Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2011-01-09 Entry: "Criminal Minds - "Extreme Aggressor""

Sticking with the science/detective theme, we've got another CBS 2005 drama, only this one is still airing...

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio: 5.1 Dobly Surround.

Jason Gideon - Mandy Patinkin
Aaron Hotchner - Thomas Gibson
Derek Morgan - Shemar Moore
Elle Greenaway - Lola Glaudini
Spencer Reid - Matthew Gray Gubler
Penelope Garcia - Kirsten Vangsness

Seattle, and it's raining. Although, as it's a TV show and it always rains in Seattle in a TV show, I shouldn't be all that surprised. There's an orange car, and a potential purchaser wanting to take it for a test drive. Unfortunately, once the test drive is over, the owner locks the woman in the car and then proceeds to abduct her.

Back in DC, we see the very pregnant Haley Hotchner and her husband Aaron. The smooth socialiser, Derek Morgan. The academic Jason Gideon (and his student, Spencer Reid). There's something about Boston in Gideon's past, but Morgan and Hotchner both want him back running the Behavioural Analysis Unit to catch the guy in Seattle.

The random psychological quotes given by people at the start of the episodes as they're flying somewhere is a little odd; it's a nice hook but whether it substitutes for a title sequence is hard to say. Jason is suffering from PTSD but it's been six months. Morgan is their expert on obsessional crimes, while Dr Spencer Reid is an expert on everything (eidetic memory, IQ in the high 180s, 3 PhDs).

Procedures - coming up with a profile before they've looked at the suspect list to keep them unbiased. Ah, and more Gideon back-story - he caught the guy in Boston, but it cost them six agents to do so. But Gideon is really good at his job - he's able to come up with a profile even when the rest of the team are still wrangling with the inconsistencies.

Ah, and finally Elle Greenaway shows up as an undercover agent there to help arrest the "unsub." She's got a background in sex offender cases and although she's not currently part of the BAU, she wants a job there. There are inconsistencies with their suspect as well - he's got no wounds on him even though the the victims all fought back; his room is a mix of childhood things and obvious smarts (plays Go, computer is protected by really serious security software, he's read Jason Gideon's scientific papers).

Aaron's concerned that Jason isn't really up to doing the job, but he's good enough to realise there's a second "unsub" - a dominant personality that their current suspect has a relationship with. Hey, and there's Penelope Garcia at the "Office Of Supreme Genius" - she's the Behavioural Science Unit's hacker/tech-person - although in this instance she can't get around the suspect's security software.

They get a second suspect when they're at the prison looking into their current suspect - Richard - and it's one of the guards. It's the prison guard who owns the orange car, but he's switched cars with one of his colleagues so Jason and Elle are chasing the wrong car. Spencer manages to work out what the password to the computer is, and they get video footage of the current abductee - who isn't dead yet.

Aaron uses the evidence of the video footage to try and bluff Richard into giving up where the girls are being held. Jason and Elle make it to the boat just as the girl tries to escape and Gideon manages to taunt the suspect into throwing the girl away and shooting at him instead - giving a clear line-of-fire for Elle.

The bit at the end of the show with Jason stumbling onto another serial killer is a bit silly, and something that never really gets explained away once the show goes on, so I'm not entirely sure why it's in there... Ah, no, I wasn't paying attention - it's the killer he was talking about in his lecture at the start of the episode, and they open with the immediate follow-up to it at the start of the second episode.

It's not a bad opener - it's a bit slower than Numb3rs, but then it's played as a much more cerebral show, with the team trying to get into the head of the "unknown subject" rather than running around in the field. Mandy Patinkin is awesome as always, and it's nice to see Thomas Gibson doing serious dramatic work. Matthew Gray Gubler does a reasonable job as the one-note Spencer Reid. Shemar Moore and Lola Glaudini are playing much less well defined characters - Derek Morgan doesn't appear to have any characteristics you could immediately call out, and Elle is simply described as "impatient", so we'd need to see more of the series before their fleshed out properly. Kirsten Vangsness is completely throw-away in this episode - they call her and then immediately move on and we don't see her again, so either they're just establishing the character of there was more there that got cut.

Ignoring for a moment that this is an almost exact remake of the short-lived Stephen J Cannell show, "Unsub", this one manages to get a likeable cast, and a reasonably entertaining opening story. Considering this one's still airing (and has just got a spin-off show), it must be doing something right!

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