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,