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Criminal Minds - Bad Moon on the Rise - Review: “Blood Moon”



Anyone else have the song “Werewolves of London” in their head right now, or is it just me?

Yes, shortly after an episode involving a pirate unsub, we now have an unsub dabbling in werewolf behavior. No, this show hasn’t turned into “Supernatural”, but I would forgive somebody who wondered such a thing.

Honestly, though, despite the werewolf theme, this show managed to avoid the cheesy, cringey element that could’ve made it ridiculous. It was still an odd case, don’t get me wrong, and in some ways I wonder if they really needed to even bother bringing in something so strange. But they thankfully played it pretty straightforward overall, and managed to bring us a rather sympathetic unsub in the process.

Luckily, for those who might’ve found the case a little too weird, the show managed to balance things out with a much happier – and romantic – storyline for one of the team members! Ooh. Let’s get the creepy case out of the way first, though.

The Case:

As per usual, we begin with one of those tense “something bad is about to happen to somebody” opening scenes. A guy’s out jogging one night in Central Park. All seems fine...until we’re suddenly watching him through what is clearly the unsub’s eyes, as they’re peering out from behind a bush. The unsub begins following the guy, then chasing him, then flat out attacks him. Time for Garcia to lead us into the case intro! Here’s what we learn about the poor jogger: his name is Brad, and he was disemboweled and his throat was torn out. Lovely. The team also learns that another man named Victor died in the exact same manner a month prior.

The bites on the victims look powerful enough to have come from an animal, which leads the team to wonder if their unsub was using an animal as a weapon somehow. There’s no reports of any animals escaping from the Central Park zoo, so maybe it’s an unsub owning an exotic pet they’re not really supposed to have? Rossi then notes that this case reminds him of another one from 1997, the case of Daphne Abdela and Christopher Vasquez, and Luke confirms it, as he remembered hearing about it when living in the Bronx back then (and thanks to my interest in true crime shows, I’ve heard about it, too). To summarize: Daphne and her boyfriend Christopher slit the throat of a guy who’d been a drinking buddy of theirs, gutted him, and stuffed a bunch of stones into his body before dumping him in the Central Park lake. Yeah. They were only fifteen at the time they did this, too. This has Rossi wondering if they’ve got another unsub of that sort on their hands here.

Back to the episode! So as the team preps to head out, we cut back to Central Park. It’s nighttime again, and this time, a couple is strolling down the walk. They’ve been celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with a lovely night out on the town, and they’re being all affectionate and lovey dovey. They’re so adorable, and I’m sitting here going, “No, please, don’t let anything happen to them!”

My fears are confirmed, however, when somebody pops up behind them. The guy gets nervous, and he tries to hurry his wife along so they can get somewhere safe. When he turns back at one point to see if the creepy person is still following them, he sees they’re gone. The couple keeps hurrying along – but surprise, creepy person jumps in front of them! Well, crap.

A short time later, we see creepy person running through the park with the woman’s purse, scattering her stuff on the ground. Before he can escape, however, he gets attacked, too! Ooh. Plot twist!

“Coincidence, or lunar effect?”

On the plane, the team gets a little more information about Brad and Victor. Brad seemed like a good guy – he’d moved to New York a few years ago, he was single, had a steady job, he’d never gotten in any trouble of any sort. He was generally about as low-risk a victim as one could get – the only risky thing he did was jog in Central Park at night. But the only reason he did that was because he longed to run a marathon someday, and needed the practice. Aw. “We all know how that turned out,” Rossi dryly responds. Poor Brad.

Victor, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Brad. He was involved in a lot of gang activity. Reid points out, gangs have been known to use animals to establish dominance and demonstrate how threatening they are. Perhaps that’s the case here.

There’s something else about these murders that is curious. They both happened under a full moon. Could there be a “full moon influence” inspiring these crimes? Tara is instantly skeptical of the idea, but Garcia admits to believing in the idea of full moons influencing behavior (which does not surprise me in the least), and even Reid chimes in to back up Garcia. He notes that there have been studies – informal studies, mind, but still – indicating various types of disturbing and violent behavior have spiked under a full moon (that list, as follows: suicides, homicides ER visits, psychiatric hospital admissions, traffic accidents, and fights at hockey games. Dang). Garcia announces the latest murder to the team at this point, and guess when it happened? Under a full moon. Cue the “Twilight Zone” theme music.

