It's finally time to reunite with the BAU team.
But as Criminal Minds: Evolution Season 1 Episode 1 shows, this team has been through the ringer.
It may take their most significant unsub yet to reunite them for good and mend their broken spirits.
The more things change, the more they stay the same in the Criminal Minds world.
When last we saw the team, it had disbanded, sent in different directions within the organization and outside of it. Thanks to useless bureaucrats, the BAU is still under attack, and it's harder than ever for them to prove their value.
So many hours were spent during Criminal Minds run worrying over the bureau, and whether the BAU would be sacrificed for, well, I never understood what for.
Now, we've got a dude named Bailey who believes sacrificing the BAU, possibly for good, will send him leaping up the government food chain.
With the ridiculous pull of the FBI into directions that embarrass the hell out of us in real life, this storyline doesn't even feel off. While I have no respect for the FBI, those working within have my respect, and they don't deserve to work under such circumstances.
To make matters worse, this Bailey character is two-faced. You cannot trust a word he says.
Prentiss: You can't be serious.
Bailey: I'm just the messenger, but the higher-ups were very clear. All costs associated with moving the shipping container come out of the BAU's budget.
Tara: Director, with all due respect, this team has done everything you've asked. We've done more with less. We've scrimped. We've saved.
Prentiss: And, as section chief, I am allowed discretionary spending.
Bailey: I made that point. They said you don't have that much discretion. I'm sorry, Emily. You can't win against the bean counters. [walks away]
Tara: What a crock of shit.
Prentiss: It's like we're being punished for being good at our job.
It was apparent as soon as he mentioned higher-ups that he was speaking as them, not on their behalf.
Tara's new relationship with DOJ Rebecca solidified that for the team, which at least gives them a target. They need to prove that a network of serial killers is domestic terrorism.
Can we all just agree that the term domestic terrorism is bunk? It became a catch-all to stifle dissent and mark dissenting thinkers in the worst way possible. No, I'm not worried about domestic terrorism, but of course, the FBI's money would be aimed there.
What really terrorizes me is the idea what casual connections in life can come back to haunt me. That's what Elias Voit and his network use to lure victims to their doom. It's the most egregious violence because it uses people's kindness (and sometimes, their kink) against them.
Elias has been working the system and succeeding for at least 17 years. While the idea is that he used the pandemic to wrangle his cult into performing alongside him, he didn't need a pandemic. Incels were online and alone, in desperate need of inclusion well before the pandemic.
There are all kinds of people who use social media and forums to satisfy their need for connection. That's where Elias Voit found his cult members, and that's where the cult finds its victims.
Utilizing the remote Garcias at a time when IT mastery is required doesn't get the job done. After Prentiss used every ounce of influence she had to circle the team to work on these cases, there was still a missing link -- the real Garcia.
The special agents are still with the bureau, even if pulled in different directions.
They no longer worked together but independently with law enforcement across the country.
It's not ideal for a team that succeeds by bouncing ideas off of one another and feeding each other their strengths for collective wisdom.
Garcia, though, was never a special agent. She was a civilian who worked with the FBI. She saw more than any civvy should, and she escaped for her sanity when the door opened.
Luring her back to the team wasn't going to be easy, but when one of the unsubs used her "safe" app, Soar, to hunt for victims, she had no choice but to return.
She missed the people and hated the work, but when her own work led people to harm, she put her fears and self-love aside for the greater good.
Garcia, with her crazy attire and funky glasses, always had a smile on her face. She was the team's heart, and without it, her friends disappeared within themselves, especially Rossi.
Rossi has been grieving the loss of his wife, and if Garcia hadn't mentally slapped him around a bit, he might not have been able to move on. You may say that I'm giving her presence too much credit, but when sunshine spits in your face, you take heed.
You don't know what it took me to dive in, and I want to help, and I'm going to, but nobody talks to me like that anymore, especially not people I love. So, bye.Garcia
What's really terrifying about this season is how seemingly disparate cases are all connected. What if there are Elias Voits in this world? Would we even know about it?
We have a new mass shooting every couple of hours in the US. Is it so hard to believe that they all feed from the same trough?
There may not be one man sharing his tips, tricks, and kill kits, but it doesn't seem too far-fetched that our society has created a violence delivery mechanism that's impossible for some to resist.
The media feeds us only what the government wants us to know, and it's unlikely they'd want us to know our online connections aren't safe.
We know to be on the lookout for financial and child predators, but if there were a network feeding violent acts, they'd investigate it while keeping us in the dark.
When I watched the two-episode premiere, seeing a family massacred was frightening. And then four college kids were slaughtered in Idaho and another three in Virginia. This isn't TV, it's become our reality.
There are moments across the two episodes that really stuck with me. The first was when the grieving grandmother said that she never imagined that while she was raising her child, trying to keep her safe from harm, another mother was allowing her child to become a killer.
It's not as simple as that, of course, but there are signs when something is amiss. You can't blame a mother of a troubled kid for wanting to believe those signs are anomalies. Being a parent of a child who becomes violent is a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation.
You call attention to it, and you're a bad parent, overreacting to normal childhood ills. You fail to call attention to it, and you're responsible for allowing it to thrive.
The only answer is to cut people some slack and be compassionate no matter where a parent falls. Try to empathize with the impossible position any loving parent is in with a troubled kid. Maybe that would allow them the strength to ask for help.
Criminal Minds: Evolution Season 1 Episode 2 focused on troubled minds of a different kind and how couples in relationships often reach outside of their marriage with the hope of keeping it together.
I'm not even going to pretend to understand. As a jealous person, monogamy is the only possibility in my life. I can't help but think that those cuckolds looking for bulls (am I even using the terminology right?) during "Sicarius" wish they had been the same.
But there was a good discussion on the driving behavior, set off by the episode's quote.
It is claimed that Oscar Wilde wrote, "Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power," except he didn't. Nobody knows who wrote it.Tara
The power dynamic in those relationships was off. There was also a discussion about how fear drives even the basest desires, which helped JJ and Will rediscover each other.
Everyone processes things differently, and even if someone else's kink seems wrong to us, they deserve the space to do what they want without being afraid for their lives. Too often these days, people want to punish your behavior based on their beliefs. Two consenting adults and all that jazz.
So, what do we take away from all of this?
By the end of the two hours, it looked quite grim. Elias Voit isn't a monster in the eyes of the world. He's a devoted husband and father to two daughters. Zach Gilford's casting makes so much sense now. With his good looks and affable demeanor, he could easily ride between two worlds.
We hear all the time about serial killers being just the best. Ted Bundy's charisma was well noted. Jeffrey Dahmer had lots of friends. People felt betrayed by what they learned about them. Most times, what's on the outside doesn't reflect the monster inside any more than it reflects someone's kink.
We walk through life having no idea who walks among us. Our desire to connect and share can lead to our doom, as the poor girl working at the hardware store learned.
Her gut told her that something with Elias was off. What he purchased would have done the trick. But her nerves got the better of her; she overshared and lost her life.
I'm really looking forward to the introspection this season will allow us. We've been through something so significant and life-altering that it will take a long time to recover, and it's possible our very existence has been altered forever.
The Criminal Minds universe has never been just about crime but digs deep into our nature. It's just as much about our everyday fears as it is about an unsub's motivations.
After the last few years, there's more to unpack than ever, and how the Criminal Minds: Evolution team brings it to light promises much. Maybe it will even help us to process the stunning violence we're subjected to daily.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.