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Criminal Minds - Mixed Signals/Believer - Double Review - Review: “Delusions”

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So this is it! The final review for season thirteen. Luckily, it won’t be the final review for the series as a whole, as the show was renewed not long after the season wrapped. Which is a huge relief, because given the way this one ended, had the show been canceled, I think fans would’ve rioted.

The season finale isn’t the only episode we have to discuss, either, as the penultimate episode, “Mixed Signals”, also aired the very same night. By contrast, that episode was much calmer and simpler in its case. On the one hand, I appreciated that, because we got a nice breather before the bonkers storyline that was the season finale. On the other hand, the slower, quieter nature of that episode made it much harder to really properly enjoy it, since everyone was no doubt on pins and needles waiting for the finale to air.

Fortunately, despite the sharp contrast in the final two episodes, they were both pretty good overall. Not perfect, mind, they had some flaws, the finale especially. But they do leave the door open for some potentially interesting storylines for next season...provided the show actually decides to properly explore the fallout of all that happened here.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself with that last sentence. Before that, however, a discussion of the episodes themselves. Since the last two episodes of the season aired back to back, I will do another double review encompassing both of them.

Mixed Signals:

The Case:

A killer has been terrorizing the town of Taos, New Mexico. Victims are being abducted, having holes drilled into the left side of their heads (while they’re still alive, no less, which, OWWWWW), and before murdering his victims, he asks them one question: “Where is it?”

Turns out the answer to his question can be found in a mysterious phenomenon within the town of Taos. Apparently, some townspeople are afflicted with the ability to hear a weird, continuous low-pitched ringing, or humming, noise. It’s a real thing, too – there’s been actual reports of people experiencing this bizarre phenomenon throughout New Mexico over the years. The good news is that it’s a rare phenomenon. The bad news is that for those who suffer, there doesn’t seem to be a way to fix this issue. Most people who suffer this ailement do not turn violent; rather, they just simply try and deal with it as best they can. But there have been occasional incidents of people being driven to the point of madness over their inability to get rid of that sound. It’s misophonia in its most extreme form.

So how does this noise relate to the case? Well, it turns out the unsub going around drilling into people’s heads suffers from this very affliction. His name is Caleb, and at one time he was in a happy, loving marriage with a woman named Sarah. But all that changed when the couple moved to Taos in 2015. Soon after, Sarah was among those who could hear the mysterious hum. Caleb tried to do whatever he could to help Sarah, even going so far as to move to another part of town to try and get away from where they believed the noise originated (they would’ve moved away completely, but Caleb’s job required him to stay in the area).

Sadly, all of Caleb’s efforts wound up being in vain, as Sarah eventually got to the point where she could not stand hearing the hum anymore. She wound up killing herself, and three guesses as to how she did it. Yeah. She used a drill. That’s how desperate she was to end her suffering. Just...damn.

Needless to say, Caleb was utterly devastated by his wife’s death, to the point where folie à deux set in. Soon, he started to hear the hum, too. As a result of both his grief and his guilt, he went on a mission to try and find the source once and for all. He searched out a doctor, went to the library, tried to talk to city officials, a man who created a “hum-canceling box” name it, he investigated it. Those who refused to either help him or give up the origin of the sound met a deadly, and graphic, end. One of Caleb’s victims, a library page, was fortunately spared...but only because she was deaf. Luckily, she wasn’t the only victim who got away, as the team ultimately managed to talk Caleb out of taking hostage a couple who were staying in the cabin he used to share with Sarah.

Meanwhile, back at Quantico:

So hey, remember when Luke went on that blind date with that woman named Lisa earlier in the season? And remember how he was gushing about her to Matt, sounding totally smitten?

Well, good news – apparently things seem to be getting a little more serious between the happy couple! Early on this episode, Luke and Tara are talking about the current state of their love lives, and Luke’s telling Tara that he and Lisa aren’t putting labels on their relationship or anything right now, but things are good between them, and he seems pretty darn happy when talking about her, and is thinking about next steps. Aw. Yay.

Tara, meanwhile, has no current romances of her own to speak of, as she’s been single ever since her engagement to Doug fell apart a couple seasons ago. Luke offers to fix her up with one of his military buddies, but Tara seems pretty content with her single life. Her only request if and when she enters the dating world again: no blind dates.

“I know what it feels like to watch someone slip away, to feel powerless as they lose their grip on themselves, and on you, and reality.”