So the good news is that the adorable couple from earlier are not our latest victims. They were robbed, but escaped unharmed otherwise. The creepy person who robbed them, however? He is the latest victim. His name is Frankie, and Luke and JJ note that he was killed in the exact same manner as Brad and Victor were. Given Frankie was a robber and Victor a gang member, JJ wonders if their unsub isn’t a moral enforcer Luke takes that further – maybe he’s trying to protect the park from trespassers. How Brad fits into that theory, they’re not sure yet, since he wasn’t a criminal, but it’s a logical place to start nonetheless.

If you thought the full moon theory was nonsense, Rossi and Matt’s findings at the morgue are going to up the ante and take this case straight into Weirdsville. While examining Brad’s body, the coroner notes that the evisceration happened post-mortem. So I guess we can be thankful they weren’t alive to experience that, at least. They also tested for rabies, and mention that some of the bites on the bodies came from feral animals who gnawed on the corpses...and there goes my appetite for the night.

All seems pretty in line with what the team expected thus far, though, so what’s the odd part? Well, the coroner couldn’t help noticing that there were no bloody paw prints or hair from a dog on the bodies. The saliva wasn’t from an animal, either. Rather, it was human in nature. Back at the station, the team further examines the human saliva, the fact that it had traces of MDMA, which is a powerful type of drug that can cause delusions and hallucinations, mixed in, and that leads Tara to come to an unusual conclusion. Their unsub is likely suffering from clinical lycanthropy, which is a rare but legitimate condition. In layman’s terms, the unsub believes they’re a werewolf. Oh, dear.

As for how they’re biting their victims? Well, since human teeth generally aren’t strong enough to make the kind of deep wounds found on the victims, they believe the unsub must be fashioning his own canine mouthpiece that he can wear when biting people. First a guy who fancies himself a pirate, now an unsub who thinks he’s a werewolf...I don’t even know anymore, people, just roll with it. The media isn’t helping the situation any, either. A local cop shows Tara, Reid, and Emily a few local papers when they first arrive at the station, and they’ve all got sensationalistic headlines about a “monster on the loose” who’s killing during the full moon. The paper version of clickbait.

A short time later, cops making their way through the park stumble upon a homeless man digging through some garbage. That’s not so unusual in and of itself, but it’s the fact he’s wearing a blood-stained coat that really concerns them, and they bring him in. The guy’s name is Chad, and he’s a young kid, too. Just a teen at most. He tells JJ and Matt that he lives in the park, and the bloody coat he’s wearing belonged to Frankie, and talks about knowing him and hanging out with him before he died. He then confesses to Frankie’s murder.

Thing is, though, his confession is clearly false. The team can tell that right off the bat. The kid is visibly nervous, and wiling to say anything that people want to hear. He has no history of violence. They do think he’s hiding something, though, and because of that and the cops continuing to wonder if he’s a threat, they decide to keep him in custody a while longer.

If Chad did know the person who killed Frankie, this of course begs the question: why wasn’t he murdered, too? Luke and JJ interview him, and they find out that the reason Chad confessed to the murder was because he really wanted to go to prison. Why on earth would he want that? Well, seems he’s not too happy in the foster home where he lives – he’s even gone so far as to run away from there. He figures jail would be better than that home, which has me wondering just what the heck is going on there where jail is the preferable option. And why is he in that foster home? Because his dad killed his mom when he was a kid. Since then he’s been on and off the streets, and struggling with drug use. Quite a rough life for somebody so young.

Luke and JJ then do a cognitive interview with Chad, and it proves helpful. Chad remembers trying to sleep on a bench in the park the night before, when he heard a man creep up to him. The man covered Chad with a coat, and said, ‘You need to stay warm” before leaving. Odd. Afterward, Luke and JJ tell Chad that they’re going to release him, and see to it that he goes someplace safer than the foster home he was in. Chad is wary of the idea, noting that it won’t be long until he turns eighteen and he can go live wherever he wants, and I just feel really bad for this poor kid, good God.

It’s around this point we get our first glimpse of our unsub, and sure enough, he’s shooting up and freaking out and generally looking all frazzled and wild. Later that night, he’s on the prowl yet again, and this time he attacks a vendor named Vihaan. Reid, Emily, and Tara head out to this latest crime scene, and they make the gruesome discovery that the unsub is upping his ante – Vihaan was nearly decapitated. Ick. He’d also been dragged to the spot where his body lay, as the blood stains in the grass indicate. Vihaan had been in a heated argument with an unlicensed vendor not long before his death, claiming he was on his territory. Could their unsub be connected to that in some way?

The team decides it’s a good time to deliver their profile to the local police, and it’s met with some understandable skepticism when they bring up the werewolf angle. “Do we need to put silver bullets in our guns?” one cop asks. He’ll be here all week, folks, try the veal! But they ultimately take the information on board, and agree to do a stakeout of the park with the team that night.

