Criminal Minds

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Criminal Minds Review: Escape from the Abyss

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Criminal Minds is sometimes hard to watch when the story involves an Unsub who is torturing innocents. It hits way too close to home when we see one or more of the BAU team members being subjected to it.

Criminal Minds Season 9 Episode 14 was titled "200," as it marked the 200th episode of the series.

Expectations for this installment were high. And I can say for sure that it met them with flying colors. 

For starters, it was a smart move to make the focus of this milestone episode all about the BAU and not some nameless Unsub.

I'd be tempted to say that it was a treat to see Prentiss again - and Strauss, even though she appeared only in flashbacks - were it not for the gravity of the story itself.

We've been teased throughout Criminal Minds Season 9 about JJ and Cruz's secret, which was finally revealed. We got to see  JJ's back story, covering the time she took a hiatus from the BAU (in real life, AJ Cook was let go from the show, then brought back). And it was believable.

It explained too how she grew from being a communications liaison officer to a profiler, as she had to hone her skills in finding a way to reach the Afghani captive woman in order to obtain terrorists' intelligence and identification.  

Too bad she didn't realize she was working with monsters.

Writers will never go wrong in expecting their audience to come along for the ride and figure out certain truths for themselves, with minimal guidance and few clues.

One important such clue outlined the theme of this episode, which was found in this quote, from Hastings to JJ, upon her arrival at the U.S. Operations Camp:

Don't get comfortable. This place changes people. I can't imagine what it'll do to someone like you.

Hastings

He was, of course, referring to himself. And perhaps Askari.

Maybe Askari and Hastings weren't the only monsters in this story. They had adopted the techniques of their enemies when interrogating their captives, and in the process became monsters themselves. Yet, the State department - and in particular, Undersecretary Rosemary Jackson - also exhibited a monstrous outlook, willing to see JJ and Cruz as necessarily expendable in their zeal to discover the traitor in their midst.

JJ Is Abducted

Jackson never directly answered Hotch's question: So Agents Jareau and Cruz get written off?

He got his unspoken answer, though, and he ran with it, knowing the State Department was not going to lift a finger to help. If that isn't monstrous, I don't know what is.

Safe and Sound?
Will JJ be returned safe and sound and what secrets from her State Department days will be revealed on the 200th episode of Criminal Minds?

The hallmark of the BAU team, the thing that makes the show compelling and brings us back week after week, is the unstinting commitment and love they have for each other.

It's the reason Hotch wouldn't back down to the Undersecretary, and it's the reason the team tried to pull out all stops in their efforts to find JJ, including accessing files they weren't supposed to and getting unauthorized access to S.C.I.F. (Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility).

What a relief to find out that Cruz wasn't a traitor, but instead had JJ's back. He's a true stand-up guy, and makes for a great replacement for Strauss.

Final notes:

  • The details that went into the story were impressive, right down to the use of "Blackbird" as a code known only to JJ and Prentiss - used at the perfect time.
  • The version of the song"Blackbird" was sung by Sarah Darling. It was released as a single.
  • It was disappointing to see Garcia having to resort to using Pig Latin in order to get a message to her team. The State Department - who should have been on their side - might have otherwise scuttled the BAU's chances of rescuing JJ and Cruz.  
  • Also: no one in the State Department knows Pig Latin? Maybe there's another subtle message there too, in response to the Undersecretary's jab about the BAU's "course hands".
  • While the need to make the 200th episode memorable is understandable, it seems this story could well have been stretched over a few more episodes. All of the elements were there: international intrigue, the heightened drama about JJ being kidnapped, the whole three-year back story.
  • Criminal Minds returns in two weeks, with an episode entitled "Mr. and Mrs. Anderson".

What did you think?  Did the 200th episode live up to your expectations?  What did you think about seeing Prentiss and Strauss again?

Were you satisfied that the amazing story began and ended in this one episode, or would have preferred to see it lengthened over a period of a few episodes? 

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (82 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe is a staff writer for TV Fanatic Follow him on Twitter

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I hate to say this because I love her but was prentiss really needed?

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@ Michael

Not really in this storyline, Garcia solved anyway. Again. So annoying...

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@ Maria

Well That wasn't the issue because that believable I just think prentiss took screen time that could of gone to Blake

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@ Michael

That's true. JJ sharing such a huge secret with Emily made her 'necessary'... And of course, the fact that there is a bunch of people asking endlessly for Prentiss because they cannot understand that the actress just want to do something different...

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Loved the episode, but some things were missing. I really wish they had shown more of a reunion between JJ and the team. I also think this could have been two episode. I'll be disappointed if things immediately go back to normal... this would be a traumatizing situation and sometimes CM doesnt do a great job of addressing things like this (Except for Reid after Revelations). I hope they give JJ that chance

Sue ann

I have never been a fan of Prentiss, nor of the actress who plays her, but this use of her was interesting, and relevant to the story. Strauss appearing was nice, although I had thought that this time period was during the character's alcoholic difficulties. Nevertheless, it was good to see the actress again. The episode was interesting, and very different, and I actually watched it without doing anything else at the same time, very unusual these days. My only quibble would be that the last few minutes were too darkly lit. I could not see what was going on and I found it irritating in the extreme. The use of Tahmoh Penikett was a dead giveaway to me that he was the villain, though. I have never seen him play anything else except a villain. He does them well, but he's thoroughly typecast, to me. I hope they have JJ tell her husband about the lost baby. He has the right to mourn, too. But we seldom see him, so they probably won't. Perhaps it was implied in the no-more-secrets ending.

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@ Sue Ann

Actually Tahmoh Penikett played a real good Guy in Battlestar Galactica for 5 years so maybe he is sick of it ;-)) ?

Sue ann
@ blacksail1818

Never saw it.

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