This is the fifth conversation between my friend Alasdair Stuart and myself about Criminal Minds. Here we are talking about the fourth episode of Season Ten – Boxed In . We’re cross-posting so you can find these ramblings here or at Al’s blog. There will be spoilers for everything up to and including Season 10, Episode 5. I’m talking in italics, Alasdair’s regular font.
Boxed In – 10.5
I’ll start off with an admission, I don’t like Halloween episodes. One thing I can get behind? Criminal Minds twisting things up to show what could happen at a time when faces are hidden and everyone is a potential un-sub.
What did you think of the set-up of this episode? The fake-out lost child, the maybe-it’s-not-a-confession and the ticking clock?
About ten years ago a movie came out called The Hole. Starred Thora Birch I think. The opening scene is a sunshine dappled British country lane. Dead silence. Then a pair of bloody, sock-covered feet stumble into view. The camera pans up and you see the lane is LINED with hundreds of missing children posters. The camera pans up some more and Birch, looking like she’s been through Hell, stumbles catatonically into a posh school. She just misses groups of people and no one knows she’s there until she picks up a phone and dials 999. The operator gets to ‘99-’ before she starts screaming and screaming and screaming.
Smash cut to titles.
One of the single best cold opens I’ve ever, ever seen. I liked the cold open here a lot, firstly because it evoked that and secondly because I felt it spoke to two motifs I’m seeing constantly in season 10; complexity and mundanity. The complexity comes from the fakeouts and the mundanity comes from the fact the show has always excelled at normal people. I love that mom, and kid, are both switched on, sensible people. I love more the quite, skin crawling horror of the guy who confesses to the murder just for some prison cred. The best thing though? Was the fact they all but knew he was full of crap from the moment they stepped into the room.
The one thing that I felt lacking in this one was threat – with keeping them for 364 days it didn’t feel as drastic as it usually does. Once the boy had been taken it was more a slow mystery than a race to find Bidwell.
Character as always was brilliant, the spread was pretty even (obviously with a Hotch leaning) but we got some nice and very subtle reminders of each of our main characters. I love that Kate is classed as a parent by herself and the team without question; Garcia knowing someone who can get a Vader costume; Reid reciting the old report from memory; JJ realising that Mrs Bidwell had killed her husband; Rossi taking no crap from the witness; Morgan working so well alongside Kate and seeing Hotch with Jack.
There really was an embarassment of riches of lovely character moments this week wasn’t there? We’ll get to Hotch in a sec but the two I really wanted to single out were the subtlest. Like you say, Reid reciting the report from memory was wonderful. Early seasons would have made that a joke but I adored that the others picked up on it and that they literally told him to have at.
The Callahan/mom moment was another lovely touch. Firstly because it shows, for the first time, a slight chink in Callahan’s relentless competency. She’s done so much off the books work she’s slightly unsure around non suspects. The crack about her parenthood rattled her, and it was really nice work from Jennifer Love Hewitt showing that.
But for the first time in a while, this was a Hotch episode for me. When they write him well, he’s the smartest, kindest and saddest person in the room and we saw all of that here. We also saw Hotch as Dad repeatedly; literally with Jack, substitutionally with the missing boy and metaphorically with the team. Really lovely, subtle writing.
Also Madame Bouvier is wonderful and I demand she return. Preferably in the karaoke episode. And wonderfulness aside, her very direct ‘The world needs more good fathers’ was the moment of real emotional impact for me. Just beautifully done.
I loved Madame Bouvier as well. She can be in it any time, as often as possible. I actually took issue with the ending with Hotch, I found it cliche and was rolling my eyes at the gazes-wistfully-out-of-plane-window and home to Jack on the sofa. It just went too far for me.
Oh God yes that was awful especially as the opening was so damn good. The show doesn’t do bad that often but that misjudged window shot is right up there as one of the all time greats.
There seems to be a definitive move away from the, for want of a better word, supervillains of previous seasons. How do you feel about that?
I actually miss it a little bit. I loved the opening four of this season being all about the team and focusing on very small details but I also really like the arc – the last couple of episodes have felt a little bit slow, and I’m not left thinking about them. They seem to pass and are good and entertaining but I’ve not been as pulled in as usual.
If I’d asked that question a week ago, I’d have said no I like the new self-contained sort of feel they’re going for. But you’re right. We’re 5 weeks in now and we’ve had Callahan sit with basically everyone, spotlight episodes for Garcia, Callahan and Hotch and, so far that’s it. I’m ready for the next big arc I think.
Agreed. I hope things are not retro-fitted into an arc that we’ve not noticed because they’ve not given us enough of an indication but I would like to see a move towards something. Or even a couple of two-part episodes/large scale shows.
One thing that I keep coming back to – minor characters. Dr. Rasgotra, Sandra Bidwell, Bouvier, they cast their small roles so carefully that it really elevates the show. From the very smart Mum at the beginning right through to Mary Bidwell (still see her as a cop!) it was brilliantly done.
Absolutely. Like you I’m ready for them to stretch out a bit and, let’s face it, an episode where nice things happens to Hotch is surely the harbinger of the apocalypse. I swear he and Will Graham meet up once a week for a doom off. Either way I suspect something’s coming.
And absolutely, these last few episodes, and this in particular, have embodied that. The small characters feel human and relatable and that helps give the show a very different feel.
So, here’s to an arc plot and more great supporting players.