Sadly I was mistaken.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
- I knew that this was going to end with suicide by cop.
- I knew that Mason was going to try to get his son back.
- I knew by seeing his son before that Quickie Mart scene that Mason wouldn't shoot the father or son.
- I knew that even though Turner and Mason had the fight on the road, that Turner would show up again.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.