The BAU raced against to clock last night on Criminal Minds, unlocking the mysteries of the UnSub’s tragic past and learning her tragic secrets as she set out for payback.
Her target was the world at large, a cruel place where her son was taken from her. Anybody labeled as a hero - law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs - was in her crosshairs.
Specifically, she honed in on one man by the end.
The theme of grief was also prevalent among the BAU members themselves, as our favorite characters were made to undergo grief counseling after the loss of Prentiss.
These were the most telling scenes of "Hanley Waters" and the most compelling in many respects. For the most part, it dovetailed with the hunt for the UnSub well.
The team members' responses to Emily's loss were wide-ranging:
- Garcia would rather talk about the good times with Emily (something Don, the UnSub's target, says he does, but the UnSub, Shelley, says that she cannot).
- Morgan runs through the stages of grief and he is angry. He later admits that he believes if he'd gotten there just a minute sooner, Emily would still be alive.
- Reid reflects on the void left by his own father and his past counseling, and wonders why they're doing what they do if they can't even keep each other safe.
It's a fair question. By the time Rossi meets with Hotch, it's clear no one really wants to get into it. Hotch grieves privately, as Rossi says, and has been through hell.
Boldly confronting the UnSub sans vest, Hotch performed a little grief counseling in the field, holding a picture of her family and reminding her of this basic point:
Hurting others won't bring him back.
It's profound in its simplicity, and as the woman can't stop blaming herself and remembering the car accident, Hotch reminds Shelley that Damien lived a happy life.
Analyzing her killing spree, it was Reid who deduced that she was purely on emotion - a sign of reacting to a personal loss - and pinpointed who she was targeting.
He also advised against calling in SWAT, which turned out to be the right call. Turns out Reid's in-depth experience with counseling and loss was put to good use.
We all react in different ways when someone or something dear to us is taken away, and in the circumstances faced by Shelley, it was all too much for her to bear.
While most of us don't go shooting people when we feel the universe wrongs us, the episode did a nice job of portraying anguish as part of the human condition.
The parallels with Emily's exit seemed obvious at times, but in the BAU's line of work, would be entirely realistic. The acting and writing were pretty much spot-on.
What did you think of last night's Criminal Minds? What stood out to you the most and what, if anything, did you dislike? Share your comments below.