“I’m good. In fact, I’m better than good. I’ve changed.”

The next time we see the unsub, he looks comparatively normal, all buttoned up and sharply dressed. He’s waiting for somebody, and sure enough, she arrives shortly after. Her name is Adele, his name is Mitch, and they know each other very well. Their conversation indicates they had a relationship at one point, and bottom line, he wants her back, and she’s clearly not interested. Do I even need to tell you that Mitch does not take this rejection well? He proceeds to go home, drinks, takes a bunch of drugs, and goes out and kills once again. This latest murder didn’t happen in the park, either, so the team’s stakeout, while a good idea, didn’t really do much to help them.

JJ, Reid, and Rossi go to this crime scene, and notice that the unsub’s changed their M.O. yet again – the victim is a woman this time, named Kelly. She was killed the same way the male victims were, but her pinky and ring fingers have been bitten off, and the engagement ring she wore is missing. So now Mitch has graduated to taking souvenirs from his victims. The team had long ago deduced that their unsub had suffered a loss at some point. It must be a really personal loss. So they have Garcia do her usual research to get the answers.

And boy, is Mitch’s story of loss a sad one. The team manages to track down Adele, who they learn was his wife at one time, and she shares their tale of woe. The team learns that she and Mitch once had a son named Bryce. One day, the family had gone out for a day of ice skating, and that evening, they took a nice little stroll through Central Park. There was a full moon that night, and it was chilly, so at one point, Adele wrapped Bryce’s coat tighter around him, telling him, “You need to stay warm.” Yeah, I think you know where this is going.

Shortly afterward, a robber ambushed them, gun in hand, and demanded money and other items from Mitch and Adele. Adele gave him her purse, and tried to give him the ring, too, but it wouldn’t come off. Chaos ensued as the robber punched Adele. Bryce tried to throw himself into the fray in an attempt to protect them, and the robber shot him and took off. Sadly, Bryce’s wound was fatal, and he died in Adele’s arms. Good lord, what an awful memory to have in one’s head.

And Mitch? He just stood there. Due to shock, of course, and as Luke later notes, not fighting back was actually the right thing to do, given the robber had a gun. But all Adele remembered was that he didn’t do anything that night. As unfortunately tends to be common with parents who lose children, the marriage fell apart soon after. Adele blamed Mitch for their son’s death, even going so far as to tell him that she wished he’d been the one who died instead of Bryce. Yeesh. I can sympathize with Adele’s grief and anger, but still. That’s beyond harsh. She’s come to regret her cruel words to him since then, though, and knows Bryce’s death wasn’t his fault.

Mitch was obviously devastated by the end of his relationship with Adele, and so he resolved to try and do right by her in the hopes they could start over. As a result, he turned himself...into a werewolf vigilante of sorts. This story also, as you’ve likely realized by now, explains Mitch’s tender treatment of Chad, wanting to protect him the way he didn’t with Bryce. He tries to help him again the following night upon seeing him sitting in the park, but Chad is really just not in the mood for some strange guy to fuss over him. Mitch, however, is too focused on his mission to really care at this point, and he swoops off with Chad to keep him safe in a makeshift den.

Once the team gets word of Chad’s abduction, they head out to the park, and they bring along somebody they feel might be able to get through to Mitch, and tap into the human side of him that’s still lurking within: Adele. She begins trying to talk Mitch out from his hiding place, apologizing for the cruel things she said to him, and telling him she doesn’t blame him for their son’s death. She asks him to let Chad go, reminding him that Bryce wouldn’t want this. Her pleas work, and Mitch appears. He’s still got Chad firmly held hostage, though, so the team has to further try and talk him into releasing Chad into their custody. He finally does, and the team arrests him and quietly takes him away.

Okay, so let’s address the werewolf issue right off the bat. Honestly, slight snark and joking aside, this case didn’t make the concept quite as goofy as it could’ve been. I do like the idea of the show introducing unsubs suffering from unusual or lesser-known illnesses and ailments. As I’ve said before, there’s only so many times a show can tell the same ol’ serial killer story before it gets repetitive, so I have no problem, in and of itself, with this show bringing in some killers that are a little more on the unique side.

I also liked that the case wasn’t entirely predictable in how it played out. The fact the victims were varied allowed us to keep guessing a bit at just what was driving Mitch. The side story with Chad was an interesting touch, and a good, poignant way to humanize Mitch a little, even before the tragic reveal regarding his family.

