Criminal Minds Suspect Behavior Review: Where It Went Wrong...

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This week’s poetically titled episode brought Criminal Mind: Suspect Behavior to a close. A season of ups and downs that have felt like a "Death by a Thousand Cuts."

I will not be kind about the fact that it committed the unforgivable sin of ending on a cliff hanger, where we will forever wonder if Cooper shot Stahl or if Rawlins shot Griffith. If you have not seen me mention it before, I loathe cliff-hanger endings and find them to be the equivalent of taking your cousin to the prom so you don’t have to take any chances.

Sure, a cliff-hanger was useful before there were things like the internet or DVRs; back when a show ran 22 weeks in the fall and then spent all summer in re-runs. These days they are about as useless as that pen Penelope Garcia holds in her hand while pantomiming that she is typing on a keyboard, (seriously, no computer geek I know needs to hold a pen that often.)

The only thing that impressed me about this episode was French Stewart’s portrayal of Richard Stahl. He was scary at the beginning and made you feel for him at the end. Awesome work, Mr. Stewart, I am humbled by your ability to do drama and comedy.

Past that, this episode was pretty much your standard offering: big crime happened, team came in and found key clue, figured out who bad guy was and went to stop them. Don’t get me wrong, it was passably entertaining (up until the cliff-hanger.) But it just didn’t have that spark that Criminal Minds possesses.

As a spin-off show from long term series, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior was considered a sure thing with a built in audiences. Why shouldn’t it be a hit? Look at the track record of spin-offs: CSI has spawned two shows, NCIS spawned one offspring, and there have been more Law & Order shows than I can keep track of.

So why did Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior end up being the exception to the rule and failing, when it should have printing its own money given the head start it had?

The answer is three words: No character attachment. Here is why that was a problem...

Introduction:
The first (and biggest) mistake was not introducing the team in the pilot. I understand the writers were banking on the lead in episode where we met some of the team in Criminal Minds; but that episode aired nine months before the pilot! Not to mention we gained a team member (Beth), which was never explained at all.

Identification:
The mistakes continued with the writers not having characters use each other’s name. There were scenes in the first couple of episodes where the editing had cut scenes in such a way that we came into conversations already in progress, skipping over any type of greeting that would have included names. It took me weeks to know who was who without the internet.

Personalization:
We didn't get much (if any) in the way of back story on any of team members for nearly half the season. This was partially negated because it did eventually come, but this mistake cut the deepest wound as viewers don’t return week after week when you don’t care about the characters in a show.

Uniqueness:
One thing that makes any show stand out is the uniqueness of its characters compared to other programs in the same genre. Why would someone watch NCIS instead of CSI? It could be because they like Gibbs more than Grissom or Abby more than Hodges. 

It looks like someone decided they wanted a character just like Penelope Garcia for the Red Cell team and instead of creating a unique character, they opted to have Kirsten Vangsness play the same role on both shows. While the idea on paper may look good, in the end it didn't really work and just got confusing as her hair was blonde in one show and red in the other.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I know that the bones of a great show were there. We even got a glimpse of it in a few episodes, (as mentioned in a few of my reviews.) It was just a little too late and had no consistency.

Red Cell Members

So, how would I have changed things?

First, for the pilot I would have tied the story plot into Prophet’s “temp agent” status so that we learned what he was accused of and why he was no longer accused of it. As the center point I would have had Prophet interact with each team member to introduce each of their unique personality and “powers” (what they bring to the team.) And I would make damn sure that each character’s name was spoken at least three times each in the first few episodes.

Second, if the powers that be really wanted a “Penelope Garcia” type as the computer whiz, I would have had her guest star and have her training her counterpart for the red cell team, who could be just as quick witted and sassy as she is. However, I would have given her a different geeky persona; I really like the idea of the “new Garcia” being obsessed with pink and black and Sanrio characters.

Lastly, I would even out the show's production. I am not sure if the inconsistencies were from writing, directing, or producing, but there was clearly a breakdown in communication as one episode would use a trope effectively and the next would butcher it all the hell.

I think with just a few key adjustments Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior could have given Hotchner and his Criminal Minds team a run for their money.

Finally, to show the difference and how it should be done. I want to compare the pilot of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior to the pilot of Hawaii Five-0, as I reviewed both.

Before the H5O pilot episode was over we met and knew who Steve McGarrett was, who Danny Williams was, why Danny wore a tie, who Chin Ho and Kona were, why the team is put together, and we even learned why Danny gets called "Danno".

After watching the CM: SB pilot I was struggling just to know who anyone was, much less why Cooper wore a cross hanging from his belt, why Beth had joined the team, what in bloody hell Prophet did to go to jail, what changed that he was now out and an FBI agent again, and oh, who is the blonde chick or the guy with the Irish accent?

I am hopeful that this one failure does not cause CBS to shy away from attempting more spin-offs. I would love to see CSI: Dallas or CSI: New Orleans. But if nothing else we at least have Criminal Minds returning in the fall with J.J. coming back full time! See you all then!

