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Welcome to Criminal Thoughts. Each week, Vic Linde and I run the evidence, dissect the case and talk this week’s Criminal Minds. Vic’s in italics, I’m not and this week is a big, big JJ week. Let’s get to work.
Back from the midseason break and Criminal Minds is racing off in this episode. We’ve seen a fair bit of cults, but this time the cult itself took a backseat to the human story. Did the balance of story between the Forever People, Bobby and JJ’s trauma hang together for you?
Absolutely. There’s a thing we’ve seen a few previous times this season where an episode has very deliberately taken us off down a wild goose chase. That’s always been effective but it was extraordinary here. On paper, this was a pretty standard plot but the way they approached it, especially through the lens of JJ’s trauma, was really impressive.
If it was a deliberate attempt to show how much damage Bobby was likely to have suffered then I like it, otherwise it felt a little cobbled together to me. However, I do think this is one of those episodes that will get better the more that I watch it. The trouble with everything that has happened to the team is that it HAS to be addressed but it is so easy to be overdone or heavy-handed. I think that spreading it out across the episode made it much more effective.
Definitely. Also, we got a very specific set of stylistic cues in that first scene. The fact we open with JJ, who is still nominally the team media liaison, boxing keys us into just where her head’s at. The set up for that scene is literally ‘The long dark round of the soul’ and while it’s a touch overdone I really liked two parts of it. Firstly, that JJ’s clearly a skilled boxer. Secondly, that she’s clearly massively off her game. Her coach calling her on her frenzied technique is a neat stylistic tie in to the ‘She’s in control, oh shit she ISN’T’ moment in the freezer at the ned. It also does really interesting stuff with her triple nature. JJ’s the face of the team and as a result has to be in control. She’s a team member and has to work with others. She’s a family member and has to trust her family to help her with this. She’s doing none of those things as the episode opens and just as we see Bobby go out past his comfort zone to find what’s important to him we see her do the same. Whether she finds it is a different matter.
It’s wonderful to see JJ without Will, how she is almost always alone in the episode is a lovely view on her mindset. She’s alone coping and alone at work and alone, again, with Askari. The repetition of her on her own says more than anything Reid can quote about how people cope with trauma. It was carefully thought through and delicated laid out. Also, well done to Reid for getting her just what she needed at that moment and for knowing that Emily would be the right person to help (also mentioning her best friend’s name when she was spiralling was a nice touch).
That actually poleaxed me, I was really impressed at the emotional weight that such a simple line had. I don’t know why they’re working so hard to keep Prentiss on the show while she isn’t on the show but it’s very welcome. I remain fervently hopeful that she’s part of the next spinoff. She was such a vital part of the team for so long that it would have felt weird for her to never be mentioned again. Also, as you say, perfectly timed and a nice grace note for Reid; I can’t help JJ, Emily can help JJ help herself. Also that final scene, the Socratic dialogue, was played beautifully by both people. AJ Cook put such incredible variegation of emotion onto each ‘No.’ that you’re left unclear whether JJ’s fine, will be fine, thinks she’s fine or all of the above. She just is, and that will do for now.
Absolutely and seeing JJ not dealing well in the situation we are used to seeing her doing brilliantly with – a child in trouble. Although she’s not the only parent (with Rossi and Kate as well as Hotch now) she has always been the steadiest in the cases where children are in danger. To see that taken away from her had even more resonance as she understood how much further she could still sink. A lovely reminder that the moment of impact is only the beginning.
Exactly. So, what do you think about the episodes that mix up the usual format a little? Here we had the bookending scenes and the reveal on the ‘unsub’. In the past we’ve had the ‘Everybody fails to talk about their feelings’ episode and the often heartbreaking unsub POV ones. Do you think they work? Do you think they work better than the usual format? Is there anything you’d like to see the show try?
I love the variety in the show, I think it’s one of the key reasons that we don’t feel like we’re in Season Ten. I would love to see an un-sub driven arc or perhaps one of the old un-subs return. I also love the episodes that are really, truly awful. The episodes that cannot be forgotten (pig farming, anyone?). I miss having something ticking along in the background.
On a related note – what happened with the creepy guy that Meg was talking to online?
OH GOD THE PIG FARMING. OH GOD. THE EPISODE NOT EVEN GARRETT HEDLUND, CHARACTER ACTING DEITY COULD SAVE.
That’s a really good point. See also the ‘The end…or IS IT?!’ kidnapping one earlier this season. We’ve talked before about how this season may very well not have an arc plot and, at the hinge of the year, that’s starting to look increasingly possible. Do you think we’ve been given clues to it or is this just going to be a standalone year?
I’m really hoping that they are all connected. That all of the loose threads somehow are connected. You know, I also love the episodes where the un-subs are focused on a member of the team. Whether an arc or a standalone I do really enjoy those. I think the variety is something that long-running, long-lasting shows have to perfect, X Files, M*A*S*H etc. all manage to keep things changing, so perhaps having a whole season of standalones is just what we need to make sure things aren’t fresh.
The other possibility is that some of the threads are going to be picked up by the spin-off and the reason we are seeing them left alone by the team is to show that there has to be more out there because there are so many un-subs…
Let’s talk about the spin off briefly, because, let’s face it, we both desperately want that to be where Emily shows back up. It’s on the outskirts of Plausible City certainly, given that Paget Brewster’s almost finished shooting Community Season 6. More compelling is the premise; that it’s an international team of Profilers. Given what Prentiss does these days she’d be a sure fit for an at least regular guest spot.
In fact, as information about the spin off comes to light, do you want to do a ‘Here’s what we’d like’ special edition at some point?
Oh, I think we have to do that! And yes, more Prentiss all the time. It is fantastic how well plugged into the subsequent seasons she has been. Her name is mentioned, they visit her, she visits them, Reid officiated at Emily’s wedding. No wait, that last one was IRL. Sorry!
After the disastrous nature of their last attempt, they really do need to land this one. Fingers crossed for another success.
Exactly. Fingers crossed this one’ll land.
Thanks as ever to you for reading and to the wonderful SSA Vic Linde for massive insight and enthusiasm. We’ll see you next time for episode 12, Anonymous.