Off to the races…
From the top, I'm going to be honest. I had my doubts about this episode, especially the “B” storyline with Garcia. However, like always, I'm a wait, watch and then judge person so I kept that pretty much to myself. My first watch of the episode as it aired on CBS pretty much confirmed that.
To do a decent review, I need to watch the episode more than once. As I've mentioned before, I do that watching it online, wearing my headphones. I catch so much that I missed in the initial airing. And I'm now glad I did that for this episode.
The opening sequence of the death row scene was interesting until I saw the overhead camera shot of the “inmate” dressed in orange. When I noticed a certain particular part of anatomy, I knew it was a Garcia dream. The shot of Morgan in the viewing room tipped it off more.
The extended promo put out by CBS (don't get me going on THAT subject) pretty much spoiled the Morgan/Garcia scene. However, I agreed with Morgan. Janine Sherman Barrios wrote some great lines of tough love from Morgan that Garcia needed to hear.
I loved the Round Table briefing, starting with Rossi's snark line about a “Morgan/Garcia love child” with Morgan calling him out. “Busted,” and Rossi's impish grin. You all know I'm a fangirl of Rossi after Hotch. I love me some Rossi snark!
Criminal Minds fans. We don't want to see the unsub in the opening intro. And yes, sometimes it is necessary to see to the devolving of the unsub. This episode wasn't it. The CBS press release didn't help with naming C.S. Lee as the guest star and naming him the unsub. I knew going in that the unsub was Asian and the goggles with the red lenses couldn't hide that, including the camera shot through the water.
In my first watch, and doing an online chat during the episode, I couldn't hear what was being said in the background. The headphones provide me the clue, and I knew we were going to visit Dante's Inferno. “Abandoned hope all ye who enter here.” I immediately thought of the season 3 scene from Lucky with Rossi saying that in Italian and Reid translating for the team. And by the way, was I the only one that noticed the unsub seemed to be wearing a ladies swimsuit underneath his plastic protection? I don't know if I'm right; if it was; nice touch. It further showed the angst of the unsub's feeling of being broken down and ashamed for some action in his past.
The farther backward you can look the farther forward you can see. Winston Churchill.
Act One was solid for the most part. The bus stop scene with Garcia could have totally been edited out to give us viewers more time with the team. It simply wasn't needed. I could have also done without the scene with Garcia checking into the prison; however it did fit into the further plot line.
Morgan and Reid at the ME's office provided another clue with finding the Roman numerals in the rooftops of the victim's mouths; and deducing there were two previous victims started to add to the profile. But I did notice one thing that seemed a bit odd to me. Reid picked up a second dental instrument to examine the second victim's mouth. Umm, excuse me, but the victims are dead. Why did he need a new instrument? He couldn't cross contaminant DNA or anything else. But if it was Reid being Reid, I can accept that. It just struck me as odd.
I enjoyed the team pairings. For the second week in a row, Rossi was paired with Callahan. In my world; this fits. Callahan obviously has the profiling chops; yet she is still the rookie on the team. To have her paired with “elder statesman” and BAU co-founder makes perfect sense to me. Plus I think this is a writers' room plan: put Joe with JLH to get the fans to like her more. Yet, the two found another significant clue to the unsub's M.O. And I like the quirky bits of humor they show about JLH's character.
The scene of Morgan and Reid discussing what was going on with Garcia, following up on their conversation on the jet, was fantastic. I really liked Janine looking back at season 1, pulling in Reid's experience in L.D.S.K. Reid was right; ultimately, it's the victims that need justice.
Through her tweets during filming, Janine sang the praises of having Karen Gaviola directing the episode. I know she's one of Janine's favorites. But I didn't understand Karen's symbolism of the two long hallway shots of the team developing the profile. I would have much rather had more camera shots of the team doing their work in the conference room. Janine should stick to Constantine Makris that directed the brilliant episode Strange Fruit from last season.
