Criminal Minds Evolution Season Premiere Review: What is Gold Star?

at .

Criminal Minds reveals a slightly different direction in the season premiere episodes when the team goes against everything they believe in working with Elias Voit because of his Gold Star knowledge.

Hopefully, you've been following along with Everything We Know leading into the premiere. Now, we've got thoughts about that and the Gold Star reveal in general, as well as the potential that arises when you begin to talk about social contagions again.

Maybe you'll agree or disagree, but we're about to see if we're on the same page!

BAU at Work - Criminal Minds S17E01 - Gold Star - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Gold Star is... a Government-Trained Serial Killer???

OK. I was incredibly unimpressed that Gold Star was the code name of an unsub. Boring.

I was hoping for a big government conspiracy and coverup, with lots of promises, to confuse and conflict the BAU team members about their direction.

Related: The Age of the Renewed Limited Series: Is Network Execs' Fear of Commitment Bad For TV?

Hiding the name of a card-carrying serial killer, even if he's one with ties to the government, didn't live up to the potential shown in Criminal Minds Season 16 Episode 9, nor did it feel satisfying.

Thankfully, it got better. Voit suggested the soldier was indoctrinated to believe a great government conspiracy, and when he killed his own assassin, the walls came tumbling down, beginning his reign of terror and spurring the director of the FBI into action.

MUCH BETTER. Assuming Voit is being truthful

Garcia Is Shocked! - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Elias Voit's Purpose

Voit is still blaming Reese for his crimes, resting on the fact that stupid official dropped all charges and placed Reese under the spotlight. He's not wrong that he can get away with much as a result.

But forcing the BAU to work with him is a tough pill to swallow. Voit doesn't have the delightful characteristics of a Hannibal Lecter type, which is part of what makes Hannibal so worthy of our time.

Elias is over-confident and narcissistic, with very little understanding of the human condition. That Hannibal did have that understanding set him apart.

No, Elias isn't in the same league, and he's not meant to be, but when you lure a criminal into your orbit and use him to catch a similar-minded criminal, you kind of hope for the entertainment value, too.

I wanted to wretch when Elias manipulated the new director with his fake sob story. Would someone actually buy that? Sadly, it's 2024, and that wouldn't be surprising at all.

Lecter-Esque - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Trying to trick Elias into Answers

JJ's attempt to con Elias into answers was not good.

She continued rolling her eyes during the entire conversation. Whether that was written into the script as a way to manipulate Elias to think JJ was not so great at her job or it was, JJ's actual response was unclear.

Related: Nearly 50 Years After Fonzie Jumped the Shark TV is Still at It

Every time she entered the area, her face gave away her thoughts. I don't recall JJ being like that in the past. If she was trying to use feminine wiles to reach his love for his wife, that, too, was a bad idea.

From the outside looking in, it was a terrible tactic that didn't go as planned. He ultimately decided not to play ball with her, so whatever the reasoning behind it, it was moot.

JJ Takes Notes - Criminal Minds S17E01 - Criminal Minds: Evolution

But when Alvez took a turn, Elias came alive. He appreciated his honesty and seemingly began to be truthful himself. Elias loves talking about himself, and revealing what he knew about social contagions lit his fuse.

However, we probably don't want his fuse lit.

Voit got under Luke's skin by calling him stupid, and whatever secret he whispered into Luke's ear (I had the volume on 40 and couldn't make it out—maybe someone fears someone like Luke?) might have ignited a bad situation within the team itself.

That's not a bad approach, especially when it comes to investigating the power of suggestion, which social media makes impossible to ignore.

Luke Looks Serious - Criminal Minds S17E01 - Gold Star - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Similar Modus Operandi

Didn't Bertolli (the guy who killed himself in the opening scenes of the premiere) seem like he might be a part of Voit's online network? Voit's people killed themselves when things got tight, too.

