CRIMINAL MINDS Season 11 - BTS: 1118. A Beautiful Disaster

This post may contain spoilers, probably small, but they may be big too; proceed with caution!
This post will be updated when more images of our dear gang are shared from the set.

Prep meeting on episode 1118 - Photo by Harry Bring
i'm directing my 9th episode of criminal minds called #aBeautifulDisaster and it's going to explode your gourds.
- Photo by Matthew Gray Gubler
your gourd is gonna be all like, "Bakooowwww!" and your landlord is gonna be like, "KEEP IT DOWN UP THERE PEOPLE ARE TRYIN TO DO WARM YOGA" #aBeautifulDisaster - Photo by Matthew Gray Gubler
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Photo by Thomas Gibson
Sunset over the BAU Quantico CriminalMinds - Photo by BJ Rogers
Photo by Thomas Gibson
This one you have to work for just like Penny! - Photo BJ Rogers
Bad timing... Or is he hiding! #criminalminds - Photo BJ Rogers
Miss Pammy... Never hides @PamLeonte #criminalminds#behinditall! - Photo BJ Rogers

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 11 - 1113. The Bond - Review

Last time I reviewed a Kim Harrison penned episode I told you that I went about watching them with very low expectations. This time, after the disastrous "profiling" she offered us in Awake, not only my expectations were below zero, but I was dreading to have to watch it.

Before I delve into my thoughts on The Bond script, want to talk about the director. Hanelle Culpepper did a great job, and earned to have her job highlighted. From the transitions between scenes, the sound effects (more remarkably, the echo of the voices of Rossi and JJ while talking inside the big, empty public restroom), her camera angles, and what she selected to show of the crimes, and more important even, what she selected NOT to show (barely any gore, barely any violence; only subtle hints and flashes of what was going down). An all around excellent work, congratulations!

Want to highlight too the two aspects that I wasn't expecting to be disappointed with, and that effectively were as good as ever:
  • The Guest Actors were perfect for their roles, and every one of them delivered from start to finish.
  • The Idea, the story told, was really good, and was very well thought out, and something we hadn't seen yet on the show.

The problem this episode has is the tired, overused, over-complained about...

WE knew too much,
too soon,
from the wrong source, the damn Unsub! the work of the team looks like - again - as an afterthought.

I don't feel like beating my head on a concrete-covered brick wall, so I'm going to try a different approach to explain this... again!

Let's use our imaginations.

Let's imagine this episode without certain moments/certain too revealing scenes until after the moment the team had dug out all the information they could, by profiling the crime scenes and by profiling the victims, until the point when they got the correct answer, the Unsub's name.

In doing so, every interaction with Mother and Son would give us, at first, the idea that they were important to the plot, and sympathetic enough, but obviously unconnected to trucks, trucks stops or anything related to either. I can imagine myself thinking:
          - Are they the final intended victims?
          - Are they the Unsub's stressors?
          - Is the Unsub the mysterious, missing-from-the-family-picture biological father?

Revealing how controlling the Mother was would have been truly shocking.

Seeing the Son's aborted strangulation of his fiance would have been mind-blowing.

Discovering that the Mother had been behind bars all that time... I was surprised on first viewing, can't even begin to imagine my reaction if I would have seen that when I still cared...


Because we would have been as clueless about what they were as the team had been until that point, the intrigue would have been preserved, and our interest would have kept climbing.


Cut the parts of the dialogue/the scenes that reveal he was the killer. Make us think that his medication is to cover a different illness (a depression, for instance, would have fit with his general air of sadness and his sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day).

Expand the profiling, the work the team is doing. Because this time the work of the team was good, the profile was constructed well, starting with general ideas that were discarded or accepted as they uncovered the details of the different murders, and following with an in-deep study of the victims, which made them go from random people to all-are-connected-to-a-pattern-and-history people, that ultimately lead them to a single suspect and his name.

The Result?

Each and every reveal would have moved us to sit more and more toward the edges of our seats, would have left our jaws hanging more and more, and certainly our eyes wouldn't have moved from the screen for a single second in fear of missing what was coming next.

Have to say that I liked the symmetry of the final scenes with both, Mother and Son, in their respective confinements, seeing how very much alike they ended being. Only thing I felt was unnecessary was the image of the cut ear, the image of the damage the Son had inflicted on himself with the blood running down his neck was more than enough. Still, this would have been a detail I could have happily overlooked if the episode as a whole would have matched my imagination, instead of how it actually played on.

