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Criminal Minds - Red Light - Review: “Rematch”/Season Twelve Summary

And we’re back! Extreme apologies for not getting this review out back in May, when season twelve came to an end – had stuff going on and computer issues that delayed this one.

But now we’re here, and we’ve got a mere week to go before season thirteen begins! Therefore, seems the perfect time to briefly recap how season twelve ended, as well as how the season played out as a whole. Since then the show has gone through yet another round of changes that seem practically par for the course at this point, and I’ll also share my thoughts and brief speculations on what those mean for the upcoming season as well.

We Meet Again:

“I want you to look at me like I’m the first woman you’ve seen after being in prison for three months.”

“Red Light” picked up literally where the prior episode, “Green Light” left off, with Reid face to face with his old nemesis, Cat Adams. His mom had been kidnapped by Lindsay Vaughn, another blast from his past, and once he and the team had learned that Cat and Lindsay had been working together against him, he went to Cat to get the necessary answers.

Of course, Cat being Cat, she didn’t make things easy for him, and led him into another “Entropy”-esque mind game battle that involved the two of them in an imagined fancy room, wearing fancy clothes, and Cat cozying up to Reid in order to try and mess with his head. That would’ve been awkward enough, but Cat soon pulled out the big guns with the earth-shattering announcement that she was pregnant...and with Reid’s baby at that! According to her, she’d sent Lindsay down to Mexico to rape Reid and obtain his sperm, which she would then bring back and deliver to Cat.

Yeah. Talk about your effed up plans, huh?

That wasn’t the only shocking moment of the episode, either. We also learned that Cat and Lindsay were lovers, thus explaining how they wound up working together and how Lindsay got manipulated to conspire against Reid, and we saw Reid get physically aggressive towards an unsub for the first time in his life. He literally pinned Cat to the wall of the interrogation room and tried to choke her after she leveled some truly brutal insults at his mom! I thought watching Reid get his mug shot taken was surreal. That had nothing on him getting violent with somebody, and I’m still not really sure how I feel about that part of things. I totally get wanting to slap Cat, mind, but Reid choking her struck me rather weird. Yeah, prison’s changed him and all, but still…

Cat had also hinted that she knew a secret about Reid, and a large part of the episode was spent with Reid being forced to guess what that secret was. Thankfully, to any and all deities above, the secret was not that he was the father of Cat’s baby. That turned out to be nothing more than a ruse. Cat was indeed pregnant...but the father turned out to be Officer Wilkins, the guard who was none too friendly towards Reid during his stint in prison.

No, instead it turned out that the secret was kinda twofold: that a) Reid had to confront the idea that he didn’t feel bad about poisoning his cellmates in “Hell’s Kitchen”, and he also had to admit that though he knows he’s not the father of Cat’s baby, he thinks he should be, because he and Cat “deserve each other”, seeing as they have so much in common now.

Thankfully, everything involving Reid’s mom wound up being resolved on a happy note. The team was able to save her, and Lindsay turned herself in once she found out Cat had cheated on her with Wilkins. And despite Reid’s personal fears that prison had changed him for the worse, despite how shaken up he was by his physical attack on Cat, he also made it defiantly clear to Cat that he was going to work through his struggles and come out stronger after this nightmarish ordeal.

A Familiar Face:

Unfortunately, just because Cat and Lindsay were out of the team’s hair, that didn’t mean they could completely let down their guard yet. Cat revealed another disturbing bit of information during her conversation with Reid: she clearly knew a LOT about his personal life. She made references to both Gideon’s death and Morgan leaving the BAU, as well as the son he had (thankfully, though, she doesn’t know Morgan’s son’s name, and Reid made a point of not revealing it to her). Since the only place Cat could’ve learned that information was through Reid’s personnel file, that means somebody in the FBI must’ve fed her that information. So now the team’s got another potential suspect hiding in the shadows somewhere – and it could be someone they know. Mr. Scratch had hacked into the FBI databases back when he first appeared on the scene. Could he be involved? Could this be another Replicator-type situation, with an FBI agent gone bad?

“Hey. We need to talk.”

Before the team could delve too deeply into that investigation, however, Emily had received a text from a familiar face: Derek Morgan! Yes, Morgan stopped in for a visit, but not for a friendly catch-up chat. In fact, we learn that he apparently hadn’t been in regular contact with any of his friends for the past year, which is...surprising. Nor had he been told about all the craziness with Reid – according to Emily, Reid was too embarrassed by his situation, and didn’t want Morgan to know about it, or see him at such a low point.

