Welcome back to Criminal Thoughts. Every week I and my friend Vic Linde will ask each other a single question about that week’s episode of Criminal Minds. Sometimes it’ll be arc plot, sometimes character-based and sometimes it will be ‘Just how magnificent is Penelope Garcia?’
The answer to that one is always, without exception, ‘Completely.’
With that in mind, here’s our thoughts for episode 3 of Season 10, ‘A Thousand Suns’, written by Sharon Lee Watson and directed by Rob Bailey.
Vic: So, in this episode we finally have a return to green screen for the crime scenes and a return to form for the show. What did you think about the detachment of this particular case? We saw little of the background of the un-sub and with so many victims we learnt almost nothing about them either.
Alasdair: Excellent question. Regarding the greenscreen, I actually applauded a bit:) I’ve always loved the way CM takes the time to walk us, literally, through the deductive process of the characters. It’s where the show is quietly at it’s most punky and subversive, simultaneously showing us thought process and then upending that process when necessary. Plus I liked that on a case this technically large it was used to explain a lot of the technical side of things. Also, Spencer Reid, techno nerd WILL NOT BE DENIED. You have to respect that.
Also, the image of Reid walking down the aisle of the plane surrounded by ghosts was chilling and maybe could have done with more screen time.
Regarding the victims, I think that’s where the episode fell down. I was grinding my teeth in that opening sequence as we plodded through the array of usual airline passengers. Kid minus diaper? Check. Increasingly irritable businessman? Check. Imminent bridal couple? Check.
Regarding the unsub, I rather liked the fakeout on Disco Hair Flak vest, the survivalist and I could see where they were going with the Kozinski-alike. But, like you I could maybe have done with learning some more about him.
Vic: I also, really liked the fakeout, it’s one of the things they always seem to do brilliantly. They play on the audience’s perception of stereotypes and then twist them. We are so conditioned to see things in one way and I always enjoyed being messed with by a show!
I found the lack of insight into the victims interesting, rather than a negative point. One person dies: we know all about them. One hundred people die: statistics and little else. I think it says a lot about how we view death and how the media portrays death. But yeah, the list of “people that are always on a plane” was more than a bit eye-rolling.
The way that they are handling the introduction of Kate is as good as it has been in the last couple of episodes. Careful and slow, making her stronger as she reveals her personality rather than weaker.
Alasdair: I like your point about it being a mirror of the statistical response. Good call:)
Yes, SSA Callahan is endearing herself to me more and more every single time she speaks. When we had the ‘my sister died in 911’ so close to the death of so many Central Casting tropes I was pretty worried. But the line about ‘I don’t want to be that weepy agent with the tragic past.’ was just glorious:) The only way it could have worked better would have been if Jennifer Love Hewitt had turned to camera, given it the finger guns and gone ‘See? SEE?! I GOT this, assholes. STEP OFF.’
Also the fact that she, JJ and Garcia instantly get on brilliantly is great. I demand an entire episode of karaoke.
Vic: A good time to also say how much I love Reid’s Reidness. The fact that they pause to let him do his genius-thing and also the lovely little piece where Garcia flags up that while Reid’s statistics might show that the team is safer flying, she is governed by emotions and wishes they were in a car.
The way that JJ, Kate and Garcia get along is part of a wider theme. Since Morgan settled into his place with Hotch’s return there has been no rivalry. It’s the BAU against the bad guys, not in-fighting. I’m very relieved they have stopped some of the FBI politics, fighting the boss and trying to keep the team together this season.
Alasdair: Yes!The little grace note with Garcia was especially lovely and highlighted one of the things I love about her. She’s brilliant, logical, rational and completely instinctive and intuitive at the same time. Just a fantastic character and performance.
And agreed, the total lack of bullshit is incredibly refreshing. It never threatened to choke the show, and the boss-fighting did lead to my favorite ever Hotch speech, but it’s so nice to see it gone. The interesting thing is what will replace it. I could quite happily watch a full season or four of ‘Incredibly competent, compassionate FBI agents fight crime.’ Here’s hoping we get that.
Alasdair: The other thing that really jumped out at me this episode was the scale of the case. Not just the death toll but the fact they were working with other organizations. How did you think that altered the tone of the show? And do you think the Homeland Security officer in particular worked as a character?
Vic: Commander Reardon instantly won points for saying ‘whackadoodle’. Otherwise it seemed a little flat. It was good to see both Homeland Security and the FAA guy, Hosswell, bringing new things to the table but because there were two other officials it felt like we didn’t see enough of either of them.
One of the ongoing great things about the set-up of Criminal Minds is that they have to be invited into cases so not only are the un-subs and victims changing but also their allies. It makes for a very interesting dynamic. If we find ourselves in the eyes of others, this mechanism allows us to see each of the main characters of the show in a clearer light.
Alasdair: Agreed, Reardon and Hosswell were both nicely handled. I especially liked the fact that neither had an agenda beyond stopping another attack. HS in particular have been as bad as the Russian mafia were for lazy, dialled in antagonists and it was nice to see that change. Like you I could have done with more of both of them but did think Reardon had one of the best moments of the episode with this exchange:
‘Is it my race or my gender?’
The self awareness shown there is something uniformed characters on shows like this rarely get to have but she was great. Also loved that she moved the planes off when told to and was far more concerned with saving lives than scoring points. And that actually ties back into your point about seeing the other characters in a clearer light; given the team’s uniformity of purpose it’s interesting that three episodes in they’ve been met with total cooperation from everyone they work with.
Vic: They have changed the obstacles without moving the goalposts, something hard to do in a show that’s been running this long. We haven’t yet seen the overall arc of the season clearly, although it feels as though it is likely to be a thematic arc rather than connected to an un-sub, unless the Episode One kidnappings come back into play. The scale of the investigation, the subtle character advancement and the extras worked really well in this episode. My favourite for a long time, hopefully we’ll see more of the same throughout the season.
Agreed. Thanks for the magnificent insight as ever, Vic. We’ll both be back here next week for more Criminal Thoughts. See you then