Something that I don't want to overlook in any case, and this comment is directed to all writers, is the use of the team, or more to the point, the use of Tara Lewis. She is a recurring character, and even if everybody has something meaningful to contribute, overusing her is a surefire way to anger the fans. She is being overused episode after episode, and she is slowly but surely on her way from a well liked character to a irritating, want-her-out-of-my-screen one.

In short, what should have been a 7-8/10 stand-alone episode in any fan's book, was destroyed by its creator when she robbed us of any intrigue whatsoever, killed our interest to the point that the out-of-the-blue reveals barely registered, and took out the chance of following the work of the team in detail, the later from lack of time because she had wasted too much showing what she shouldn't from the wrong point of view.

Disclaimer: while I may be able to put my thoughts in a mildly comprehensive text, I'm one of those people that can't write fiction to save their lives.

Now, knowing the above, would you have liked my version of this episode better or worse than what we got?

~~~~Sir Elyan the White

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 11 - 1112. Drive - Review

Going into this episode, I was interested to see how Karen Maser would tackle the idea of crime and murder among ride-share participants. The internet is filled with crazies as many of us know and I for one often wonder in this age of the geek if sometimes we’re getting a little too trusting of strangers because texting and tweeting and the like make us feel like we know someone.

Indulge me as first I want to tackle the case. Then I will tackle the bookend scenes.

The opening sequences while definitely having the creepy Criminal Minds factor, would have been served better if we hadn't seen the Unsub less than a minute into the episode. But I did like how it was written and how Tawnia McKiernan directed the scene. Nothing ever good comes from people with tasers, of that, I am convinced. Having the victim facing that guillotine blade right before they are turned into a twisted version of Marie Antoinette, definitely was psychopathic and yes, it did fit into something a sick serial killer would do. I, myself, am not partial to the shock value of such things and prefer not to see the blood and gore, but hearing that victim beg for her life did feel very much like one would imagine such a victim doing when faced with deranged killer.

I’m going to say at this point that, while I like the character of Garcia, lately she’s being written a little too over the top with her campy sayings and actions. That said, I did enjoy that throughout the episode Garcia got her search parameters from team members and not by her magic computer. I also did enjoy seeing Reid actually working through some of the aspects of the murders and deducing that the Unsub was using a guillotine. Reid is always at his best when he knows the obscure facts that actually ties various pieces of a profile together. The rest of the characters however, were written somewhat generic, I got the impression that anyone could have walked on and delivered some of the lines they were given. That is something only time and a gained experience in writing these well-established characters can overcome.

One of the main problems I had with the episode was the predictability of it. Maybe that is in part from the promo CBS released the previous week, but for me, it seemed a waste of time for Garcia’s diatribe about types of weaponry as we already knew that it was going to be a guillotine. Had CBS ‘not’ chosen to show that guillotine as part of the promo I think it would have been very interesting to hear about various very lethal weaponry that can take someone's head off. I was amused and waiting for the proverbial cliche about Highlander and The Game though when the katana sword was mentioned. There may have been a moment also of hearing Queen’s - Don’t Lose Your Head echoing in my mind.

I also want to point out that the back and forth between the team members over what type of women these were, preferences of Unsub, and even the meaning behind the dump sites, while not riveting television, were all well written and well showcased by the director.

One glaring issue for me which is not just confined to Karen’s writing, but to several of the other writers also, is a lack of understanding about these characters. Tonight for instance, outside of Reid’s explanation about guillotines with Morgan and JJ, it just felt like anyone could have thought about and delivered the other observations made.

I will say that I did like how JJ pointed out that this whole case was going to be a media disaster, which definitely anyone could see why it would be. Yet, that whole angle was left behind and not addressed? To make a point about the media and then to leave it is just leaving a plot hole unanswered in my book. To fill that plot hole it could have made more sense maybe, if Tara had gone with Rossi to the ME, and JJ had gone to the precinct with Hotch to help the locals get control of the media.

Karen did write beautifully the scene with the victim’s father and Rossi. While watching that scene, I felt every ounce of pain, loss and even fear of being alone that this father must have been going through. The casting of Joseph Callari for this role was wonderful.