No, instead, Morgan brought rather ominous-sounding news. Apparently, he got a text from Garcia, in which she told him that Reid was out of prison and wanted to see him, and what’s more, he and Diana were staying in an FBI safe house for the night.

Thing is, Emily hadn’t approved any sort of safe house, and the text Morgan got didn’t match Garcia’s usual texting style. Garcia herself confirms she never sent it. Therefore, this had to be a trap of some sort. Further investigation revealed that somebody duplicated Garcia’s cell phone in the hopes of luring Morgan to a non-existent safe house – and that Mr. Scratch was likely involved in this setup somehow.

Thankfully, Morgan thwarted that plan by going to see the team first, and so, with Morgan and Garcia being left behind at the office, taking a few moments to have a cute little catch up session, the rest of the team took off to hopefully nab Mr. Scratch once and for all. You had Emily, Rossi, and Tara in one SUV, and Stephen, Luke, and JJ in another, discussing their takedown plans and tossing theories back and forth…

...and then, out of nowhere, the two SUVs hit a row of spikes in the middle of the road and spun out. Scary situation, sure, but the only car damage was some blown out tires, and the team have no injuries. The team barely had time to even catch their collective breath, however, before a truck suddenly barreled down the road and plowed into both SUVs, hitting the one with Emily, Rossi, and Tara head on. A horrifying ending to a wild season.

Season Twelve Summary:

It seemed rather fitting things would end on such a dramatic bang, as that could’ve easily described season twelve as a whole. The team, and us viewers, had to deal with quite a few non-physical blows before that. First there was the full on return of Mr. Scratch, then there was Hotch’s abrupt exit, then Reid wound up in jail for drug and murder charges, of all things. Every season in recent years seems to have an increasing amount of shocking moments and events, and this one was certainly no exception.

Some of those crazy moments were dealt with better than others. Hotch’s exit wasn’t completely perfect, no, but given the surrounding circumstances, it was handled about as respectfully and reasonably as one could expect. I was grateful to the show for not taking the easy route of killing Hotch off, and while I wish he could’ve had a happier exit, so long as we can get some reassurance that he and Jack are safe and sound wherever they are, that’s good enough for me for now.

I also liked the way the show handled Emily’s return to the team. Putting her in charge made complete sense, given her past leadership experience and the fact she’d worked with the team so long, and I liked the way the show explored and showed her struggling and learning to deal with being the boss of her longtime friends, as well as the stress of everything that happened with the team on her watch. And she wasn’t a Hotch replica, either – there were moments where you could see her using what she’d learned from working with Hotch, yes, but she also managed to forge her own leadership style as well. Sometimes I felt the show could’ve shown more of that fiery spirit of hers that we know and love, too, especially during Reid’s time in prison. But for the most part, I think the show did well with her this season.

Sadly, the same can’t quite be said for the new guy who’d also joined the team this season, Stephen Walker. That’s not a knock on him, mind – Stephen himself was fine. He was a sweet guy, with a gentle, easygoing attitude, and his hard-working attitude fit in perfectly alongside the team. His home life seemed lovely from the brief bit of it we saw, and I liked that he played music in his spare time. And I especially enjoyed the moments he shared with Emily and Rossi. The idea of him having a history with them was interesting, and the little snippets of stories we got about their pasts together made me want to learn more.

But that was the problem. We never really got the chance to properly delve into his character beyond those surface moments and bits of knowledge. He unfortunately showed up not long before the huge Reid-in-prison arc, and because that took up so much screentime, the show had precious little opportunity left over for people to get to know Walker better. As a result, he never really grabbed most viewers’ attention. And I find that a shame, especially given the events of this past summer, which I’ll get to shortly.

Of course, the most memorable aspect of this season was the aforementioned Reid-in-prison storyline, and that...was hit and miss. On the one hand, the idea of the most innocent member of the team finding himself on the wrong side of the law could be, and was, quite intriguing on some levels. I thought the idea of Reid’s desperate attempts to help his mom backfiring spectacularly on him had potential – given how desperate he can be when trying to save people, be it someone he loves or an unsub he identifies with, it made sense he’d take similar risks here.

