Criminal Thoughts: Season 10 Episode 2 ‘Burn’

Welcome back to Criminal Thoughts, the weekly feature where VC Linde and I dissect Criminal Minds. We don’t just ask the tough questions, we ask questions so tough we only get one each. So, here are our Criminal Thoughts for Episode 2 of this season, ‘Burn’, written by Janine Sherman Barrois and directed Karen Gaviola.

This is Hell, nor am I out of it. What did you think about the episode’s structure and central metaphor?it’s going to be on my blog

Vic: The balance of justice and punishment seemed to be the central point to the episode. How far parents should go when disciplining their children and how far the state should go when punishing those who break the laws. The other side of that seemed to be the ramifications that punishment has, the ripple effect that it causes. I especially liked JJ’s assertion that Justin wouldn’t have become a killer if his father had helped his brother – echoing what Reid said to Morgan about trying to find another way that LDSK could have been stopped before he was shot.

Alasdair: Yeah, and, for the first time in a while, it seemed a little strained. I don’t know; I got the impression that the unsub this week was there to do very little other than point at, and provide contrast, with the Garcia plot. In fact, no that’s wrong. The unsub this week was something really odd; a character mirror rather than a character. As you say, the Morgan/Reid scene was really interesting and, likewise, the contrast between the case and Garcia. The different reasons people enter Hell and how they act when they get there.

Vic: I thought that it was more of how we each individually interpret “hell” rather than solely the reasons behind and reactions to it. The template of Dante combined with all of the different hellish things that the characters have seen over the ten seasons. This episode was a continuation of the last episode, seeing how they learn to let go all of the darkness that they see. It’s something that Criminal Minds has revisited multiple times over the years and seems to be the show’s way of recognising the humanity beneath the jobs that the characters do. Having said that, I didn’t get much out of the sub-plot and it seemed rather shoe-horned into the episode.

Alasdair: Exactly. Plus we had Morgan in rare Asshole Mode for most of the episode which again felt a little forced and unnatural. At this stage in their relationship, there’s very little Morgan and Garcia can say or do that will throw the other. Whilst it was nice to see that explored, it felt a little…rushed? Weirdly unearnt? I wonder if this would have had much more impact in about six weeks time. Actually made something of Penelope being off her game as a result of last season’s events.

Did it seem strange to you that after all we know about Garcia – the grief counselling, the willingness to protect – that the thing that she would baulk at was sitting in the room with Greg Baylor while he was executed?

Alasdair: Yeah it did. I can see where they were going with this and it’s ground the show’s mined before; the moments where Penelope’s work stops being theoretical and starts being real. It’s really interesting ground and they’ve done great stuff with it before but here, not so much. Everything worked in place and, as ever Kristen Vangsness was incredibly good, but the episode didn’t seem to quite gel for me. Also, a couple of comedy moments just felt weird especially the Penelope Garcia vs the Prison scenes. It didn’t quite connect with the emotionally charged, and very good, confrontations she had with Baylor. Potsch Boyd also deserves special praise for turning in some great work this episode.

Vic: It was strange that for someone so sensitive to people’s feelings she would freeze up and blurt out such odd phrases. I like it when we see Garcia not behind a computer, and Kevin was as brilliant as ever but this felt forced and quite out of character. On a more positive note, Kate is continuing to fit in. She and Garcia are clearly getting along well and her casual references to previous cases is a nice touch to let us know that while new to the team she is not new to the work.

Alasdair: Exactly. This would have worked as an early run Garcia episode but given some of the stuff she’s been through this just didn’t have as much weight to it as it should. There were flashes of brilliance (Vangnsess does wounded tenacity like no on Earth and the final scene with her and Morgan was lovely) but it never really cohered. On a lighter note, as you say, Kevin was brilliant as ever and yes, Callahan’s continuing relentless competence is immensely good fun. In fact, that seems to be a motif for the season so far; the lack of bullshit. I loved that Hotch okayed her request without any of the effort she, or Morgan, were expecting her to have to put in.

Vic: The small interactions were really the highlights of the episode – Morgan and Reid, Garcia chatting at the bus stop, Rossi and Kate. Unsurprising when Criminal Minds always does that well, but it’s good to see it stand out, in an otherwise slightly lacklustre episode.

Alasdair: Agreed. Not the most effective episode ever but there was still stuff to enjoy. Join us next week when we take a look at episode 3 ‘A Thousand Suns’

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