Criminal Minds Review: Sniper Sniped

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It seems that the writers of Criminal Minds have really stepped up their game this season. This is a kind of episode that's going to keep fans not only coming back for more, but add new viewers to the table.

"Final Shot" gave us an engrossing and mind-warping story about an abusive VP of a private military security firm who, when he couldn't convince his wife to come back to him, wanted her dead instead.

Targeting Dallas

No doubt future episodes will feature Unsubs who somehow forget to take their meds and then go around killing everyone in a fit of fantasy rage. You know... the usual stuff.  But this story was electric, and far from the norm.

There was misdirection from the start: a sniper who somehow managed to take twelve shots, but only hit six people, thereby making the team at first think the shooter wasn't all that skilled.

The sniper took out six people at the plaza but only so that he could cover up his real victim: the social worker. Another misdirection.

Then there was all the drama about the man protecting the woman from the evil Unsub's murderous plans. It wasn't until the end that we realized - after the BAU's explanation about how snipers stay awake for 72 hours - that all of that drama was in the sniper's mind. He had made his target the subject of his "fantasy integration" in order to keep focus.

The viewers had to work to keep up with the machinations of the sniper and the Unsub, which by the way, was yet another misdirection: we were supposed to think that the abusive husband was the sniper.  Brilliant. 

And wasn't that an outstanding rifle shot by Hotch, from the balcony of the Unsub's wife? When the sniper went down and Morgan and JJ burst through his door, did you think maybe one of them took him down through the door? For a moment I did, but then realized it didn't make sense. Yet another intentional misdirection.

Some final notes:

  • Kudos to Sharon Lee Watson, who wrote this outstanding episode
  • Agent Tanya Mays was played by Eva LaRue. You may recognize her as Natalia Boa Vista on CSI: Miami.
  • Did you notice JJ's lie to Reid, when he asked her if she was worried? She compounded the lie by rubbing her face as she lied again. You have to know that Reid picked up on it. My bet is that he's choosing to ignore it, out of respect for her privacy, just as he valued his own privacy when he was communicating with Mauve last season.
  • This episode's scene stealer was Blake Gibbons, who played the white supremacist Adam "The General" Dawson. His wonderfully written - and well-acted -  dialogue is included in the many Criminal Minds quotes for this episode.
  • It was fun to see JJ and Morgan employ their profiling skills in drawing out the truth of Dawson's supposed conversion away from white supremacy. I loved watching them deliberately bait the guy by being so loving and close with each other.  
  • Though the focus wasn't on the serious problem of abusive relationships and the need to protect fleeing spouses, it was good to see it covered, particularly in terms of the need to protect some of the victims of spousal abuse. Criminal Minds has always had a good track record when it comes to issues like this.
  • The song that was playing at the end of the episode was "In the Embers", sung by Sleeping At Last.  This song is featured on the EP album entitled "Atlas: Light".

So now it's over to you. What was your impression of this episode? What do you think JJ is hiding? 

Final Shot Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (136 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter


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Criminal Minds Season 9 Episode 3 Quotes

Hotch: A sniper can wait up to 72 hours without sleeping.
Mays: Seriously?
Rossi: That's part of their training. They can stay awake for 72 hours and remain completely focused on their target.
Mays: How?
Hotch: By using a mental exercise called "fantasy integration". A sniper creates a scenarios involving a target that keeps that person at the forefront of their mind.
Morgan: Often they'll imagine a place where they're with the target, doing something together that takes time. For example, building a car.
JJ: For some, the fantasy begins the minute they're assigned a target. Then nothing will distract them.

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breath the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal - John F. Kennedy.