Cue up the unsub moving on to burn his next victim alive. This is a heinous death that I would rather not see (like in Devil's Night [S6]). However, I understand that serial killers can use different kill methods and this is one of them. As Garcia once said, this still gets an “ick, ick, icky” for me. And I still didn't understand the goggles with the red lenses.
Examining the sixth victim, Reid put together the clue of the unsub using the circles of death from Inferno. I've never read the piece so I would've had no clue to this. I totally enjoyed the lengthy profile the team gave, explaining how they connected the poem to the unsub's profile. That was great writing on Janine's part.
That led us to the unsub targeting his next victim (which should have been the first shot of the unsub through the rear-view mirror of the vehicle) as the team worked the profile. I really like Garcia; that said I totally enjoyed a technical analyst, aka Kevin Lynch giving concise answers without all the rest of Garcia's usual additional verbiage. And welcome back to Criminal Minds Nick!
In my first watch, this is where the “A” storyline fizzled for me. I didn't get the connection of Nathan Chow and him being a campus bomber to the unsub. While Nathan was obviously a fractured kid with the scene of him walking through the dorm hallway, it made no sense to me. In Act Three though, it all come together.
Yet, before that could happen, we got the scene with Garcia finally meeting Greg Baylor face to face. It started with another long hallway camera shot that I didn't get, finally putting us in the room. This is the part of Janine's script that chased away my skepticism of the “B” plot line away. Baylor called it: Garcia was there for herself.
In between, we got the team working the profile more. God love Janine for giving me a snippet of Hotch and Dave working a profile off each other. But there is no writer currently on the Criminal Minds staff that can script a scene to match these two senior profilers working off each other like Oahn Ly did in Identity in season 4.
Then we got the final connection to the unsub through Hotch profiling Nathan Chow's edition of Inferno with the team adding in. Through Reid's account, we got to see the background of Justin Leu's tortured life. Those were great vignettes that tied the unsub plotline together, along with the scene of Leu changing the grade on the student's paper. This is one of the reasons that I love Criminal Minds; how, with the team's profiling, it all comes together.
Enter Morgan and JJ. I was proudly one of the peeps that ranted against this duo taking down unsub after unsub in the later part of last season as the rest of team disappeared; particularly Hotch and Rossi. Don't get me wrong; I'm not against the pairing of them together. It fits for me most times, given that Morgan re-certified JJ when she came back to the team. I'm just against them being together so much, always being the ones that take down unsub after unsub. As a proud AARP cardholder, those of us over 50 have game. That includes Hotch (even though in Criminal Minds canon he's not there yet) and Rossi.
Yet the scene, with Leu seeing his father instead of his victim had merit. It showed me Leu's total breakdown of his psychology that drove him to kill.
This brings me to the scene with Garcia sitting in her hotel room, making one last desperate call to Morgan with a plea for help. And then we go to Baylor making the “Dead Man's Walk”. I know I've sung the praises of the wonderful music crew of the Steffan brothers and Scott Gordon in reviews before. Yet, I loved the song that was selected as Baylor made that walk and into the death chamber. I'm not into the current music scene, so a shout out to my Aussie friend Monkster for identifying the song/performers; The Gilded Hand by Radical Face. It was perfect. And so was the ending. Plus, I noticed the different lighting between that scene and Garcia's dream. Hers was dark; this one completely different.
You may have noticed me recollecting previous Criminal Minds episodes from this episode. I don't know if that was intentional on Janine's part. Or me just being an over observant Criminal Minds fan. Either way, I liked it.
All of you that know me; I tend to be the “happy, positive” Criminal Minds fan. I hate to cut down my favorite show in public. On my first watch of the episode, I found the “A” storyline fragmented at best. I too felt like there was very little team, especially Callahan in this episode. As I've said; I realize that was wrong. And my misgivings of the “B” storyline proved to better than I originally thought.
Still, this wasn't Janine's best effort (even after further watches); so it was a major disappointment to me after the great season opening episode that Erica Messer wrote. I had expected better from Janine. This episode didn't give my cheerleader pom-poms a lot of props.
Rockie's final grade: B- (And being the cheerleader that I am, I tend to grade on “high” curve)