Criminal Minds Review: No Fork in the Family Tree

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It was difficult to decide which was more deliciously bizarre in this unique episode: the crazy murders involving barbed wire and the brute strength twisting of heads... or the revelation about the stunted family tree.

In the end, the tree won out. 

On Criminal Minds Season 9 Episode 20 the BAU team was called to investigate two murders in Wheeling, West Virginia, in which both victims belonged to opposite sides of feuding families.

Both the BAU and the families themselves were sure that someone from each of the clans was targeting the other. The BAU was certain that the reason had to do with their family businesses, which they thought likely involved meth.

They were all wrong. 

The murders had nothing to do with inter-family hate, nor did they have to do with their livelihood. In fact, the BAU finally discovered that they were producing biofuels, not meth.

Turns out the Unsub was just about as twisted as the family tree from which he fell. His adopted mother had died (who he was keeping literally on ice) and he just wanted to know his family history. 

He knew he was a product of incest, but he wanted to know if his birth mom had cared for him at all. Ugh. 

This episode was truly cringe-worthy and was offered up - I'm sure with glee - under the excellent direction of Matthew Gray Gubler. 

Like all exceptional Criminal Minds episodes, this one didn't portray - or needed to portray -  any bloody violence to be good. Instead, there was just the suggestion of it, thereby allowing viewers to engage their imaginations. 

We didn't see the woman get her head ripped off by the chains of a fleeing car: we just knew that's what happened. 

Similarly, we saw the shaking boots of the guy who was first murdered and then heard the sickening crack, which indicated his head had been twisted beyond its natural bounds. Gruesome, terrible and as close to perfect as you can get for a series like this.

Adrienne Barbeau, who played Cissy Howard, was a joy to watch, as it seems she always is. The intensity of her determination to protect her family was utterly stark and believable. As was her shame when finally confronted by her distorted son.

I've never seen Tobin Bell (who played Malachi Lee) before, but his bleary-eyed dismissive contempt of JJ and the BAU is deserving of mention as well. 

As for the story, I'm actually glad they never caught the Unsub. In fact, once JJ assured Blake that he had to be dead - I mean, they shot at least thirty bullets into the water and in fact Rossi had to reload -  you knew right away that he wasn't.

Of course, this means we haven't seen the last of this Unsub, whose name we never learned. 

Now it's your turn. What did you think of this story? Try out the poll and then expand on your answer in the comments!

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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 20 Quotes

Blake: Start shooting! Start shooting!
Morgan: Where?
Blake: Everywhere!

JJ: How are you doing?
Blake: My hair smells like a dirty sock but...other than that, I'm fine.
JJ: Okay. How are you doing?
Blake: I just, I couldn't breathe.
JJ: We put 30 bullets into that water. He's dead, Alex. He's dead.