And I especially appreciate that he didn’t go the cliché route of taking Adele as his last hostage. He would’ve had all the reason in the world to do so after she blew off his attempt at a reunion, but he didn’t. He focused on wanting to protect Chad instead, which ties into the humanizing element mentioned above. Having Adele help talk him down was a good way to allow her and Mitch to try and find a bit of closure and peace, and it was also a good opportunity to show how much Mitch really did love her, trusting her words as he did, as well as how much Adele did still care about him. The end with them touching hands on the car window was a poignant moment.

The story with Chad only further added to the emotional element of the case. Not only was I curious to see how he was connected to the main case, but I like moments during cases when little side stories like this pop up, and the team finds somebody new to help along the way. I really felt for Chad with his lack of a stable home, and I liked seeing the team vow to do what they could to help get him someplace safe. Wish we could’ve gotten an update on what became of him at the end, but I like to think, or hope, at least, that he’ll be someplace safe and warm in the end.

The backstory involving Mitch’s family was handled well, too. It was understated, realistic, sympathetic, and it’s interesting to see a tragic backstory that doesn’t involve a horrible childhood or the other usual markers that indicate somebody could become a criminal. Sometimes some of the most unsettling cases are the ones where somebody’s life was perfectly fine until one incident made them snap, because those tend to be the ones that make you think: “Could I be capable of such horrible crimes after something like that?”

Plus, werewolf element or not, it was just an appropriately spooky little case in and of itself, made all the creepier by setting it in grand ol’ Central Park. Shame they didn’t do this story around Halloween, it would’ve been a perfect fit! It intrigued me, too, that Tara, despite her skepticism about people being influenced by full moons, was the first to notice the lycanthropy angle. She seems to have a bit of an interest in abnormal things like this, and I feel like that’s an interesting element of Tara’s character worth exploring further.

So all in all, the case worked for me. I do feel, however, that it would’ve been interesting to see a bit more of Mitch delving into his werewolf persona. Maybe show him sharpening the fake teeth, or show him stalking the park at night a little more. Maybe he looks out the window and notices the full moon. Granted, that could’ve tipped the story into real cheese, but hey, we had a guy dressing like a pirate a couple episodes ago, so… If you’re going to go with the werewolf theme, might as well go all out. Otherwise, as interesting as the clinical lycanthropy element was, I feel just making him a straight up vigilante could’ve done the job just as well. Nothing really would’ve changed without the werewolf element.

I also thought the victimology was a little flimsy as well. I get why he targeted Frankie, Victor, and Kelly, but going after Brad and Vihaan simply because he thought they might be bad people? I would’ve had all his victims be criminals of some sort. Or, barring that, maybe have a victim be a father who wasn’t keeping an eye on his kid, or being cruel to their child somehow or something. That would’ve fit the theme a little better.

So lost love was a factor in this case. What a perfect opportunity to balance that out with a burgeoning romance!

Meanwhile, back at Quantico:

“I never do this. Blind dates.”
“Me neither.”


Valentine’s Day may still be a few weeks away, but Luke’s apparently eager to get an early start on finding love. As the episode begins, we see him out for dinner with a lovely woman named Lisa Douglas. They were set up by Luke’s friend Phil, whom we met in “Dust and Bones”, and as TV has often shown us, blind dates can be tricky outings. Luckily, however, this particular blind date seems to be going well. Luke’s learning a bit about Lisa’s home life (she has five older brothers), he learns that she likes to play pool, and they chat a bit about Phil as well. You’ll be happy to know that Phil is enjoying his new puppy that Luke brought him a few episodes back, and the dog’s been very helpful in Phil’s recovery efforts. Hooray!

“There’s a very colorful woman at the bar, I think she’s trying to get your attention.”

Unfortunately, unsubs don’t care about happy dates, and Luke has to be called away for this episode’s case. Except he doesn’t get the news via text or phone call. No, he gets it straight from Garcia herself, because she actually shows up at the restaurant to tell him to come to work. To be fair, she did try and text him initially, but he’d had his phone off so he could focus on his date. So she had to literally track him down.

Before the two of them head out, though, Garcia takes a moment to come over and meet Lisa. She’s understanding about the date being cut short, which is good, and she and Garcia are friendly when they meet, although Garcia does kinda stumble over herself as she assures Lisa that Luke “isn’t her type”, and that they’re just friends. As Luke and Garcia head out a few minutes later, Garcia makes an offhand joke about how he’ll have to get a sitter for his “little girl”. Cut to Lisa getting an odd expression on her face. Hm.

Later, during the team’s stakeout at the park, Matt randomly decides to ask Luke about Lisa, because why not discuss dating issues while you’re working a case? Luke’s eager to gush about Lisa, though – he really likes her. He’s been checking his phone on occasion to see if she’s tried to call, he seems impressed by her line of work (she’s a doctor, and more specifically, has worked with Doctors Without Borders), she’s beautiful, and she’s smart.

