Tuesday, March 29, 2016

CMBB Review: Harvested (S1E02)

I have severely mixed reactions to this episode, which is probably why I've put off writing this reviewAfter such a promising start to the Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders series with The Harmful One, the sophomore-episode slump seems to have struck the second CM spinoff series. (Do not even get me STARTED on the first spinoff, which I despised with a burning passion.)

Although I appreciated the nod to a previous CM ep, with its reference to another organ harvesting culprit, this episode also picked up the hated All UnSub, All The Time  trait of the original series. The viewer has an entirely new country and culture to decipher, so why show the perpetrator immediately and throughout the ep? For heaven's sake, we haven't even had time to get tired of this series' cast yet! Speaking of which...

With a clear difference in concept between the mother ship and the other ship, and a MUCH better cast than CM: Suspect Behavior, I've really been looking forward to mid-season. 

Overall, I'm very happy with the personalities and "portion control" of the group: I am beyond thrilled  that the CMBB team is smaller than the original BAU, allowing for a tighter feel to the show, without the infamous disappearing profilers of CM. Severe quirkiness is passe (and in fact, somewhat annoying) not to mention highly impractical when confronting multiple new societies:
  • Clara Seeger is multilingual, multicultural, and multifaceted. (But can the lovely and talented Alana de la Garza one day NOT be cast as a widow? Perhaps those fabulous cheekbones make writers long to give her A Tragic Backstory.)
  • Jack Garrett is Gary Sinise. Or Mac Taylor. 'Nuff said.
  • Mae Jarvis is a Quincy for the new millennium: knowledgeable and (if you'll pardon the term) spunky without making me want to smack her with a tennis racket.
  • Matt Simmons is a thoughtful, and hunktastic family man who understands the bewildering sport of cricket, and can magically utilize weapons regardless of any jurisdictional hoohah. (Yeah, I know, I try not to think about it too much.)
  • Russ "Monty" Montgomery can be a tech wizard without being aggressively whimsical a la Garcia or Abby Sciuto, all the while being given the fun fun fun responsibility of getting to Break The Bad News to parents/family. 

US (or The U.S.) vs. THEM

"Based on the function of the kidney and the eyes, perhaps the UnSub is lashing out at the blindness and toxicity of the tourists here at the festival..." Really? REALLY?  Speaking as a fellow overeducated Westerner, I CRINGED when I heard that line.  And yet, it's almost impossible (except maybe for Clara) to travel and/or profile without bringing your own cultural baggage with you.  But perhaps the intent was to deliberately show the team wandering down the wrong track, since profiling is both an art and a science. (However, forgiveness is much harder for this viewer when you show the UnSub throughout the episode!! *ahem*)

On the other hand, I am loving the discussion of different social traditions in each episode, albeit in an understandably compressed form. On the bright side, this team is more well-rounded, with each member chiming in, and WITHOUT the Reid-as-Encyclopedia-Brown tactic which is the de facto technique these days on the original CM.

And finally, FINALLY a long ignored dose of realism is injected into the magic that is data searching on TV shows: not EVERY piece of data is magically available online all the time, especially outside North America or Europe. Granted, Garcia would offer a token disclaimer every now and then, and granted, a 42-minute weekly episode often requires a suspension of disbelief for the sake of expediency, but paper files are still the reality in many places around the world, and even in many places domestically. (Remember the U.S. Customs form you filled out in pen the last time you returned to the country? And no, newspaper articles published in 198x from a tiny town in [random US municipality] will not be available online.)


I like the theme music and opening credits. The music is zippy and in keeping with a tighter team, which the opening credits keep the same color scheme and style, but manage to look fresh and slightly different. The marketing folks over at the studio must be using the (annoying) term "branding" with great relish and frequency.

Also, nice touch to have the opening bookend quote (read by Gary Sinise) appear onscreen in the local language.  I hope this trend continues.

Will's parents apparently had to fly 6 hours to Quantico to hear [bad] news from Monty. Seriously? Why is that? Why couldn't they be videoconferenced in via their local FBI office? Twisting in the wind about your child's fate during a cross-country flight seems unnecessary in this day and age...unless it's just a plot device to gather [multiple] parents in a central location. (And really? The African-American tourist dies, but not "oh live a little and take some drugs I got from a stranger who's trustworthy because they SPEAK ENGLISH" Tommy?)

