for help
    Someone other than the team actually got to take the unsubs down
    We very rarely see much of the aftermath and lately its been all about the unsubs so there isn't as much focus on the victims. They are now disposable instead of important. The funeral scene was a reminder that there was a person who lost her life and the families had to move on.



    Dislikes:

    The opening sequence with the way the scenes flashed and had the black as if an eye was closing was annoying to me. It bothered my eyes.
    I didn't like how the murder sequence at the beginning was interspliced with the round table meeting. I appreciate that they were trying something different, but it was too distracting for me.
    I live in the south and I despise southern accents on TV and in movies. The accents of the unsubs just seemed a bit overdone and there was too much stereotypical bullspit
    The ex-girlfriend of one of the unsubs should have called the cops as soon as she saw the motorcycle in her yard. Dude forced his way in to her home after she told him to go and that should have sent off alarm bells. She should have tried to get a restraining order.
    I didn't buy the motivations for the unsubs to do these crimes. It would have been one thing if they just robbed a place or raped some girls; but to rob, rape, AND burn the place down didn't make sense.
    I couldn't believe that these clowns didn't get caught sooner
    While I appreciated that they gave more personality to the sheriff and it showed how LEOs can be affected when they are unable to help, it still felt a little over-the-top or contrived. The grieving father with the strong southern twang was pretty bad.
    Acting from the unsubs was over-the-top and not believable
    Sheriff suddenly sobering up on Rossi's advice seemed too contrived
    Hotch barely had anything to do or say
    Garcia was annoyingly whiney
    The team all in a church for the funeral-- we don't need to see that and I don't think they would have the time. I appreciate that they were trying to humanize the victim, but they only did it for one of the victims and I would rather they have done more victimology to make us feel for her and her family rather than have the funeral. I admit I'm biased in this area since I despise funerals and going to church. I despise going to funerals in churches even more.
    The awful rendition of Amazing Grace hurt my ears
    The angle with the unsub finding out he had a kid was done before and done better
    Official twitter for CBS/CM asked people to retweet if they felt sorry for one of the unsubs-- Why the hell would I feel sorry for the creep? NOTHING in the episode made me feel an ounce of sympathy for him. He was too over-the-top and didn't come across as real and what he did was despicable. I felt annoyance and boredom while watching.

    Overall, this one was meh. It could have been worse but it could have been a lot better. I give it a B- or C+.

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    1. agree, except i don't think garcia was annoyingly whiney

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  8. In retrospect, I think the church scene would have been better if they showed the cowboy father, the cop, and citizens of the town at the funeral and maybe had people doing a candlelight vigil over pictures of the victims (all of them and not just the one girl) while the team was on the jet heading back home.

    Having read info about the statistics of screen time vs dialog over the past few seasons, it is possible for someone to have good contributions and dialog with very little screentime and I wish they would do that. They needed to cut at least 10 minutes of unsub time out.

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  9. The sad thing is that there are a lot of people who think this episode was good or even awesome. I would posit that these are newer fans who come first to the generic, action style episodes and don't appreciate so much the cerebral early years. Sadly also these fans are the most vocal on social media so that is the biggest impression production must have. I can watch the early years endlessly and find something new to appreciate every time but there are only a few stand out episodes in the last few seasons. This week's episode was average, generic and predictable and the ending with the funeral was just not right. The only thing I will say is that I have not missed JJ one little bit. I'm bracing myself for an overload when she returns, especially if it seems like Reid will miss one or more episodes.

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  10. Well, since you invited this:

    I wouldn’t have become a fan of this show at all if I hadn’t been drawn in by the character of Spencer Reid. But, once drawn in, I found that this was one of those extremely rare instances where I could enjoy each of the main characters (even if I still have a serious case of Reid-love).

    A big part of how that came about was the balance present in almost every episode. Characters didn’t disappear for long segments of the episode (Reid, Hotch), characters didn’t turn into caricatures (Garcia and, to some extent, Reid and JJ). When I turned on the show, I saw the people I expected to see, the ones who drew me there in the first place.

    Now, if not for the dim lighting that makes it hard to see pretty much anything, it might be ten minutes or more before I can be sure I’ve tuned in the right show. That’s how long it takes for one of the familiar characters to bump an unsub off the screen. What used to be ‘profiling’ has become ‘detecting’, as though the two were interchangeable. If they were interchangeable, there wouldn’t be a BAU, and there wouldn’t be a show called Criminal Minds.

    Absent the profiling and absent the characters who brought it to life, the show has become just a generic procedural, running somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of quality.

    With the show going into its eleventh season, it was inevitable that I would begin to wonder how much I would miss it when it was gone. These past few episodes have offered me a preview of that time. And I do miss it. A lot.