Is the BAU getting closer to Voit only to discover that the secret he's hiding is that Gold Star is one of his own? Is it really just social contagion and his experience with it that gives him the edge?

Related: TV Moments That Give Meaning to the Word Crescendo

Voit is awfully cocksure about leading the BAU to Gold Star, but he's a nutter, so taking anything he says at face value and putting your trust into a madman is a bad idea.

JJ did get something from Elias. She realized that you wouldn't teach an assassin to cut the lingual artery. That matters since Elias's story is that Gold Star is an off-book assassin killing other assassins.

Whether it matters long term is another matter.

Desperately In Need of Help - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Rossi's Return and His Visions

Rossi is already back at work, but he's not well.

He's good at following hunches, assessing evidence, and delivering a profile. But since he's carrying on conversations with a faux Voit, we need to be concerned.

Working closely together with the criminal can't be good under any circumstances, but it's worse when you're already actively involved with him through hallucinations.

Rossi almost revealed his secret by talking out loud with faux Voit so he could confuse hallucinations and reality when both are in the same space. That might get interesting.

Joe Mantegna  - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Prentiss and Rossi Butt Heads

Rossi's kidnapping and the other events of last season aren't just affecting him.

Prentiss is struggling with losing Bailey and how she came so close to losing Rossi. With so much at stake, you'd think she would be less willing to run roughshod over Rossi's thoughts on the latest murder -- one she was attributing to Gold Star but with which Rossi vehemently disagreed.

Related: TV Shows Should Make Stars, Not Depend On Them

She outright ignored his thoughts on the matter when she told a local detective they were ready to deliver the profile.

Seeing mom and dad fight like that is super unpleasant, but if you've ever suffered from gnawing anxiety, you know how it can affect you. You don't always make rational decisions when the roof is caving in, and the roof has been caving in on the BAU for years.

Paget Brewster on Criminal Minds - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Hotch Reference

Look, it's been years since things went south with Thomas Gibson, getting him fired, but Hotch was and remains a beloved character through countless repeats across the TV universe.

So, even if it's only a quick nod used to prove a point that a man might be treated differently than a woman, even by a man that woman considers a close friend, it was impossible to miss the fleeting Hotch reference.

When these things happen, I can't help but wonder if someone might be mulling over the idea of bringing such a character back.

Gibson was fired over anger management issues, which, in contrast to the MeToo movement, seems solvable. Nobody should kick a coworker, but felons get more opportunities at redemption than a canceled actor.

We need to make it stop.

Tyler Joins the Team, and Rebecca is Close By

Tyler Returns - Criminal Minds: Evolution

Rounding out the premiere news is that the cast has expanded a bit.

Both Rebecca and Tyler were part of the cast during Season 16, but as the credits rolled, they had both been ejected professionally and romantically from their entanglements with the BAU.

Editors' Conversation: In a Nation Divided, Is Water Cooler TV a Thing of the Past?

Personally, I like both characters, but their active returns felt contrived to offer silly romance filler rather than because their characters were needed.

Are we really supposed to believe that Tyler has more contacts than anyone in the FBI? Is the DOJ going to be abutting BAU cases indefinitely for Rebecca's presence to be warranted?

Rossi and Prentiss - Criminal Minds S17E01 - Gold Star - Criminal Minds: Evolution

We'll see where the wind blows with those two. I hope it blows less in the direction of personal subplots and more in the direction of their talent.

Yes, this is coming from the person who wanted Tyler and Penelope to continue their relationship.

I guess in order to have extra characters, they need to be working with the BAU, too. That's probably why William LaMontagne Jr. is no longer on the show as JJ's hubby.

It's your turn! Do you like the season's direction so far? Have your say about the premiere in the comments below.


Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
  • 3.5 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

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 X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

Show Comments
Tags: , ,

Criminal Minds: Evolution Quotes

The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside of us while we live. -- Norman Cousins


Agent Rossi has forgotten more about serial offenders than we will ever know. The Bureau is lucky to have him leading the BAU.