Criminal Minds Review: Hurting Others Won't Bring Him Back

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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.

Rossi and Hotch Picture

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.

When he says he's been "more married to the team" than to his own exes, it really hits close to home what a family this is, or what he at least aspires for it to be.

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.


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (53 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


I agree about Morgen being the first one to find out she still alive but one thing that I really loved is how Rerid meantion Jason Gideon I though it was odd with them both being good friends that he hardly ever talk about him and I love it when the show meantion its past its always a good feeling in my book. Also Seaver is playing the probie part perfect she like Ziva was when she join NCIS


Last night was a great episode. Finally, Hotch is back on the screen in more than just background character capacity. Everyone seemed in character as well. Great storyline, I liked all the parallels between Shelley and Emily's different situations.
This team is a family, really hope Emily comes back and JJ and that Seaver leaves. Seaver is an idiot. And if she's still asking so many questions, she has no business delivering profiles.


Liked last nights story. I don't see how Hotch can keep from telling the team about Emily being alive, I know that for her sake he has to keep it to himself. Wouldn't want to be in his shoes when they do finally out she is still alive. Thought the story line was very good. Kelli Williams played the part well. Keep up the good work CM cast. Love the show. My number one show.


I totally agree with CMinds1001 comments. I thought the writing, acting and directing were excellent. There seem to be multiple layers of meaning in this episode. Just as Shelley was unable to save her son despite her valiant efforts, the team/cast was unable to save Emily/Brewster from outside forces that made the decisions. And in the end, all are grieving, including us the fans which the writers acknowledged with this episode.


I thought it was a very good episode and agree with CMinds1001 about his statement that it really was a hard year on the show personnel-wise. I also noticed that Hotch didn't really answer Morgan's question - but how could he without lying, since he knows that Emily isn't really dead. So he settled on "Same place as you, wishing she was here" which is, strictly speaking, not exactly a lie.
I think this counseling he's doing, is to find out how his team is coping with her "death" and, if he discovers that there are some MAJOR problems (i.e. someone on his team can't cope and falls into a rabbit hole without any chance of getting out), maybe he would let this team member in on the secret that Emily isn't really dead...But since it seems they are able to cope somehow there is apparently no need for that - the only thing I can imagine is Morgan going after Doyle. He expressed such hatred against him that it seems likely that his grief turns in the need to pursue the guy who did this to Emily and maybe he will take it a bit too far so that Hotch is forced to let him know about Emily's faked death. Oh boy, I sooo don't wanna be Hotch when Morgan finds out about this...
These were just random thoughts how I could imagine this storyline to get picked up...;)


I thought this episode had some very poignant moments with the team, and it was good to see Morgan finally open up some emotionally. I had to agree with the statement..."It's been a hard year," because on the show it really has personnel-wise, what with two "deaths" and a reassignment, the year has been hard on the cast, crew and fans, as well as the show. Did anyone else notice that Hotch didn't really answer Morgan's question of where he (Hotch) goes when he needs someone to talk to? I thought the actors did really well, and the tighter shots fit with the subject matter.
As for the issue with the posed the unspoken question of who is more important, an innocent child injured due to a criminal's actions, or a police officer shot in the line of duty...I don't want to be the one who chooses, but the unsub felt her little boy was so overshadowed by the officer that it cost the former his life, and sent her into a downward spiral. The role of the unsub was masterfully portrayed by Kelli Williams and you really do feel for the mother.
I thought this was a good episode.

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