To the point, Criminal Minds is very compelling television. Ever since The Silence Of The Lambs and perhaps long before, we have been fascinated by serial killers and the profilers who try to get inside their heads. To see evidence of the continuing trend, one needs only look toward the success of films like Zodiac and shows like Dexter. Of course, serial killers are not the only prey this FBI team pursues, but they are certainly the marquee item on the agenda. To be sure, there are equally disturbing subjects such as arsonists, bombers, kidnappers, and rapists to give the show a touch of variety, but let’s face it, it’s the killers that keep us tuned so attentively to Criminal Minds.
Let’s not take anything away from the show’s true force here. This is an excellent cast being fed brilliant scripts playing to an awesome crew. Everything just clicks on this series, and it only got better in the second year. I am truly impressed with how much these characters are fleshed out and how much we learn about them without the need of office romance. No precious show time is squandered on excessive personal life stories. We’re given just enough to bring the characters alive beyond their team dynamic, which is quite strong. Each character is constructed through the subtle nuances the actors infuse their performance with. From the moment you watch your first episode, you will find this team believable enough to care about them and their work. Surprisingly, the show often gets muddled in a ton of exposition, but somehow it’s carried off by the cast so that you never find yourself going numb with clinical information overload. Granted, the material itself is attention-worthy, but these guys pull it off no matter how interesting the information might be. I think I’d watch Patinkin talk about toilet bowl mechanics and enjoy every minute of it. Add to the stellar portrayals a writing team second to none in the industry. The support teams do everything they need to make sure these talents are never wasted.
Agent Gideon (Patinkin) was once a brilliant FBI profiler. He let a case get too personal and lost his way. After spending time teaching, he is called back into service on the FBI’s elite Behavior Analysis Unit. Now he’s doubting himself, and after a couple of episodes leaves the unit. Obviously a storyline created by Patinkin’s desire to leave the show over creative differences. Enter Agent Rossi (Mantegna) who is actually one of the unit’s founding fathers. Agent Hotchner (Gibson) is the often stoic agent in charge who defers to Gideon’s judgment most of the time. The team also includes young Dr. Reed (Gubler) who is a genius but lacks the necessary skills to have much of a social life. Agent Morgan (
This was a season of huge changes. Beyond the departure of Patinkin, each of the characters is going through some very big changes either before the season began or during this year. Hotchner must choose between his family and the unit. His wife is growing frustrated with the long hours and the emotional toll of the job. Gideon’s departure appears to clear the way for him to make a move that could save his marriage. Reed is still struggling with the events of the previous year as well as the loss of his mentor. He’s taking Gideon’s leaving the hardest. Garcia gets shot. JJ’s going to have a baby as a result of Cook being pregnant. The team must adapt to the less nurturing and more demanding style of their new lead profiler. There’s also a matter of trust to be worked out. Again the series captures good realism. In most shows that trust issue would have been worked out in an episode or two. Here it is ongoing all season long. There are also some pushing the limits episodes with perhaps the most deviously delicious unsubs in the show’s three year run. By far the creepiest bad guy on television in a long time has to be Floyd the cannibal cook, played by Jamie Kennedy. Who could have guessed that the slacker comic had such an evil portrayal in him? The episode Lucky is one of the best yet. The season ends with one heck of a cliffhanger. One of the team is getting into an SUV that gets blown up.
Each episode of Criminal Minds is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a nice transfer that seems to work almost all the way around. Colors are near perfect reference, particularly flesh tones. Black levels are nicely rendered, adding a depth of detail to the darker scenes. It is actually some of the better lit daylight scenes which show the most serious flaws. Lighting often looks harsh and becomes very grainy and broken up. It is here that I believe you’ll find the strongest hints of compression artifact. This doesn’t happen all the time, but quite a few exterior shots display this unfortunate blemish on an otherwise excellent picture.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works. The film utilizes the common trend of using music to work a few montage images into the story. The music is not merely stereo mixes thrown into the bunch, but decent 5.1 mixes in their own right. Dialog, which is essentially the entire show, is always upfront and center where you’re sure to catch every word.
Deleted Scenes: Some of the episodes give you added footage. Nothing earthshaking here, but always a welcome addition.
The rest of the extras can be found on 3 of the 5 disc set.
Profile – Rossi/Mantegna: This runs almost 8 minutes and talks about the arrival of the Rossi character and the actor who plays him: Joe Mantegna. Most of this is his own thoughts on the role and a bit of love fest comments from the rest of the cast and crew.
Shemar Moore – Criminal Minds Wild Ride: This 6 minute piece looks at
Gag Reel: Typical stuff here.
From Script To Screen – True Night: This 12 minute feature examines one of the more unique episodes the show has aired. The unsub is a graphic novel artist, and so we see some of his monster fighting world as if it were a graphic novel. The images look like something from
Killer Roles: One of the show’s hallmarks is the absolutely great unsubs and the actors that play them. This 16 minute feature looks at some of those killer guest stars and their characters from this season.
The Criminal Elements – The Making Of Season 3: At 20 minutes, this feature looks at the struggles the show had in season 3. The leaving of Patinkin is covered, as is the writer’s strike. You’ll find it a little more candid and less promo than most of these pieces. Everything from writing, stunts, f/x, and cast is covered.
Criminal Minds survived the blow of losing their lead actor and maybe put out the best season of episodes yet in spite of it. I really liked the Gideon character and do miss him. Rossi’s not near as endearing, but the rest of the cast really stepped it up for this season. It’s almost like they felt they had something to prove. Whatever it was, you just don’t get much better crime drama than you do here. Some reviews are a real drag to write, but not this one. In fact, “I’ve been thinking about doing this all night”.