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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

That's got to be the worst case of narcissistic personality disorder I've ever seen.

So, I have this hobby/sideline, linked to the Criminal Minds addiction, of playing "name the textbook case this profiling detail came from."

The problem is, unlike Patricia Cornwell, these guys have actually read more criminology texts than I have. I can tell you where to find the backstory on the cup rings from "Blood Hungry," though, or Adrian Bale's bomb design.

Why yes, I have no life.

However, what I have got is another heap of CM meta, just-in-time delivery. Just-in-time, because the next ep, "Doubt," got Earshotted, as it concerns a series of killings on a college campus, and I don't blame CBS for pulling it, for the time being. But it does mean we will wait a while to see same. (I suspect it will air eventually.)

Anyway. I have been meaning to talk about a couple of things with regard to the show. One is leitmotifs, and the other is parent-child relationships.

So, without further ado:

One of the primary leitmotifs in Criminal Minds is the game. That game appears in the first episode, which involves a game of Go, the famous game of strategy and controlling territory (it is, in fact, reflected in the title of the first episode, "Extreme Aggressor," which is a made-up term for a particular style of play.) That motif (apparently, Reid plays Go, though we have never seen him do so) is picked up throughout the show, and used over and over again. We see our heroes playing or discussing a variety of games*, both against each other, against themselves, against bystanders, and against the bad guys.

Specifically, we often see the heroes playing games against each other (chess, gin, poker) in the safety of the jet that truepenny, IIRC, has correctly (IMNSHO) identified as their home base, their safe space. We also see them playing games against not only each other, but against other FBI agents (per "The Big Game") and in that latter situation they win. J.J. kicks ass at darts. Reid slaughters the competition in trivia games.

And when they play each other, they cheat. (Psychodrama.) It's part of the game. It's also how they interact with each other--many of the relevant conversations, throughout, take place over games.

They also cheat when they play the enemy, but we're not always shown that, exactly. The most pronounced example of this is in "Riding The Lightning," in which J.J. helps Hotch win a hand of poker. To follow that, of course, we need to know that Reid is one hell of a card player (good enough to beat everybody else on the team at poker (ep reference eludes me, just now) and alleged to be a card-counter, per "Broken Mirror**," and accused of cheating, per "Psychodrama") and we also need to know that J.J. can beat Reid at cards (Also "Psychodrama"). Some of that information, of course, is not available until the season following "Riding the Lightning."

It's a program designed to reward rewatching, in other words. They go back and pick up things they laid down before. I suspect, given my own knowledge of how I handle series work, that sometimes they lay those things down without knowing how they will use them.

It's part of the patter.

Another, related leitmotif is magic. Or, more precisely, sleight of hand. Misdirection.

Sometimes it's patent: Reid's sleight of hand in "Derailed" and "Profiler, Profiled." Frank's comments on magic tricks in "No Way Out," and of course, his crowing proclamation, "Magic time!" as every cellphone in Golconda*** starts to ring simultaneously.

Sometimes it's a little more concealed--the time tricks in the caper plot run by Gideon in "Lessons Learned," J.J.'s card tricks in "Riding the Lightning." Sometimes, we're not even told they're going on.

And sometimes, it's buried deep, as in "LDSK," when Hotch and Reid play out a game--a magic trick--under the nose of the villain, or in "Revelation," when Reid plays the same magic trick all over again. The line of patter is different, sure, but the outcome is the same.

And then there's the daddy issues.

The daddy issues, that is, and the mommy issues.

I'm thinking of this right now because the last episode, "Honor Among Thieves," while flawed, is all about the mommy and daddy issues. Specifically, there are parallels and parallels and parallels.

Of course, from the top, nobody in this show has an intact family. We don't know about Gideon's parents, but he is an absentee dad, and stands in loco paternalis to his team. Hotch lost his father at a young age, and there are suggestions that he is a child abuse survivor--and Hotch himself struggles with his role as a parent, while also being "Mom" to his team. Garcia, we know, has a stepdad. We've never heard boo about J.J.'s parents--just her aunt. But we know there was no money to send her to college. Elle's dad was a cop, killed in the line of duty. Prentiss has a strained relationship with her mom, and her dad has never been spoken off. Reid was abandoned by his father, and wound up parenting his own mother when she was made incompetent by mental illness. Morgan's father "died a hero," further deponent sayeth not very much.

They're all orphans, in other words. In one way or another, abandoned, and trying to make it right.

And we see the parenting issue raised again and again. We see parents who cover for their children, and who destroy them. ("Blood Hungry," "Charm and Harm.") We see parents who do whatever they can to protect their children--and often fail. And we see our team respond to those issues, and say some painfully revealing things. (When Hotch, in "Blood Hungry," tells the killer's mother that he would not wipe the blood of the victims off the floor, he speaks truth. And we know it, because he would not cover for Elle, or for Gideon.)