After watching the episode again, I did realize that there was a fair amount of profiling throughout. The scenes with Lewis, Hotch and Reid, with Garcia on the phone, discussing the women's cell phones and working back how the killer took the women was well done. This is the first time we see the team work out that this killer struck ride-share users. It threw me when the Unsub took the man as up to this point it had only been women, but it quickly appears that this guy had a bad case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Not his lucky Day”.

Slowly I was piecing together that each of the victims hadn’t had the sterling backgrounds that on paper they should have. All victims having shown to be engaged in something unethical. Again I will say Reid was written very nicely, and very in character, which I was happy to see. Sadly for this viewer the rest of the team, well frankly there was no feel that these were elite profilers. I got the sense that any good well-rounded detective could have come up with the same conclusions. I do hope that an understanding of the characters' personalities and abilities comes with experience in writing them, and that can only come from having the opportunity to write for them.

After watching the table discussion about ride-sharing, I can only say that I will never participate in that enterprise, ever! I did like that the whole team was involved with that discussion, and yes, they seemed to posit more information about the why, and how this Unsub was targeting his victims. And that Zimmer executive, could he be any more slap worthy? Karen nailed it with his attitude about non-responsibility, so kudos for that.

Slowly we are brought up to speed about the Unsub, his abuse at the hands of his teacher and the reasoning behind his actions. It’s a very simple reason actually, this psycho went through all this trouble to punish his victims for their perceived sins because he himself had been violently punished and humiliated as a child. What I was never quite sure of though was how his mental break occurred. Yes, it was explained what triggered his mental break (death of the abusive teacher), but we never got any type of build up to the ‘why’? Why this victim of the teacher snapped? What caused his abuse at this man’s hands to cause him to snap? Another thing that has bothered me is the fact that this Unsub attacked all women up to the last victim, who was a victim of happenstance from what I could tell. Why? Why did he target women when clearly his anger was addressed at one man (the teacher) and to the males disciplined at the school who the teacher felt were sinners, liars etc.? I would have liked to see more reasoning as to his victim choices. We did get a good explanation about the transgressions these victims committed and how the Unsub came to find out about them via the Hotch, Rossi, and Reid scene. PSA moment: 'don’t talk about your wrong doings in any type of public setting, you never know who is listening in on your conversations' is sage advice. I have to say that I do love how these three work so well together.

As we draw closer to the end of the episode I want to point out that, after my second watching, I actually realized that the team did a fair amount of the deducing and we’re shown how accurate they are by the images of the Unsub. That said, it still took me two viewings to get the nuances of the episode which otherwise, on first viewing, seems a bit slow and even boring at times.

While the horror of a guillotine being used I’m sure had many viewers oohing and ahhing, my tastes run to wanting to see the intellectual side of the show ramping up the emotional excitement levels instead of the graphic horror. The way I understand it, good actors can ramp up the excitement, anticipation levels in a show just by the way they present their lines, but this wasn’t done in this episode. Most of the time the cast seemed rather subdued which led to the somewhat boring presentation. I don’t think that’s the fault of the writer per say or the actors either, but maybe it’s a preference of the director? Or at worst, a combination of all three? Line delivery is so very important to a show trying to capture the imaginations and the desire to watch of its viewers...

I was so very glad to see Hotch out of the office and on a takedown. And I was even happier to see that this wasn’t a ‘shoot to kill’ ending. Morgan and Hotch both used their knowledge and mediation skills to get into the head of the Unsub long enough to save the current victim (a well-placed piece of wood didn’t hurt either). That, for me, was double kudos worthy. Hotch in Kevlar, well THANK YOU KAREN!

Now onto the bookend scenes. Absolutely loved Rossi and Tara bonding over their love of vintage cars. That these cars are actually Joe Mantegna’s didn’t hurt either. I myself love the old classics and would have sold my soul to take either of those cars out for a ‘spin’. (shhh no, I probably wouldn’t have just gone around the block. LOL) Karen did a wonderful job of creating a believable interaction between Rossi and Lewis over this. And the ending where Lewis comes up with the one radio knob that Rossi needs to complete his restoration was just brilliant. And who said women can’t be grease monkeys?

In conclusion, I will say that the episode was a very good concept. There were aspects that didn’t gel, it was slow at times as well as predictable in places, but overall it was a thought out episode. I’m happy that Karen has come aboard the Criminal Minds writing team and I do hope and yes, expect, that as she gets deeper into these characters she will find an even louder, more thrilling voice.

So Mordred’s rating for this episode: artistically I give it an A, execution wise (pun intended) I gave it a C-, overall rating I put at a B-, with a numerical score of 7 out of 10.

Thank you for reading!