Without delay, onto the review of The Sandman written by Bruce Zimmerman and directed by Joe Mantegna.
Following the usual “previously on Criminal Minds” segment, the opening shot is of an obvious Morgan returning to the BAU. The shot goes from his shoes to the go bag he is carrying. Thank goodness Joe didn’t do the infamous up the legs, past the crotch and to the chest shot that was done by too many directors in the 80’s. What threw me though was the “6 months later”.
The scene shifts to a nighttime shot of an idyllic farm setting in rural Wichita, Kansas. I live chat with some friends at a small Criminal Minds site and one of the participants is from Wichita and was highly perturbed that they went there again. However, I had read that Bruce Zimmerman purposely chose Wichita for the Clutter family murder which is later mentioned in the episode.
The idyllic setting is broken with the boy screaming “Mommy, help me!” And through a series of terrific camera shots we see the struggling mother with her eyes incapacitated from her POV. I thought that was amazing. Kudo’s to Joe and Director of Photography Greg St. Johns for pulling that off.
Honestly, I could have done without the Rossi/Morgan scene on the catwalk and the surprise baby shower in the Round Table room. However it was fun for me to hear Rossi teasing Morgan. “Ohhh, you look like a diaper changer to me.” And a very pregnant Savannah explained the six months later. Plus, it’s great to see Rossi with the team instead of the “B” storyline like he has some of the other episodes he has directed. But I really liked the Hotch/JJ scene in Hotch’s office. The all business Hotch knows his team is having some fun so he lets them enjoy it. For ten minutes more. Hehehehehehehe
While that is transpiring, we see the Unsub doing some sort of specific measuring; our first nugget of the clue to this Unsub’s psychological background? Then add in the shot of the skull in the fire which made me raise my eyebrows. What is Bruce cooking up for us?
“Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth.”
Act One opens on the jet with more of the usual Rossi snark. “Mr. Sandman, bring me a nightmare.” I had the same reaction as Lewis to Reid’s take of the Sandman myth. I like how Bruce had Hotch do the team assignments. And it’s understandable that Hotch wants to keep Morgan close for a while. And I agree with many of the commenters that the lead LEO (female police sergeant) was just not right from the start.
Depending on your own POV, the scene with Morgan and Reid could have gone a thousand different ways. I really liked Bruce’s choice. It was measured and wonderful. And the ending line was fantastic. “Charge by the hour Doc?”
The First Act ends with another home attack and the Unsub saying a chilling “Eleven”.
The team delivers the profile which segues into the Unsub’s lair as he is grinding something. At our little chat site I went, “WTH?? Are those teeth?”
Criminal Minds. This one just didn’t scare the you know what out of me. And then we get the classic, I mean classic Reid analysis breaking down the specifics of the hourglass sand. Our beloved BAU team is profiling! Bruce gets a fruit cup with lunch!!
Act Two ends with our first full shot of the Unsub’s lair with his collection of hourglasses and Josie Zumwalt pleading for her life.
Act Three opens with Reid’s trepidation in answering the phone and his conversation with Garcia. That boy’s technology issues need to be solved soon. Just kidding! That scene goes into the Unsub in his lair with not only hourglasses but other blown glass pieces as well. It was another subtle Bruce clue I missed.
We finally learn the backstory of Patrick Sorenson, our Unsub with Reid putting together the time connection of staring at the hourglass. Plus JJ’s scenes with the mother in the hospital were excellent as well. I love the advancement of JJ; but it was still wonderful to see her go back to her roots in dealing with Ellie. And we got to see that Penelope Garcia can think on her own and then use her binary systems.
We go to the Unsub’s lair as he opens a chest to reveal, yes Mommy Dearest. In that very quick shot, I noticed the head was already severed off the body. It’s the only gore shot Joe put in the whole episode and it was quick. But it tied in the skull we saw in the opening act as well as the shot of the teeth. All of the subtle, little clues are starting to come together as Act Three closes.
The Final Act opens with Rossi and Morgan working the profile and the obligatory shot of the clock on the wall. Patrick, the Unsub, allows Josie to make a phone call to her mother. I really liked the shot of JJ noticing how Hotch’s plan is really starting to come together until Ellie accidentally names Josie.
I like having Rossi and Morgan in the field together. But honestly, noticing a grey sedan as they are checking that big of an area? But hey, it’s a TV show and the clock is ticking towards the end of the episode.
It took me a couple watches of the episode before I figured out that the red sand in the hourglass was that time had run out for Sorenson’s captive. But sorry Unsub; Sorenson opens the door to get to Josie holding a hammer and looks into the barrel of Rossi’s .45 while Morgan protectively holds the girl.
I really liked the scene of Morgan looking over the poker room as he was leaving with the quote.
“Lucky I’m sane after all I’ve been through. Life’s been good to me so far.”
[That’s from a] Joe Walsh [written song. It foreshadowed the upcoming scene.]
To that final scene: if they are really setting up an exit for Shemar Moore, I could think of better ways than shooting a pregnant lady. It makes for a lot of chatter fodder at many Criminal Minds fan sites; however, I could think of many better ways. But I’m also of the thinking I’ll just wait and watch before I pass judgement.
Sitting down to watch the episode live knowing I would be reviewing, I’ll be very honest, I had a lot of fears in the back of my head. It’s the 250th episode. Bruce Zimmerman has written the episode and he is not a flashy, big bang writer. Joe Mantegna’s directing style is much the same; nothing flashy. Plus Thomas Gibson had directed the last episode and Matthew Gray Gubler is directing the next one. Using analysis of prior episodes, it set up for both to be mostly unseen with Joe not used much as well. Back to profiling school I go! Because this episode was nothing like I feared.
Gibson and Gubler were well represented on the team. I don’t know how that all happened or got pulled together. Be it the production staff planning, Thomas Gibson and Matthew Gray Gubler working some crazy, long hours, I don’t know. But they did it. However, from now on, any writer that says “so and so actor wasn’t available due to directing” will get shot out of the water. The standard has been set that a lot of us fans have questioned for a long time. It can be done.
And yes, Bruce didn’t write a big, flashy show milestone episode. What he did do was give this fan an old fashion, solid team doing their job of working a profile episode. All of our beloved characters were exactly like they should be. And with little, subtle only-Bruce-can-write shout outs to the past. The team was at the forefront and it was balanced between all the actors. I don’t want flash; I want the team doing their damn jobs. Thank you Bruce! You wrote an outstanding 250th episode of my beloved show.
And Joe Mantegna backed Bruce’s hard work in the writers’ room with his usual style that matches. It ain’t gonna be flashy folks; it’s just gonna work. My only gripe is Joe pandering to his friends by hiring Joe Walsh’s daughter as the lead LEO; with all due respect to Mr. Mantegna, he blew that one.
Rockie’s final grade: A-; a better lead LEO would have earned this episode an A+
My thanks again to the Criminal Minds Round Table staff for allowing me to review this milestone episode. And a specific shout out to Sir Elyan who provides the wonderful “cap” shots that will be in this review. Your lowly serf bows to you all.
~~~~rockhotch31 (Guest reviewer)