This was a public-service announcement, in episodic form.
Prescription-drug addiction is at the heart of Criminal Minds Season 13 Episode 11.
It effectively drove home the message that anyone can become addicted to opioids.
The victim, in this case, was Trish, the wife of a police chief. Trish had gotten addicted to oxycodone after a miscarriage a couple of years previously.
Trish had been gaining headway against her addiction. After she got cut off from painkillers, her husband Steve had served as her enabler. Using his prescription, he was helping her to tail off the number of drugs she was taking.
Was he wrong to take this approach? Legally, probably. Medically, he seemed to have a handle on it. Morally, I'd say no, because he was just trying to help the woman he loves to deal with a difficult medical condition.
Trish was but one person struggling in a small Virginia town with a higher-than-average prescription-drug abuse rate. It was one of many such rural communities dealing with the opioid crisis.
It's a crisis with no end in sight, as any solution is getting bogged down in political infighting.
This is not the norm for the BAU, which is why they struggled to get a line on it. There is no monster in a man's shape at the center of it.
It was simpler to suspect that Chief Gaines was abusing his wife, which was why she made frequent ER visits. Accidents resulting from her addiction weren't as obvious a possibility.
Instead, they had to grasp the faceless entity of Big Pharma and its retained legions of prescription-peddling physicians. Finding a twisted soul who was abused as a child is so much easier.
With a drug epidemic, it's the soccer mom, the volunteer coach, the PTO member. They're jonesing for their next fix, just like any junkie in a gutter in any major city. They only appear more respectable.
The team's members could tell the citizens were lying to them. But with so many protecting themselves and their own, It was challenging to separate shame from guilt. There was a whole town of suspects, many of whom were also victims.
Getting a handle on these addicts' secrets was a difficult task for the BAU. It was an informational hour with team members dropping eye-opening statistics throughout. A ripped-from-the-headlines approach isn't the norm for Criminal Minds, but it certainly worked in this case.
It wasn't trying to get her next fix that got Trish in trouble, but rather her trying to stay straight. She made a call to a helpline for reinforcement, but instead, it brought pain, and she almost died. She sought help, and it almost cost her dearly.
Shelly was driven by self-interest, which caused her to become the secret power behind many of the area's drug helplines. That way, she could keep an eye out for any addict that threatened the stability of her family: her well-meaning physician husband and Justine, her sister Kat's daughter whom they had figuratively adopted as their own.
That's what drove her to kill Assistant Chief Mackenzie and almost Trish because she saw them as a threat to her way of life. I felt especially sorry for Mac, who got too close to the truth while just doing his job of protecting his town's citizens.
What made Shelly a monster is that she was willing to sacrifice her sister, using the logic that Kat killing herself was ultimately for Justine's benefit. Maybe she was just at the end of her rope when it came to Kat, but that's no excuse.
One of the most heartwarming moments in an unusually heartbreaking episode came when Reid talked with Trish's daughter, Dana. He drew on his pain of having a troubled mother to comfort and encourage Dana, to give her guidance on how to deal with the anger she was feeling.
Once again, Matthew Gray Gubler proved his importance to the cast, just as the last few episodes exposed how the series is lacking without him.
Welcome back, Reid! No more sabbaticals!
Fortunately, the BAU was able to crack the communal cone of silence in time to keep any other addicts from suffering worse fates. No solutions were offered, but at least one family was reunited.
SPOILER ALERT: Here's an original concept for Criminal Minds Season 13 Episode 12: brutal murders in Central Park. That's never been done before.
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Did you enjoy having Reid back? Was this episode a public service? Did it humanize a national crisis? Comment below.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.