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. 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.
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. Reid (Gubler) who is a genius but lacks the necessary skills to have much of a social life. Agent Morgan (Moore) is the dynamic soul of the team, possessing an unending supply of energy to drive their investigations. JJ (Cook) is the public face of the team, handling liaison duties with local law enforcement and also the team’s press relations. In a command center that rivals the bridge of the Enterprise is Agent Garcia (Vangsness) who handles the computer research while the rest of the team is in the field. Agent Greenway (Glaudini) leaves this season to make room for new Agent Prentiss (Brewster), an agent out to prove her career was not the result of family connections. Together they travel to hot spots throughout the country to help local cops and feds with hard to capture UnSubs (what the team calls the criminal, and means Unknown Subject).
The season is jam packed with some very intriguing cases. I think this might well have turned into the best procedural on television right now. I still like the original CSI quite a bit, but this series now has the better characters and stories. The season picks up with last season’s cliffhanger. Agent Hotchner is dealing with hearing loss following his narrow escape when his SUV blew up as the season ended. What else is going on in season 4? A killer uses a virus and Reid is exposed. There’s a stand-off between the FBI and a crazy cult leader. Cops are the target of a killer but don’t take the BAU’s involvement very well. They want to handle it themselves. A psychic helps the BAU find a killer who murders and then embalms women. I guess he was trying to save the funeral homes some work. A priest is exorcising people to death, and I don’t mean on a treadmill. And a truck driver goes all Death Race 2000 on his victims. All in all it’s a very solid season for a very good series that just doesn’t seem to get the credit or the audience it deserves. Even though there are connected story lines, you really can jump in on any episode and be able to enjoy the show. I highly recommend this one to anyone who hasn’t discovered it yet. I’m afraid the ratings will soon be the death of what has become a very compelling television drama.
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 up front 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.
Working The Scene: Several select episodes include these roughly 5 minute inside looks at particular scenes and how they were created.
The rest of the extras can be found on the last of the 7 disc set.
Profiles: You can select each of the 7 main characters and watch a 2-4 minute profile. The annoying thing here is that there is no play all option, and each time you select a character you have to wait until the screen pans to their photograph on a huge board before you can actually select them. If you want to go the last name you have to wait while all 6 previous names recycle on the board one by one before you can select it. A lot of work for a very small feature.
Gag Reel: (4:35) The typical stuff here.
I didn’t think I could like this show as much without Pantankin. He really was a strong presence for the first two years. Last season was all about transition, and it was as awkward as I expected. But, you know what? The show has picked up steam again and hasn’t suffered at all in the loss of its signature actor/character. Joe Mantegna is a force to be reckoned with here. He has quickly established excellent chemistry with the team. You just have to give this one a try. One episode and you’ll be hooked for life. Each episode is supercharged with tight story writing, great characters and perfect actors to play them, a style that is unique but never distracting, and interesting bad guys. Still the ratings aren’t what I expect. “Is that not enough?”