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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 (310 Votes)

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

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I actually disagree.
I found it very easy to figure out who was who without the use of the internet. The reason behind why Prophet was a 'pending' agent was explained in episode 1 of CMSB, I didn't really see the point in bringing it during The Fight in Criminal Minds, season 5, as it had nothing to do with the episode. As for Beth, I thought having her in the actual spin-off, rather than the Pilot was a great addition, they did the same in season 8 with Agent Blake. They didn't tell us that someone would be replacing Prentiss at the end of season 7, they just said she was considering leaving and that she hadn't made a decision yet. Season 8 started with her being gone and a new agent already taken over. Agent Blake worked, so why didn't Beth? As for the blonde chick, Gina, I didn't like her at first, but she grew on me after a while and now she's one of my favourite characters, along with Cooper. He's just tremendous at how he can get inside the heads of the Unsubs. As for the 'dude with an Irish accent' I'm actually obligated to take offence to the fact that you don't realise he is actually Welsh and not Irish. It has been stated many times in the CMSB that he is from Swansea, South Wales, United Kingdom. Anyway, Mick was just the icing on the cake for me, I guess it's because i'm from South Wales myself, so to actually see a Welshie on an american show is just too good to be true. But yes, I agree with you when you say that the show shouldn't have been cancelled after 1 season. Cliffhangers are good if you know that you're gonna bring the series back with a season 2, otherwise they suck big time! What happens to Beth? That's all I really care about. The show didn't really have time to develop any true bases, people never really gave it a chance, I, myself, didn't even find it until a few months ago and am really disappointed to find out that it's been cancelled and ended on a cliffhanger. The publicity was crap, if no one knows about it, have no idea that it is being shown, they're not gonna watch it and that results in low ratings. They really need to bring out the ending of this one episode. Even if it's just to satisfy our curiosity on Beth's end.

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I have been watching the 13 episodes of the show on Netflix. Cliffhanger aside, the show still shouldn't have been stopped. I believe the creators made some errors in the way they introduced the characters but all the mistakes together were no where near enough to end the show. Yes, I get it. The show centers on people who make a life of profiling, yet ironically we are given so little info on the characters that we can't even begin half a profile on them. However, as the season progressed the actors were falling into their stride for the characters. They were starting to fill in holes with quirks and mannerisms that I doubt were written for them. Those actors were building characters on their own. The show seriously deserves a second chance. There would be a lot of happy viewers to see the show return. The network pulled the plug prematurely and disappointed an entire audience. It really is too bad. Honestly, I really liked these characters much more than the other cast. The misfiits that they all are when considered alone becomes so intriguing by the fact that when together they compliment each other so well.

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I disagree with it all...I watch all csi's, ncis and law and orders and I was as interested in suspect behaviour as I was in the original criminal minds....very disappointed I wont get to see who got shot or what the outcome would of been. :-( and penelope changes her hair colour in the original criminal minds from blonde to red sometimes its even more on the ginger side and im guessing some people forgot how pen even started working for the FBI....and yes her character covers all departments of the FBI...isnt that just logic due to her extensive skills....im more than sure we have seen many crossovers with ADA's and judges and lawyers over the years of law and order so why not in other shows are spin offs

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I loved your blog post. Want more.

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Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior never should have been cancelled (or at least not left with a cliffhanger). As much as I enjoy Criminal Minds - I looked forward to Suspect Behavior also. Outstanding show! Respectfully, Theresa

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There was no need to cancel the show that was just silly. Just watched the whole first (and the last) season on Netflix and loved it. Finding out it had been cancelled before it even got started just wasn't fair to the viewers or the show as a whole.
Yes I agree that it had some minor issues this is not a reason to cancel a show. Just fix the rest of the series for the rest of the series and you really can't go wrong.
You could have at least put Season 2, Episode 1 on air, for the audience. After all it is about them.

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Can't believe I have spent a day watching this on Netflix only to find out it has been canceled!!! I think it was really good. I kind of liked Garcia in this show as well!! Couldn't imagine another actress doing it!! Please bring it back!!

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I really loved the show a lot and believe that it should come back. It has great potential.

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Just watched Death by 1000 cuts,they cant leave it there So when will we see series 2 episode to see what happens.
Great spinoff slow starting but improved every episode.

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I think they should bring back the show. I really enjoyed every episode and very sorry that it isn't coming back. I hope that the comments are being read by the creators and they decide to give it another go. I really like all the characters and what they bring to the show. Now I do work at the time that the show was on, but I always just wait till shows come out on DVD and I get off of netflix. This show is amazing and I was soooooo disappointed when I found out it was cancelled. I love Whitakers character and the leadship role that he has. Everyone on the team respects him and loves him. Mick, "Prophet", Gina, Beth, and Garcia are wonderful characters and you can tell the "family" is there. I just really want the show back. It's just as good as the original, so please bring it back!!!!

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
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