And in "Honor Among Thieves," we get that layered and layered again. Not only is there the (as rightly pointed out by other correspondents) parallel between the gang boss and his son and Gideon and Reid (And Gideon and Reid are together throughout that episode, and no, I do not think it's an accident that Reid is the same age as Gideon's abandoned son), but there are other layers too. Natalia and her father and Prentiss and her mother also serve as parallels, and I think (though there's a narrative break in the ep that impedes the interpretation) we're meant to draw a parallel between Prentiss reaching out to her mother and Natalia attacking her father.

The problem is, of course, that the key that would unlock that is missing from the ep. Which is why it is narratively broken. I suspect, sadly, it would have taken only a few scenes--and a little more intensity in the existing scenes--to salvage this episode.

Reid is itching again. The arm in his unbuttoned sleeve, more precisely.

"I thought that was where you wanted to be." I bet Ambassador Prentiss did have something to do with Little Emily's rise to BAU, and I bet Em doesn't know a thing about it.

More puns: Prentiss = "apprentice" and Prentiss also = "princess."

Gideon: "No family of their own."
Reid: "Family makes you vulnerable."
Ahem. Write your own meta, please.

"Didn't you forsake all your relatives?"
" I didn't forsake her recipes."

("Lyov. You know what it means? The lion." Again with the names and their meanings.

In other news, David Carradine Yellowbook commercial in the Keith Carradine CM episode. *dies and dead of meta love*

*a nonexhaustive survey offers: go, chess, poker, gin, darts, tetris, WoW (yes, really), a Star Trek trivia drinking game, and I am sure I have missed a few.

**the source here is questionable

***And let us talk about the town names, shall we? Golconda, Nevada. North Mammon, Pennsylvania. I am half-suspecting Sodom, Connecticut can't be far out of possibility.


I am sure there is JJ backstory.

There is *everybody* backstory.

I am shocked to discover that Shemar did not know about Morgan's backstory previous to Profiler Profiled. Because I swear there are clues.

But then, they may be doing the thing where they salt in clues and decide/reveal what they mean later.....
You have excellent timing.

I tend to think that Family (blood and chosen, broken and whole) is CM's ur-theme. Since none of the serial killers can operate with out breaking a family, it's always going to be present in a episode to some extent. And the teams' relationships, both with their own families and with each other, seem to both serve to reflect the brokenness that the serial killer must impose on the situation, but also to refract. Like Hotch in the Mafia ep, from the abuse stems (at least) two paths: killer and cop.
I agree.

It's all funhouse mirrors.

We see badguys who are the products of abuse, PTSD, rape, madness, torture, substance abuse, broken families.

...and we see good guys who are the products of the same tragedies.

It's kind of brilliant.
Reid pulled something in Profiler, Profiled?
You cannot, so soon, have forgotten:

... as it concerns a series of killings on a college campus, and I don't blame CBS for pulling it, for the time being.

I think it quite daft the way they do this whenever a movie or tv episode mirrors a recent real life too closely. So it's okay to watch a show about planes blowing up* murders in campus/high school as long as it hasn't happened in the last twelve months.


*see 24 Series Premiere
I should apologize for my ignoring the Criminal Minds; 'tis solely due to my own ignorance.
Morgan's father "died a hero," further deponent sayeth not very much

Just Morgan's mom; she says he died trying to stop a robbery. Kind of heroic, and kind of stupid.

Also notice that whenever Gideon takes charge, it's to go one on one, face to face, with an unsub or a POI (Bale in "Won't Get Fooled Again," Sara Jean in "Riding the Lightning," Jind Allah in "Lessons Learned," Frank in "No Way Out"). He says he needs his team, but once they've helped find the one responsible, he often loses that need for dialogue. Most of the time he lives in his head, anyway. He looks into that mirror and faces the evil, and the whole thing does bear a strong resemblance to a poker game. But while they do thrust and parry and feint, it isn't a game to Gideon; it's a challenge (like Frank said, a hunt), a battle, but it's also a test. He constantly checks to see if he's still good enough, strong enough to look into the mirror, still able to separate himself from the evil he doesn't want any part of. In "Broken Mirror," he measures the guy over the phone; the mirror is broken, and he only has pieces of the glass. And he seems to be the only one unaffected by the unsub's rant, because it was enough.

Sara Jean is an interesting anomaly. She was an accomplice to murder, but she didn't actually kill anyone. Her only interest was in keeping her child safe. She's a little bit of an alter ego for the mother in "Blood Hungry"; she would do anything to protect her child, but has no desire to harm anyone. And she's involved in crimes because she's afraid and hiding, not because she's trying to hide her child from the police. Protecting a criminal in "Blood Hungry"; becoming a criminal to protect an innocent child in "Riding the Lightning." And Gideon chooses Sara Jean over Jacob to interview. Is it because she's the mystery, while Jacob's the straight-up psycho killer?

I don't think so; when he goes head to head with people like Adrian Bale and Jind Allah, he pretty much has their number, but he needs something from them. He needs information from Sara Jean, too. I think it's a matter of stepping stones across the river (back to Riley's paintings there); what he feels along the way depends on who they are to him, but the objective is what counts. Gideon has a chronic case of tunnel vision, we know.