    If we’re winding down, either this season or next, let’s go out with a bang, not a whimper. Knock it off with the hype (which never pans out and only serves to heighten the disappointment) and the gimmicks, and produce something of substance. Find your inspiration, make your way back to the things that made the show unique, and great. That’s the way to give your audience a gift.

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  11. I've sat hear trying to get my thoughts together to make a post and hopefully I've figured it out.

    First - Mordred, you've expressed my feeling wonderfully.

    Second - I've watched this show from Episode 1 Season 1... There have been episodes I loved, and episodes that I didn't. I have watched each of these characters change over the 11 yrs and have looked forward to most of the changes. Lately however, I have seen this show turn away from the character's that attracted the 9-10 million viewers each week and focus on gimmicky guest cast , violence for sheer violence sake and have added soap opera like angst to storylines. For me all that does is take away from the cerebral intelligence that I so enjoyed watching especially in the beginning.
    I think in today's Social Media age where more often then not Social Media users are younger teenagers, and younger adults who have always grown up with computers, cell phones, laptops, etc.

    Today it has become possible to 'tune in' to television on your Cellphone or Ipad. Internet companies are making streaming 'television' and action movies are all the rage.

    Yet, Criminal Minds was never supposed to be James Bond on the small screen. It was never supposed to the kiddy blockbuster of the moment i.e. Twilight, Hunger Games. Nor was it supposed to be a slasher show where the blood and guts trail led the team to the victim and murderer.

    No Criminal Minds was and I hope still will be about this wonderfully eclectic group of FBI agents who come together as a team and a pseudo family to dissect these criminals psyche's to find out how, where, why they've turned into these monster's and to stop them from hurting more innocents.

    I know this show I've loved for over a decade will come to an end and I accept that. What I do hope is that when that happens it goes out with fans Happy and Satisfied and Thankful for those who brought us along on this incredible journey. I don't want to see the show end with fans sad because they've wondered what happened to their favorite show...

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  12. Hadn't commented here in eons, mostly because Blogger was being most unkind to me, but partially too because saying what everybody was already saying sounded like beating a death horse; no matter what, is already dead. And yet, looks like some of the most important people for this show remain unaware about what's going on in our minds. Today though, I've noticed that there's something that hasn't been said, a comparison more than worthy of being made.

    The Unsub-R-Us show has been made, and even if at first looked like a success, quickly became apparent that it was nothing more than a drinking-game for its viewers, a joke shared among those who watched it. Of course, like all fads, it faded fast, so much is already cancelled when being a much younger show than Criminal Minds .

    How many remember The Following even existed? How many cared when it was unceremoniously cancelled? How many miss it by now?

    Each answer gives us a smaller number, because the huge difference between that show and our show is what each gives to the viewer. The Following gave only depravity and violence. Criminal Minds, on the other hand, gives us HOPE (or does when its well written).

    Even when they are late to save a victim. Even when they fail to understand a clue. Even when the depravity of one of those unsubs spreads darkness so thick, hope should become an unattainable chimera. And that HOPE doesn't come to us because we enjoy watching the Unsub-R-Us show, but...

    - because we LOVE to cheer for our team;
    - because we LOVE to follow the clues along them to solve the case that bit faster;
    - because we LOVE to hate their despondency when in spite of their best efforts, they are late;
    - because we LOVE to do the happy dance when their best efforts pan out and they are on time;
    - because we LOVE to see their intelligence, experience and caring nature on display on our screens.
    - because we LOVE to feel part of the TEAM as much as we love Hotch, Rossi, Morgan, JJ, Reid and Garcia, but as themselves, not sad, unrecognizable shadows of the characters we met a decade ago, where some play wallpaper and others play bad-painted clones.

    I, like many, many others, fell in love with Criminal Minds on first sight (and for me that was watching the pilot episode), and fell hard. And I, like many, many others, am ready to fight tooth and nail to get MY beloved show back.

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  13. BRAVO Maria V. Bravo!!!! You might have taken 'Eons' to post again.. but I can't say I disagree with one word you've written!

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  14. I sign Mordreds review, I share his/her opinion! Especially the lack of Thomas Gibson was glaring and bothered me a lot.

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  15. One thing I've noticed today watching Season 6 on ION... as bad as Season 6 was storyline wise... At least The Team characters were written like we remember them. Today, these same characters are beige and lifeless...just shells of the character's we all fell in love with over the years...Now it seems that just about anyone could go deliver the lines the main cast does... I don't care if you're a Hotch fan, A Morgan Fan, A JJ fan a Reid fan or whoever of the cast you prefer.... I think we all agree we want the CAST/TEAM to be the focus... That is what these writer's are missing. They can write strong guest cast/unsub but for gods sake write the cast IN CHARACTER! Have them become the strong team they once were again.

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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.