After 14 Seasons, Criminal Minds Tries To Find A Way To Surprise – And Disappoints

Is Criminal Minds just coasting along on over a decade's worth of nostalgia value? Have the show's wheels fallen off completely? Yes.

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Criminal Minds is the longest running TV show I follow – I’ve been faithfully watching since season 1. Initially, it was because of the good writing and well-developed characters. I liked that for the most part, these law enforcers stand firmly on the side of morality and goodness. They offer a much-needed contrast to the monsters they profile and hunt for a living. Time, however, has not been on Criminal Minds’ side. The writing and storylines have gotten more ridiculous, and a lot of what I enjoyed about the show – namely the profiling – has now gone out of the window in favour of Penelope Garcia’s (Kirsten Vangsness) magic IT abilities. This includes creating HD quality photos from a source that is so pixelated it looks like Tetris. Not to mention the sheer instantaneous discovery of information from traits and factors given by the team. Sometimes I wonder why they need such a large team when Garcia only needs a few people to aid her in her one-woman show.

We then had the departure of significant characters, like Prentiss (Paget Brewster), Morgan (Shemar Moore) and much to everyone’s shock, Hotch (Thomas Gibson) bid his farewell without even appearing on screen. Thomas Gibson’s rough behaviour with a producer had gotten him fired from the show, and with his swift removal we received Brewster returning to reprise her role as Emily Prentiss. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Emily Prentiss, but at the same time, it was disappointing to see one of my favourite characters on the show disappear into that good night. Couldn’t they have negotiated something that would give his character a proper send-off? Unfortunately, Gibson’s behaviour was too incorrigible for any sort of reconciliation, so out he went.

At this point, I’m merely going through the motions of watching Criminal Minds. This means multitasking while each episode plays on, with very few episodes managing to hold my attention in this penultimate season. The only reason for my continuance is due to my years of investment – I want to see how it all ends.

This brings me to the final episode of season 14. Once again, I was watching the show from my periphery, rolling my eyes a little at the B.A.U (Behavioural Analysis Unit) playing poker in the middle of a work day – the serial killers must be on holiday or something. JJ (A.J. Cook) decides to go all in, pushing her large stash of skittles into the big cash pile. Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) smirks in reaction to this big show of confidence, believing her to be bluffing because she has a tell.

As the team goes about revealing their hands, it seems that Reid is on his way to a win, until JJ reveals her cards and we see that she has the winning hand. Her statement to Reid: “I guess I am a better liar than you know.” This scene caught my attention, not because of what she said, but more so the crazy amount of eye contact Reid and JJ were sharing. This pricked at my gut, however, I pushed my suspicions aside. Come on, it’s Reid and JJ, he’s the godfather to her children, she is a happily married woman – of course I was imagining things.

The episode meanders along dully, until the showdown between JJ, Reid and the Truth/Dare assailant. To stall him, JJ challenges him to a game of truth or dare. The premise of this is asinine – there is no one so consumed with this game that they cannot resist playing it with anyone who asks. Just when we thought this was going to be the most boring season finale ever, the unsub (unidentified subject of an investigation) forces JJ to tell him her darkest secret, something she would never think to say aloud. After her first few attempts at secret-telling get shot down, she then confesses that she has loved Reid all along. Wait, what? Oh, she’s probably lying (I think to myself), the opening scene demonstrated she is a better liar than we think, so all this emotional leaking is just for show. That is until the confrontation ends, but JJ and Reid are still exchanging looks filled with overflowing subtext.

As we move to Rossi’s wedding scene, I was still in a state of disbelief that this was happening. They were still giving each other longing glimpses, made all the more awkward by the presence of JJ’s husband Will. JJ finally walks over to Reid to clear the air, spinning a tale of how her confession had been a lie she told to satisfy the truth/dare unsub. Reid addresses her as Jennifer, which he only called her once before, and with utmost seriousness asks her if what she said has a ring of truth to it. Her hesitation gives us all we need to know.

My concern is that this unfolding of events makes JJ look unprofessional and incompetent. In the course of their careers in the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), I think they have come up against greater adversaries than truth/dare man, so the fact that she broke down and allowed herself to be so vulnerable in front of a man who didn’t seem all that threatening just doesn’t seem plausible.

This revelation has left some Criminal Minds fans outraged. They feel that this coupling is a contrived way to add drama to the final season. Reid and JJ’s relationship should have stayed the way it was – best friends/siblings. Then there are the shippers, who have been waiting for this moment ever since season 1. In the fourth episode of season 1, Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) gives Reid tickets to a Redskins game so that he can ask JJ out on a date.

But after that, the storyline never got picked up. So we assume that Reid might not have made his romantic intentions clear, or JJ friendzoned him. Apparently the writers were too afraid to explore a romantic path between the two, which is why we got a more platonic development instead. In season 14 episode 1, we learn that JJ invited Penelope to come along with them, which indicates she might not have known it was a date. This is basically the set-up that allowed them to circle back and tackle this missed opportunity. The problem is, it feels a bit too late.

JJ has settled down with Will and they have made a beautiful family together. Why would she recklessly risk that for something with Reid? This is not to say that Reid is not worth it; I just don’t see how they can manoeuvre it without her coming across as a cheater. Let’s discuss the options shall we? One option is to kill Will and do a flashforward, but this feels a bit too convenient. Another possibility is that Will himself proposes a separation, so JJ is free to explore her relationship with Reid and not look like the bad guy. An affair between the two is probably not in the cards since it would be out of character for either one to engage in such behaviour.

With only 10 episodes left in the final season of Criminal Minds, I don’t see how they can properly develop a romantic relationship between the pair as well as wrap up the series. Don’t forget, the Chameleon (Michael Mosley) storyline also needs to be put to bed. There was also the inclusion of a weird subplot, where we find out Simmons’ (Daniel Henney) wife is pregnant – not sure why we needed this little tidbit of information.

After all the horror and nonsense they put Reid through, especially with the whole Mauve storyline and his false imprisonment, I would love to see him get a happy ending. However, I don’t think JJ is the right person to help him get there. They should have planted the seeds long ago if they wanted this to be where the characters ended up. The show has been quite resistant in pairing up members of the team romantically, which was to its advantage. The focus and draw of Criminal Minds is the profiling and crime-solving aspect, and having team members be romantically involved  just dilutes that.

I gave Criminal Minds 14 years of my life, so however they choose to end the series, it better be goddamn tantalising – otherwise I might do a Thomas Gibson and accidentally tap someone with my leg.

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