Although the set designers often do a truly masterful job of disguising Los Angeles to look like Thailand and Mumbai, what is WITH the terrible team-in-car footage? I feel like I'm watching Adam-12 or James Bond circa Sean Connery. Unintentional hilarity is not why I tune in to a crime drama.

Personal disclaimer: Of the many countries I have visited, and the other locales I would still like to experience, urban India is NOWHERE on that list. Perhaps my dislike is tainting my feelings toward this ep.


To sum up: I was rooting for Erica Meredith (kudos on the promotion to staff writer!) but was disappointed by this episode.  Perhaps she -- like the show itself -- will need to find her footing. After all, some of the later writers on the original series have developed tremendously over the years. On the whole, this outing felt like a thinly disguised episode of the original series, and not in a good way.

Trust me, CMBB -- I still look forward to your episode every week with MUCH, MUCH more anticipation than I do the mother ship, and this, from a person who owns Seasons 1 -7 on DVD.

Fingers crossed,

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Criminal Minds: The 21 Emotions Of Aaron Hotchner

Someone at CBS has a sense of humor, because I LOVE these photos and their detailed captions parsing Hotch's expressions!

Unfortunately, CBS' website is laid out in the most annoying fashion humanly possible -- thereby ruining the effect of this collection -- but here are a few of my favorites at the moment:

# 2 - Annoyed


# 20 - Tired

# 21 - Unamused

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chatting with Chaucer

When did you start watching CRIMINAL MINDS and what has kept you a fan?
I first tried CM when it premiered, but didn't really find it appealing (sacrilege, I know). Perhaps the S1 cast wasn't quite my cup of tea, or the show (like many new series) took a while to find its feet.

Whatever the reason, I left and didn't start watching consistently again until S5. Ever since then, I've watched all of the episodes for all of the seasons so many times that I can't honestly remember anymore which one was my re-introduction to CM.

My favorite parts of the show involve watching the BAU: watching how they narrow down the possibilities in each case, using Garcia as a winsome personification to compress dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of patient cross-referencing; watching the team deliver the profile to local law enforcement, as a multi-personality version of Sherlock Holmes; watching the subtle interactions amongst each other as they chase their unsub.  

I watch for the team, not the unsubs. Granted, they need worthy opponents, but the members of the BAU are why I care enough to tune back in every week.

•Favorite episode(s)
Hit/Run, the S7 finale, was truly spectacular! It knit all of the team (and JJ's family) even closer together, only to (or: in order to!) yank mercilessly at everyone's feelings, theirs and ours. And the ending was so irresistibly bittersweet. I'll congratulate Rick Dunkle (hour 1: Hit) and Erica Messer (hour 2: Run) again, once I finish sniffling...again.

•Favorite character(s)
Until this year, it was a toss up between Prentiss and Hotch, with Emily edging out her boss by a Sergio-whisker. However, if  we restrict choices to S8 characters, then it'd be Aaron "Wheels Up" Hotchner, hands down.

•Favorite show writer(s)
Of the current writers, Breen Frazier is amazingly talented, with impressive insight into all of the BAU members. And his quick wit during the chats keeps me in stitches.

•Hopes or guesses for Season 8
Although knowing Paget Brewster left (of her own accord, the second time) is disappointing (but understandable), I'm at least optimistic that the casting of Jeanne Tripplehorn augurs well for the newest addition to the team, FBI linguistics expert Alex Blake. She has the skill and experience to credibly portray a senior FBI profiler who can hold her own within the BAU. Now it's up to the writers to give her a role to sink her teeth into, so that CM fans might come to embrace her her as wholeheartedly as they did Paget Brewster's Prentiss.

•Anything you might like to share about yourself
Not right now, but here's another question *I* have: depending on what the writers decide about Emily's next job (domestic/overseas?) I would like to know what happens to Sergio!

Come to think of it, is Prentiss the only BAU member (current or former) who has a pet?! It makes sense, given their lifestyles, but still...Sergio disapproves ;) Maybe it's time for Henry Jareau LaMontagne to get a puppy!