And I thought there were some really good and interesting moments from his time in prison, such as the complicated friendship he struck up with fellow inmate Calvin Shaw, his attempts to protect Luis, and his struggle to both try and fight the inmates making his life hell while still holding on to his general sweet and kind demeanor. The episode that kicked off the whole prison arc, appropriately titled “Spencer”, was so intense as well, full of appropriate and powerful callbacks to Reid’s previous struggles, giving us proper context for what was happening, as well as what was to come. There were some promising aspects to the story arc, for sure.

Problem is, the show really dropped the ball on delving deeper into some of those moments. They simply scratched the surface and left it at that. For instance, Reid has now been drugged twice by two different unsubs ten years apart. The show should’ve done so much more with that. Reid’s past with Hankel could’ve posed a potential issue for him in regards to the trial and his attempts to prove his innocence on the drug charges. His bonding with Luis was sweet, and Reid taking people’s deaths personally is nothing new for him, but it could’ve been interesting to properly contextualize Reid’s grief over Luis more, compare his death to the deaths of people on the cases Reid’s worked over the years or something.

Heck, for that matter, I would’ve preferred Luis had actually lived, and worked alongside Reid to stage some kind of big rebellion against the creep inmates who’d run the place, and the corrupt guards who’d helped them. Seeing Reid acting so passive during much of his time in prison didn’t really fit with the Reid we know. Sure, he’d be disheartened about his situation, but he also would’ve fought back. Even in the moments when he did fight back, we were left confused (did he intentionally try and poison those prisoners, or was it a plan gone horribly awry?) or worrying that he was losing his mind (crafting a shiv and stabbing Shaw while looking maniacal, anyone?). These were ruses, yes, but they were rather oddly done. It got to the point where I honestly think my initial theory of Reid going undercover in prison might’ve worked out a whole lot better.

I also wish Morgan could’ve shown up a lot sooner, or barring that (because I know scheduling conflicts can be an issue), that we’d gotten a proper heart-to-heart moment between Reid and Morgan in the season finale. I can understand Reid not wanting to upset Morgan with the news of him in jail, and I appreciated that Morgan expressed some hurt and confusion over not being informed about Reid sooner. But given the long-running close friendship between the two, I think we deserved an opportunity for Morgan to give Reid some words of comfort and advice going forward, and allow Reid a chance to open up about his fears to Morgan. Morgan knows what it’s like to be accused of a serious crime, after all (hi, “Profiler, Profiled”!). They could’ve totally done something with that. I hope, if and when Morgan does make another appearance, we get a proper scene between them.

The team reactions to the prison arc felt pretty stalled, too. Seeing them worrying and making plans to visit Reid was lovely, for sure, but it would’ve been nice to see some mention, if only briefly, of what they were doing and who they were contacting to help Reid throughout each episode. For whatever reason, the show held off on allowing them to really kick into high gear to free Reid until the last few episodes, and I think that hindered the prison arc significantly. I found it incredibly hard to believe, for instance, that Rossi wouldn’t have tried to use his money and connections in as many episodes as he could’ve to help Reid, or that none of them called any of their other buddies much sooner than they did.

To say nothing of how Emily’s friend Fiona didn’t really get to do much – she showed up and talked to Reid a few times, but we only ever got to see her in a courtroom once, during Reid’s arraignment, and she lost that round. Watching Reid go through actual trial would’ve been stressful, for sure, but I would’ve preferred to have that be our cliffhanger over watching the team get mowed down by a truck. It would’ve allowed Fiona’s efforts to help Reid to pay off, showing us what she was truly capable of, we could’ve had the tension of the prosecutors digging into Reid’s past reckless behavior and drug issues, watching Reid testify and defend himself would’ve been fascinating… So many places they could’ve gone with that that they didn’t, and it felt like a real missed opportunity.

I tend to think, too, that the show might’ve had more time to explore the team and Fiona’s attempts to help Reid if they hadn’t been so bogged down with creating really weird and out there unsubs. We already had Mr. Scratch, Cat, and Lindsay as our season-long mastermind threats. There was no need to make the unsubs of the week try and outweird them. And heck, even with people like Scratch and Cat and Lindsay...that’s a few masterminds too many to juggle as well. They should’ve picked one or the other and stuck with it.

On the plus side, I did like the whole thing with Cat and Lindsay working together. Lindsay’s an incredibly out of left field choice to return to the show, yes, and her reasons for being involved in the stuff with Reid were rather convoluted...but there’s something about Cat and Lindsay as a Thelma and Louise type team that I really like, so I’ll go with it.

