Criminal Minds Season Finale Review: Face Cards and Farewells

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Whoa. Where do I even begin? Oh right, with the bank robbery. Or maybe the hostage situation. Or the near-explosion of Will and Prentiss. No no, the wedding maybe? Or Emily's decision to leave her beloved BAU team. Right - now you see why this season finale will be no walk in the park to sum up, but I'll give it my best shot nonetheless.

I have to say, even though the writers made some not-so-subtle copycat moves during this two-part finale of "Hit" and "Run," it still kept my attention the entire time and was pretty exhilarating to watch. In order of occurrence, my observations are the following:

The whole Face Cards thing was intense. We've seen people die on this show before, but something about the way they kept callously putting bullets into people's heads really stuck with me. Seeing a little girl watch her father be killed right in front of her was equally brutal, as was watching JJ's reaction to Will voluntarily walking into the bank...let alone seeing him be shot. It wasn't immediately clear to me that Downs was part of the UnSub plot - as was their intention I suppose - and the writers purposely threw us off course by having him ask the young mother next to him if she was OK. Nice job trying to confuse us, it worked.

Tricia Helfer on Criminal Minds

Then when they lost the video feed and Garcia knew that they'd had people tapping into it, it also served to throw us off a bit. But maybe the best part of the robbery was when Reid figured out just in time that the Queen was going to blow the whole place up. Go Reid, always using his head! And go Will, while we're at it. He didn't have much of a part this season, but I loved how much of the action he saw in this finale. But then again, I've always been a sucker for his character.

It's worth noting that when JJ called Hotch "Aaron" with a stern and pleading look, he immediately knew to defer to her wishes. It's nice to see that JJ/Hotch connection, we haven't seen it a lot lately. He'd know better than anyone what she was feeling if she thought her loved one was in danger, and there were lots of Reaper-esque elements in this storyline for sure.

I loved when Kevin and Reid came to join the rest of the team. I loved when Hotch and Rossi (kind of) ordered Strauss to let them handle it their way and keep the Director at bay. And I loved when Will left his wallet for JJ to find. All great, in my opinion.

I didn't think it was a surprise when Izzy killed Chris, but I was surprised to find out that there was a 4th UnSub, then to learn that he was the dude in the bank, and finally to learn their real motivation at the end. I know we always complain about them revealing the UnSub right away, and technically we knew it this time, but they managed to find a way to let it unfold in layers throughout the two hours, so it didn't feel stale to me. The narcissist profiling was decent, as well, I think they fit a fair amount of it in. Anyone disagree?

The whole disgruntled combat veteran thing felt less than original to me, especially since we'd even seen it this season, and the Chad references and history of Izzy's overseas crimes weren't as explained/developed as I would've liked, but I guess the writers were grasping at straws a little there. It's also worth noting that Rick Dinkle wrote the first hour, and everyone's favorite writer to hate, Erica Messer, wrote the second hour. Did anyone have a preference?

The Izzy/JJ throwdown was insane, to say the least. Did you see her pull the clip out of that gun? It was straight out of the Matrix, I swear. Nothing would unleash rage in JJ like thinking that her child is in danger, but I was impressed by the level of their combat. Remind me to never piss off JJ, that girl doesn't play around. Izzy's interaction with Henry was just downright creepy, they did a good job of making us feel uneasy when she was with him (or maybe that was just me). I also loved when Hotch saved Morgan at the end. The BAU team was really cohesive and helped each other out so much this time - even Kevin got involved.

Hour two was definitely more suspenseful in terms of the near-explosion of Union Station and our beloved agents. Will's relief was palpable when Prentiss figured out the way to disarm that bomb, and even she seemed surprised. One second left? Damn, thanks for the heart attack, Criminal Minds. I really, really liked that scene, even if it was a cheap "Speed" rip off in a way. I think helping us figure out why we were even seeing that plot unfold took a lot of explaining by the writers, and maybe that's a sign they were just trying to pack too much in, or maybe it was just that the Chad thing was a little random. Even letting the old couple make the "story" reference and then having Prentiss repeat it a few times seemed overly obvious. There are times when I think they should give us more credit as an audience, you don't need to hit us over the head with stuff for us to pick up on it, thanks.

Rossi's planning of a surprise wedding, wrangling JJ's mom, and seeing the team all come together to celebrate Will and JJ was pretty great, I have to admit. Rossi has really, really grown on me this season, and I love how much of a dad role he can step into at times. Hotch, on the other hand, doesn't have a dad role with the women of the BAU, it's more of a concerned husband-thing. When he revealed to Prentiss that he knew her "tell" move, I wanted to scream out for her not to leave. For him to ditch Beth and date Emily intead (and I don't hate Beth, like a lot of you do). I'd even finally seen the JJ connection you all have been talking about - Hotch has a gentle but protective way with them. Kind of like Morgan and Garcia. In any case, there's a lot of love (platonic, I mean) between BAU members and we really saw that in this finale. Everyone was sweet to one another...except Kevin. Lose the girl, Kevin.

I kid, I kid, he was great too.

So they've clearly left the door open for Prentiss to do some guest spots now or return if she ever decides to come back. It was nice how she didn't want to take away from JJ and Will's night, but even though so many of you hate her, I liked Prentiss and I'm sad to see her go. I was surprised (as Morgan seemed to be, too) that she'd been "unhappy" or doubting all this time, and the cracks in the foundation, you can't go home, blah blah stuff was a little too metaphorical for my liking. But I did appreciate that they finally acknowledged that they'd smoothed it over too quickly initially, even for Prentiss.

Watching that last scene where Emily walks around seeing her friends smiling, laughing, dancing (and even doing magic - love you Reid) was sad. Even though I wasn't surprised to see who was getting married, as Thomas Gibson suggested we might be (come on, it was obvious Will would live and marry JJ from the beginning of the ep), that scene really made me realize how different they'll all be once she's gone. I'm sad for what we'll have to adjust to next season, but in the words of Prentiss herself, every ending is a new beginning, too.

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Criminal Minds Season 7 Episode 24 Quotes

JJ: Will's with them. I found his wallet.
Hotch: It benefits them to keep Will alive.
Morgan: They must have a safe house set up.
Prentiss: Whoever their outside man is, that's where they're heading now.
JJ: But where? What's their end game?
Rossi: There's no logical reason, they want to create panic.

Strauss: As agent Hotchner told you, they want you to admire them. Leaving the cameras on was their way to brag about how much fear they were creating.
Hotch: We need to know what happened. Specifically the UnSubs' behavior in the minutes leading up to the blast. You'll be interviewing the survivors. They'll be in various stages of shock, but any information you might get could be the key to apprehending these suspects.