“A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another, the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one other, it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden.”
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 Rossi’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 Prentiss (Brewster) is 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 sixth season is certainly one of change and secrets. Each of the characters has some aspect of their past revealed in some dynamic way this season. I’d say that more of the episodes deal with the characters than has, up until now, been true. Reid suffers from incredible headaches that cause him to fear that his career with the unit might be coming to an end. We learn that Morgan has an aunt who has had a child missing for many years. Rossi comes face to face with the criminal who got away. It’s a wonderful episode that stars Hill Street Blues alum Daniel J. Travanti as an aged serial killer who is now suffering from Alztheimers. The scenes with Rossi and the killer are some of the best performances of the series. Prentiss has her own special two-part episode that reveals she has an international spy background, and it comes back to haunt her and the team. It leads to the departure of the character and an end of the line for actress Paget Brewster. But Prentiss isn’t the only character leaving the show. JJ played by A.J. Cook is being recruited by the President for his own staff. You won’t miss both actresses for very long as JJ will return to the series next season. Garcia is doing double duty this season as the computer tech for both teams. That double duty will end this year as the spin-off series only lasted 13 episodes. The season begins with the conclusion of the season 5 cliffhanger. The next episode deals with JJ leaving the unit. It’s rapid-fire from then on.
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.
Crime Scene: Several select episodes include these roughly 5 minute inside looks at particular scenes and how they were created. One of the best features director Charles Haid, yes, Renko from Hill Street Blues.
Gag Reel: (2:38) The typical stuff here.
Greg St. Johns Yearbook: (2:57) The director of photography offers up a production still montage.
From Script To Screen – Agent Down: (16:53) This feature takes us behind the scenes for the international story that gives Prentiss her exit.
Secrets – Making Criminal Minds Season 6: (16:27) The piece looks at the season’s highlights.
This was a very dark and character-driven season for the series. For a short time it even had a companion show. While I think many shows go too far with the private lives of the characters, we’ve gotten to know these people well enough that fans surely welcomed all of the juicy looks into their past lives. It’s important to remember that these private moments aren’t the typical sex-relationship moments but deep character drama. It’s equally important to note that the stories have not suffered one bit from these character detours. The series is still one of the best on television, no matter what evolution it has taken. “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Whatever you are, be a good one.'”