Matt’s response? “Can’t be too smart if she went out with you.” Whoa, Matt, throwing out the zingers there! Obviously he meant it in a brotherly joking sort of manner, though. Matt then wonders if the fact their date got interrupted is why she hasn’t returned his call, but Luke says she’s got a brother who’s a cop, so she should be understanding. Matt assures him he’ll hear from her soon, and Luke reflects on how he’s started considering settling down recently. “I can’t stop thinking about her,” Luke says. Aw. I like this little bonding moment between them.

“For any relationship to work, I believe it needs to be truthful.”

But maybe Luke’s getting too ahead of himself? The next day, while at the police station, Luke gets a call from Lisa. She explains she’s been busy and hasn’t had a chance to respond back, and Luke’s all happy to hear from her...until she tells him that she doesn’t think this thing between them will work out. Wait, what? That was a fast turnaround. She claims Luke wasn’t honest with her during their date, and he’s clearly puzzled by this accusation, prompting her to explain further. See, she’d overheard Garcia’s “little girl” joke, and thought that meant Luke had lied when he’d told her he didn’t have any kids. Oops.

Luke happily clarifies – the “little girl” Garcia was referring to was his dog Roxy. Lisa is relieved by this news, and a bit embarrassed for jumping the gun, but hey, honest mistake. Luke suggests the two of them start over, to which Lisa agrees, and at the end of the episode, we see them hanging out together again at a local bar, playing pool.

Certainly hadn’t expected this little side story to show up, but I’m intrigued by it. Lisa seems nice, she and Luke would look super good together, and watching Luke get all dreamy over her was kind of freaking adorable. Few concerns to consider, though. First – and I hadn’t even thought of this until some other commenters pointed it out while discussing the episode – Luke and Lisa’s setup is awfully similar to Morgan and Savannah’s. Lisa’s a doctor, just like Savannah was, and they’ve both got the “we each lead busy lives” deal going on, just as Morgan and Savannah did.

Mind, I think having the team members date somebody with an equally hectic job makes a lot of sense in and of itself. They need somebody who can understand firsthand the long hours and constant calls away from home, and their significant other being busy can be good in the sense it means they aren’t stuck sitting home alone worrying while their loved one’s off working a case. But I hope the show can work on not making Lisa a carbon copy of Savannah, and can make her relationship with Luke unique, if they decide to continue with this storyline.

Second, Morgan had a bond with Garcia, and then he got a girlfriend. Now Luke’s formed his own bond with Garcia, and he’s getting a girlfriend, too. I say that not to imply any shipping preferences, just to indicate yet another similar pattern. I was initially worried they might go the jealousy route when Garcia showed up at the restaurant, and when she made her “little girl” comment. I couldn’t help wondering if those were her way of trying to ruin his date, which would’ve been quite out of character for her.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The show’s generally been really good over the years at avoiding doing the whole “significant other is suspicious/jealous of their loved one’s close bond with their co-workers or vice versa” thing, and I want that pattern to continue. So I’m glad that Garcia wants to get on well with Lisa. But again, I hope that if they’re going to have Garcia be friends with both Luke and Lisa, they make it its own thing, instead of replicate her friendships with Morgan and Savannah.

On the note of Garcia showing up at the restaurant, though, she wouldn’t have had to do that in the first place if Luke had kept his phone on. Nobody on this team shuts off their phone during their free time. And Luke’s a smart guy, and he’s been with the team for over a year now. He knows how this job works. They could’ve found another significantly less awkward way for Garcia and Lisa to meet that didn’t involve her showing up and actively interrupting his date.

Third, I’m always happy when one of the team members meets somebody new and gets into a relationship, because yay, love! But I can’t help but feel nervous, too, especially if it’s a female love interest, because this show generally doesn’t have the greatest track record on that front. To recap: Sarah, Haley, Carolyn, Erin Strauss, and Maeve. All girlfriends/wives of various team members, and all murdered. And Savannah got shot before she got her happy ending with Morgan. So I’m just saying, show, if Lisa is going to stick around, let’s keep her in the small group of female love interests who’ve never been harmed in any way, okay? Don’t injure her, and DO NOT KILL HER. Let her relationship with Luke be a happy, peaceful, uneventful one for both of them. Thank you.

What did you think of the episode? Did you buy into the werewolf aspect, or did it seem a bit silly? Do you believe in a “full moon curse”? Are you on board with Luke and Lisa? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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