Image copyright Entertainment Weekly
Welcome back to Criminal Thoughts. I’m doubling up the next couple of weeks to catch back up, so, here we are with episode 6, If The Shoe Fits. Once again I’m joined by the magnificent VC Linde and these talks are crossposted on her blog too. She’s in Italics, I’m not, and this episode’s a doozy so off we go.
What did you think of the use of fairy tale tropes in the episode?
So smart. I loved that JJ picked up on it first instead of Reid, connecting her back to Henry and the stories that she had been telling him.
I really enjoy fairy tales being pulled into modern life and this was an entertaining and yet complex way of doing it. The levels in this seemed to be a lot deeper than we had seen this season – no coincidence that we also saw a lot more of our un-sub this week.
Also, killed by a shoe? Awesome.
Yeah this was the first spotlight episode in a couple that worked very, very well. JJ is like Garcia in a lot of ways, she has a slightly different, more grounded perspective that always makes her episodes something different, and special. This was no exception.
I especially liked the way that the fairytale concept was so integral to the entire story. As well as the unsub’s pathology and JJ’s own past they managed to wrap the narrative the unsub told themselves, gender expectations AND the construction of profiles around that central idea. It’s a rare treat to see a TV show ring the concept gong quite so resoundingly and it worked beautifully.
And yes, Shoeicide was very nicely done.
I am a little tired of characters on TV telling us that original fairy tales were grim, we know, everyone knows by now. Reid normally doesn’t sink to that. However, backed up with a clear framework using those very stories we saw a new angle on an old tale. I really adored the way that we could see, step by step, how Claire got to the position we saw her in.
We surely cannot go any further without mentioning the superlative amazingness that is Kate. Holy crackers on a pogo stick! She made him sick. And then sassed Morgan.
Yes! Criminal Minds has always excelled at pathology but Claire is one of the most methodically constructed, and sympathetic, killers the series has had in a very long time. I loved how the script gradually overlaid the fairy tale so we slowly found ourselves viewing things from her point of view. Especially with the beautiful piece of narrative Aikido we had with the apparent unsub. I’ve not seen a show use the unreliable narrator as unknowingly unreliable before but running the profile over Dubious McStalky Face looking at Claire completely wrongfooted me. Also, the nice signifier of her reading the IMMENSE bodice ripper was hidden where all the best character beats are; in plain sight.
And oh GOOD LORD, I love Kate Callahan.That scene was beautiful on two different levels for me; firstly she has no compunctions using her powers for not-quite good (The only other team member that does that? Hotch. I do wonder if we’re looking at a future BAU Leader there) and secondly because Morgan was actually a touch shocked which is always fun to see. Most importantly, just like everything else this episode? Massively subtle character work. Given what Callahan’s last assignments were, it makes perfect sense that she has zero time to give guys like that an easy ride.
We saw a little of Kate’s ruthlessness in Itch when she and JJ were working together but this stepped it up to another level.
Criminal Minds un-subs often fall into one of two categories: 1) The out and out bad guy(s) and 2) The we-understand-how-you-got-here. This was heavily into the second group – what did you think about how the episode humanized Claire although she was the killer?
I thought it managed to do something nearly impossible extremely well. On paper, Claire is an immensely difficult character to nail without becoming a caricature; a young woman who survives through escapism, has an impossible romantic ideal, is a child abuse survivor and who, on at least one occasion, kills with definite satisfaction if not enjoyment. Done wrong, she’s every lousy cop show’s dream killer; beautiful, demented, vicious.
Here though, she’s just human. Escapism as a survival tactic is something we all do and I love how the show both slowly positioned us inside her world view and also showed how understandable it was. She’s a knot of horror, guilt, grief and anger and she wants something to make it better. The most powerful way she can do that is by telling herself a different story and when that story deviates from reality is when she becomes truly dangerous.
Two parts of the episode showed that very clearly – seeing her bedroom through her victim’s eyes and her response to seeing the wrong name on the gravestone. At that point we could see how deep the delusion was for her, and at the same time how deep she had needed to bury herself to get away from the memory of true horror.
The other, very subtle, nod was when she was at the bar and wearing her ballgown. A little girl dressing up, playing at being an adult but everyone except her could see how poorly adult life fitted her. A wonderful image.
Absolutely. And I loved how the script took great care to both build her delusions and show how she was liked by a lot of people. The waitress expressing concern for her was a grace note that most shows wouldn’t both with for example. Likewise, the thoroughly decent (And nicely Prince Charming-esque) son of her boss who inadvertently gets himself in trouble and brings matters to a head. It was all subtle, effecting stuff and it came to a head with what may have been the best Spencer Reid scene in years.
The Reid moment at the end was lovely, but it reminded me of Maeve’s death, his pleading, the fantasy and the instability of Diane. There was a great sadness in the realization that it wasn’t the fact that there were no good men around Claire but that her past had made her unable to see them, to perhaps almost instinctively move away from it. Chris understanding that she needed to be handled gently when speaking to her father made his misguided attempts to help her in the graveyard all the more sincere – he wasn’t meddling or trying to prove her wrong, he just wanted to be good to her.
Exactly. Chris is a genuinely good guy, it’s just that he isn’t in the story he thinks he’s in, or the one Claire wants them to be in. It takes Reid, who of all the BAU is the one who spends the most time in his own head, to steer them both safely home. I loved that, and also the near-archetypal image of JJ at the end of that scene; armoured for war, but completely relieved she’s not been asked to go to it. And, on top of that, her using what Reid did to resolve her own issue at home. An excellent capstone to an excellent episode.
So there we go, one of the strongest episodes of the season so far. Thanks once again to my fellow SSA, VC Linde for her superb insights. We’ll see you you next time with more Criminal Thoughts.