What did you think? Do you think the show doomed itself from the beginning or was CBS too hard on it? Sound off below!

Review

Editor Rating: 3.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.9 / 5.0 (329 Votes)

Jim G. is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Cooper reminds me of another TV/Movie/Book profiler who gets so deeply entrenched in the unsub's mind and profile that one (i.e. me) wonders why he has not gone totally crazy. What character is it I'm thinking of? Just can't put my finger on it. Clarissa in Silence of the Lambs? I know this role is familiar.

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...and here, I thought "the welsh guy" was actually speaking with some sort of South African accent

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I saw this new series and I thought this was an excellent program. You all who dumped it did not give it enough time!!! I am English and English people know a good series!!! You Boo, Boo'd. Get smart, bring Suspect Behaviour back,and give it time!!!

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Anticipated the debut with much hope as am a huge fan of CM. Was pulled away when aired and caught only bits which, admittedly I judged harshly as I held up to the high standards of it's predecessor. Caught a bug down the road, lit up Netflix and saw the whole series was available and gave it a whirl. I have to say, watching it straight through gave me a nice streamlined relationship with the characters which grew nicely and matured in meaningful ways. They increased with dimensions that are indeed different than members of the CM team,( i.e. more spiritual, more unorthodox). I don't know if this would have happened for me with commercial breaks and time between episodes but watching them back to back with no breaks really weaved a nice picture of an original unit of the BAU that I really wish I could follow further down the road.

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I know that this is old news to most everyone. However, I became a fan of Criminal Minds from Re-runs on ION TV. As in, watching them for the first time over the last year or so. That means that Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior is a brand new show to me! And I can tell you, at least for me, that the reason that the showed failed is because they cast someone named Janeane Garofalo (however you spell it, spells S--T to me), one of the most Liberal, lame-brained POS that could absolutely NEVER portray realistically an FBI agent, or any other Law Enforcement character for that matter! Whoever the idiot was who decided to include her in the cast of this show doomed it from the start! I will not watch this failed show even though it is in re-runs now. And that is a shame, as I have been a real fan of the original Criminal Minds show. I wouldn't let Janeane Garofalo
kiss my a** (or any other part of me). And I sure as Hell will not watch a TV series with her as part of the cast.

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@ Northman56

Garofalo is a badazz, you're kind of an idiot. She was also a believable law enforcement AGENT in the ridiculously successful little show called "24"... Are you really that thick? I guess you should stop watching ALL shows including the original CM...Entirely comprised of craaazzeeee liberals too. Leave it to a hypocrisy such as republi-cants to bash an actresses talent because of her OFF SCREEN political views. Dunce cap and corner for you little one!

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@ Kahozz

She sucked as a comedienne as well.

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like

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I just discovered Criminal Minds:Suspect Behavior and I am sooo disappointed that it was cancelled after only one season especially with the "cliffhanger" ending, which is not really a cliffhanger since the series is now cancelled. This was similar to the ending of the Alphas' series and The Unit. If your going to end a series end it don't just leave those of us that have watched loyally frustrated with no real ending.

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There's and exchange between Prophet and the Unsub at the end of Episode 1, where Prophet tells the man that he killed a guy once, so that's probably why he was in jail.

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I came here to find out why CM: SB lasted only one season. It lacked the charisma that CM original had, but then, that took several seasons to develop. The writers are definitely not the same at all. There is a curt shallowness to the writing here, and Penelope, she is not the same Penelope as in the other series. Her wit was lacking, so really, it was not the actress but the writing, and possibly the directing. However, it had the guts of a great show. I just watched, to sample it, because I did not see it when it was live, an episode I downloaded from iTunes, Episode 1, "Two of a Kind", and I got enough of a taste of the teams' characters that I am keen to see the rest of the season. It was explained what the pending agent did to get him jail time (killed a sex offender) and he got over that compulsion in this episode and he graduated from pending to special agent. Great start, and enough of a spark to strike a match. I hope it comes back one day as a movie franchise, and then the cliffhanger can be resolved.

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why was this cancelled? so stupid and the way they left it! it's better than criminal minds, these TV stations really are thick! And mick is Welsh not Irish BTW! How you didn't know the characters is mind-blowing to me like you saying Penelope Garcia's hair changed between red and blonde, she was a red head through the whole season -so what show were you watching? For once the lack of the team's personal lives made the show so much better they just did the job without boring the viewers - take blue bloods it's like the Walton's with guns soooo boring! I would like it continued but it won't be like so many good shows cancelled bacause of some viewers rating bogus system.

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@ Mary

EXACTLY. I felt they were more focused on the crimes more to personal matters and thats what made each agents personality stick out. Im mad asshit it ended the way it did. Nd this was a totally different sise of Forrest Whittaker. I loved him in this!

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Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior Season 1 Episode 13 Quotes

He is a puppet; there has to be a master.

Lasalle

I know what love is, nobility, and integrity. You want to test someone? To see how far they will go. Then shoot me!

Griffith