Frank is something else; he's someone who literally can't exist. He's impossible, and so evil he can't be categorized properly, it turns out. He doesn't even feel hatred, and if he did, I think he might inspire less of it in others. He's barely human, which is funny because Jane mistook him for an alien. And I guess I don't mind him being Gideon's nemesis now that I've given it some thought. He's total scum, but there's still that question nagging Gideon that needs answering, and so the hunt goes on.
It also just occurred to me that Morgan is playing the same trivia drinking game in "Extreme Aggressor" that Reid is later seen playing in "The Big Game" (speaking of games. Ahem. We also get football and soccer as pivotal elements, and of course the upcoming episode about spoiler spoiler, spoiler, and the two serial killers playing games with each other in "The Last Word," and the wordsearch puzzles in "Unfinished Business." The more I think, the more I find. (And oh, the riddle games in "The Fisher King.")) except Morgan's trivia of choice is murderers, not Star Trek.

Frank is not only an alien... he *disappears.* Literally. "The tracks just stop."

He's their X-File, and I think that's why, despite my feeling that the last scene between Gideon and Frank and Jane in "No Way Out" is burdened with painful dialogue, the X-Files homage/pastiche through the episode works so very well.

And you notice, we never have *any* context on Frank. We don't know his background, at all. Even speculation on it.

It's Frank's future that concerns them, and his crimes, not how he got that way. That makes him, as far as I know, unique among unsubs. And Gideon says to him--"Don't play me"--and of course, he does. Another game.

I think in part that scene is so awkward because of the foreshadowing dialogue they wanted to work in.

What's interesting is that Gideon says in the profile that Frank is "devoid of all Normal human emotion" and in a different context, Reid says somebody with Frank's psychopathology can't feel love, and goes on to explain that love is biochemical anyway--and Frank, who of course is not there for that conversation, has a similar one with Gideon.

And he takes offense at that, and continues to mock Gideon throughout by referencing it, suggesting that they have him All Wrong. "I couldn't have that on my conscience," he says, sarcastically.

"Do you think me insane?" Frank asks, and later on, Gideon--who did not answer the question earlier--helplessly responds, "You are insane!" There's also the parallel with "You don't care about her. You only care about the hunt. You're not denying it." and "I will never stop hunting you."

So the question is, does Frank have Gideon All Wrong, too?

(That long crane shot (they love them their long, isolating crane shots (Derailed, A Real Rain) where Gideon is standing in the middle of the RV campsite and everybody else is walking away from him, is really suggestive.)

"As long as Jane is alive, I will never harm another human being," and so on. If Frank doesn't kill, they can't find him, unless he reveals himself.

Of course, he refers to her as property ("my Jane"), but that's what he's about. He doesn't have to kill her, because he already owns her.

Frank and Gideon exchange vows, in an odd sort of way, and so do Jane and Frank. It's almost like Jane and Gideon are officiating at each other's weddings.

Thank you

Just jumping in here to thank you for alerting me to 'Criminal Minds' - in the UK the dvd of series one has recently come out: I missed it on tv. Excellent, if disturbing, viewing.

Re: Thank you

You're welcome. I'm all about spreading the love.
I am always so happy to see you post more Criminal Minds meta. I love the show and I think it is brilliant, but my mind just doesn't disconnect enough from the entertainment aspect to analyze it nearly as clearly as you do. Thank you so much for sharing.
*g* I deconstruct by habit and training. Always pleased to be of service....
the next ep, "Doubt," got Earshotted, as it concerns a series of killings on a college campus

Is that the one that was supposed to air last night, the 25th, if so, thanks for mentioning it, I was wondering (read: ranting and raving) when it turned out to be a rerun. Doesn't help my temper that CBS's signal now sucks almost as bad as NBC's here in L.A., either. I'm afraid I don't keep up too well with the upcoming stuff, so maybe you were talking about last week. The list I looked at is just more confusing, leaving most of April out altogether and seeming to have two new eps on May 2, which I hope they don't do cuz I'll undoubtedly forget, and it's way too late for it to get into TV Guide. sigh....
Yes, that was the one that was supposed to air last night. (2x21) It looks as if they are airing 2x22 (Open Season) next week. The original schedule had them airing new eps straight through to the season end on May 16.

Now? Nobody knows when 2x21 will air.
"The way a man plays a game shows some of his character. The way he loses shows all of it." I can't recall who said that, but the team and their constant game-playing and the way that they use their skills in order to play both each other and their suspects in order to do their jobs and keep enough of their sanity intact to keep doing their jobs constantly brings that quotation to mine. That and, "Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game," (which I believe is Voltaire), especially in regards to the difference between the profilers and those they're hunting. I wanted Reid to be in on the conversation between Prentiss and Morgan at the end of the most recent episode so he could tell her that or something similar, in response to her question about the difference between the members of the BAU and the criminals they chase. It's all in the intent and the manner in which the game in approached.
I'm actually glad they didn't do that, because it was already a little too heavyhanded for me.

And he's still working that out for himself.

But *Gideon* demonstrated it, in the way he dealt with Johnny.

But yes, I think that's very much the point, and very much the magor thematic arc of the show, on which everything else is hung. The line between good and evil is a fine one, and we can be pushed over it by external forces, or by our own choices.