I’m also incredibly grateful that the show spared Reid’s mom this season, as it was a real fear of mine that they’d kill her off somehow. I think putting her in life-threatening danger wasn’t really needed, though, and I hope that she and Reid both get a break next season, because frankly, they’ve been through far more than enough over the years. They deserve some happiness and peace.

And with that thought, let’s move on to the upcoming season, and discuss the changes that are coming and what to expect or hope for (or not hope for) going forward.

What’s Ahead?:

The usual revolving door of cast changes played out once again this past summer. First AJ Cook and Kirsten Vangsness came close to not returning because of a pay dispute. Sound familiar? Yeah, it feels like it’s becoming a routine at this point. And then, because things apparently weren’t messy enough, CBS let Damon Gupton go a couple months later (after forcing the show to hire him last year, because go figure that network and their decision-making process) and brought Daniel Henney, who played Matt Simmons on the recently cancelled “Beyond Borders” spin-off, onto the show in his place. On the one hand, yay for Henney – both he and his character were quite likeable on “Beyond Borders” and clicked well with the BAU team. And it will be nice to have somebody we’re already familiar with join the team, instead of having to go through the “getting to know you” ritual with another newbie all over again.

On the other hand, I feel bad for Gupton, especially with the way he was let go. Speculation seems to indicate his character will not have a happy exit, either, which just makes the whole thing suck even more. To say nothing of the fact that this means we’re still going to have eight team members again this season, and really, I don’t understand why the network is suddenly insisting on having so many characters on the show. Eight people is an awful lot to juggle storywise, and depending on what season-long or episodic storylines the show’s planning, that could prove difficult in terms of balancing the focus and spreading it around, especially if the show has any plans to delve into how the team’s dealing with the aftermath of all they’d been through last year. Hopefully the fact we don’t have a brand new, never before seen team member to break in could free up some storyline opportunities, though.

And on that note, my main hopes for season thirteen are these: Let the team members be happy in their personal lives. We expect them to be in danger on the job, sure, but once they leave work, the danger shouldn’t follow them any further. Instead of putting them in a lot of physical danger this year, I think it’d be good to see the show explore their psychological struggles further. Let’s delve into Emily’s guilt over losing Stephen, and the stress she’s experienced as unit chief this year. Show Reid going to meetings to deal with the after effects of being drugged, and the painful memories that brought back, and possibly even have him going to therapy to talk about all he’s been through. JJ went above and beyond to help Reid and his mom this year, too – how’s that impacting her? How are the team members who were involved in the horrific accident coping (this marks two car crashes Emily’s been involved in now, so surely that would weigh on her, no?). And so on.

Even in the midst of that kind of exploration, though, I’d also like to see those stories balanced with happier ones. Reid’s mom can be somewhere comfortable and happy,, getting the help she needs at long last, and Reid can work on finding happiness of his own. It could be romantic in nature, or he could some other positive outlet to channel his focus and give him his spark back. Luke and Garcia made a bit of headway in becoming friends last season, so let’s see more of that, too. Rossi and Emily are each in good relationships last we heard, so they can keep that going if needed. We can learn more about Luke and Matt’s personal lives and pasts as well.

On the case side of things, keep the unsubs simple, especially if they plan to have another season-long threat. And even if they do go with another season-long unsub, keep them comparatively simple, too. We’ve already had the Replicator and the Dirty Dozen and Mr. Scratch and Cat’s elaborate plans, so it’d be interesting to have a season-long unsub that was a little more Foyet or Breitkopf-ish in nature instead.

And on the note of Cat, I have no problem seeing her again, simply ‘cause Aubrey Plaza plays her wickedness so well and she really does play off Reid perfectly. But if she does come back again, it should only be, like, once, and not because she’s about to deliver her baby and Reid must somehow get involved with that aspect of things. I just have this little fear in the back of my mind that that whole thing with her being pregnant will rear its head again, and Reid will get dragged into that mess again, and I really hope the show doesn’t go there.

Okay! So I think that pretty well covers everything. As always, I thank you for following along with my reviews, and I look forward to discussing the upcoming season with everyone!

What did you think of “Red Light”? Which shocking moment surprised you the most: Cat’s pregnancy, Cat and Lindsay being lovers, or Reid attacking Cat? Or was it all three? Do you think Cat’s pregnancy storyline is over and done? Did you want more of Morgan in the finale? Will you miss Stephen Walker? Are you looking forward to Matt Simmons coming on board? What did you like/not like about season twelve? What are your hopes and requests for the upcoming season? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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