That was a compelling and intense, edge-of-your-seat story, from beginning to end!
Morgan's walk through darkness was gritty and awful. We normally see him as one of the strongest members of the group, almost impervious to harm.
Yet harm came, on Criminal Minds Season 11 Episode 16.
The story began right where we left off in the last episode, with Morgan being captured by a group of unknown assailants.
They took him to a remote farmhouse, attached him to a metal cross, stuck electrodes on him to monitor his vitals, and began to go to town on him.
Watching a character we all know and love get beaten and tortured within an inch of his life was tough to watch. Still tougher was seeing them apply the white phosphorus to him, and then watching them light it up with a heated knife.
Just that scene alone, with the glowing line down Derek's chest while he grimaced in unbelievable pain was almost overwhelming. A quick search for the properties of white phosphorus reveals the extent to which that substance can do damage.
For starters, its ignition point is less than body temperature, and it burns incessantly. Even smothering it only stops it for a short time, until it's exposed again to oxygen, at which point it re-ignites.
Small wonder then, that he had to go searching for a chemical (courtesy of the memory of Reid's research) that would stop the burning.
Morgan was probably the best candidate they could have chosen for their sadistic games. He had lots of experience in practicing disassociation – a proven method to provide a mental escape while pain is going on. His horrific teenage years when he was sexually abused started him down that path (as his father Hank) reminded him.
Speaking of Hank....what a great vehicle to allow Morgan to coldly access important information and methods to figure his way out of the seemingly airtight trap in which he found himself.
At certain points it became hard to tell whether Hank was just a necessarily tool of his subconscious, or was a real spirit who has watched over him for thirty years. Morgan needed to hear his father's affirmation, and expressions of love and pride in his son.
Morgan had blamed himself for years for not doing more to escape his abuse in his teenage years. It's hard to imagine his subconscious mind absolving him of that shame. That's what made Hank's presence so key, and possibly more than just a trick of his mind.
Derek's initial turning of the tables, when his father told him to wait...wait....and then pounce on the bad guys, shooting most of them dead, came as such a relief, didn't it?
That is, right up until we found out he was hurt far worse than we thought, and that he realized he was in a very remote location with no way out.
Still, the action of that scene was almost breathtaking in its cumulative violence. Almost as visceral as Reid showing up and blasting away at the last bad guy.
Similarly, Derek's single-mindedness in going after the phone chip by opening up the leader's gullet to grab it and then insert it into the phone was intense.
Everything that happened in that room was just so well-written, acted and directed. There wasn't a single wrong note. Every action had us on the edge of our collective seats.
It was all just so engaging and complete.
Even the one note of humor was well done (and at that point, quite necessary to relieve the tension):
Hank: Does she cook a lot?
Morgan: No, I do. She can't cook worth a damn. I know dinner's ready when the smoke alarm goes off. She knows it too. She hates her cooking almost as much as I hate eating it.
Shemar Moore's amazing acting has rarely been so finely displayed as it was in this story: from the pain of his torture, to the mental anguish of his regrets, and ultimately to the joy of the discovery of Savannah's pregnancy. He chewed on some meaty writing and gave up pure brilliance.
The icing on the cake had to be that last scene, where they talked about their coming child, and the marriage proposal.
Man, this was some truly great TV!
- Thomas Gibson directed this fine episode, and he did an outstanding job.
- What a treat to see Danny Glover playing Hank. He played the role of Derek's understated and wise father to perfection. They couldn't have cast a better man for the role, because there just isn't one.
- Of course we're left with a few outstanding questions: who ordered the torture? What were they after? Was Morgan supposed to be killed? Is the rest of the team still in danger? Guess we'll have to tune in for the remainder of the season to find out.
- Join us in two weeks when we review Criminal Minds Season 11 Episode 17, entitled "The Sandman."
- In the meantime, you can always catch up on missed shows when you watch Criminal Minds online.
What did you think of this nail-biter? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.