The talk of Tara’s romantic history takes a surprising turn at the end of the episode, however, with the revelation that she’s been married once before! This marriage was years ago, and it was a happy one...right up until her husband got caught up in taking uppers to help keep himself awake during grad school. Her husband did eventually manage to get help, but by then, the damage had been done, and they went their separate ways.

The case also inspires the team to discuss what sounds drive them nuts. For JJ, it’s Will singing ‘90s alt-rock songs in the shower, which amuses me greatly for some reason. Matt, it’s a fork scraping against metal. Emily can’t stand the way the ice clinks against Rossi’s glass of whiskey when he stirs it about.

Given this episode aired the same night as the season finale itself, I must admit I was rather impatient watching it. But ultimately, I did like it overall. Caleb, despite his horrific method of murder, proved to be a sympathetic unsub. I especially appreciated that the storyline didn’t go quite where I initially thought it would. At first I was thinking Sarah had asked Caleb to end her suffering for her and he reluctantly obliged, only for his mind to block out that traumatic memory. I think that angle could’ve been interesting in its own right, but ultimately I like the route they did take instead. Losing a loved one to suicide is tough enough, but given the particularly graphic way Sarah killed herself, and thinking about how desperate she had to be...yeah, it perfectly explains why Caleb snapped.

The team worked well throughout this episode, too. I loved when Luke communicated with the library page via sign language. The idea that her deafness was what saved her was a good, subtle way to hint at the unsub’s real issue, and it was a neat way to learn another detail about Luke in the process, one I hope gets explored further at some point. I also liked how Tara focused on the issue of the hum, and tried to connect with Caleb at the end. I’ve enjoyed how the show’s let us see Tara’s deep knowledge about various issues and topics – she seems to be following in the vein of Blake, Emily, and Reid with her unusual knowledge and interests, and this episode showed that well. Plus, given her calm demeanor, it’s fitting she connected with Caleb.

I do feel like the whole thing about Tara’s first marriage kinda came out of nowhere, though. I get that she’s a more reserved person, and has been cautious to reveal too much about her private life in the past, so in that sense it makes sense she would’ve kept that part of her life to herself, or at least, not have shared it with everyone on the team. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like a prior marriage would’ve come up in conversation sometime before now, too. Like anytime Rossi talked about one of his previous marriages, for instance, or when discussing her concerns regarding her fiance, Doug, with Morgan a few years back. It just felt like the writers needing an excuse to explain her connecting with Caleb more than anything, when they really didn’t need one.

On a happier note, I am glad to see Luke and his girlfriend are doing okay. I don’t expect her to show up on a regular basis or anything, mind, as the show generally likes to keep the significant others in the background much of the time. But still, any opportunity to see these people happy and settled is good.

And with that, let’s get into what was one doozy of a season finale.


The Case:

“The only way we’re safe is if they’re all gone.”

Reid, who had been on his usual thirty day sabbatical in “True North”, has been called back to work via a mysterious e-mail alerting him to a man being held captive in a storage shed. This suspicious discovery soon sucks him, along with the rest of the BAU, into what is perhaps one of the strangest cases they’ve ever worked. The details are super complicated and twisty, but here’s the comparatively shorter, simpler version: Reid and Emily help save a man named Owen Quinn, who was discovered bound up in a storage shed. Quinn had quit the FBI a year prior to focus on trying to solve a string of missing person/murder cases committed by somebody he named “The Strangler”, but in the process, he claims to have been kidnapped and held captive for much of that year by a couple. He insists he was tortured, and offers up his burned fingertips as proof, and makes all sorts of other wild claims about his captivity.

Quinn’s story sounds pretty farfetched to the team at first, to the point where they’re initially wondering if he’s secretly the Strangler. But as the team investigates further, they start to believe him. Their focus then turns to the teenage son of the couple who held Quinn captive, as he seems pretty suspicious, too (the biggest alarm bells come when they find out that Theo was in the class Reid taught during the time the BAU was split up. That clearly can’t be a coincidence). Ultimately, though, Theo’s cleared as well, as the team soon learns that he was trying to escape his twisted family, and alert the team to the fact that his parents were actually behind the string of disappearances.

Key word, of course, being “disappearances”. The murders were not committed by them. Turns out what really happened was that Theo’s parents would kidnap people and bring them to the leader of a cult called the Believers. The cult would try and recruit the kidnapped victims, and if they didn’t comply, they were killed. The team manages to track down the cult leader, a man named Benjamin, and arrests him.

“Could you do something for me? When this is all over?”

That’s not the end of the case, however. Reid stays behind at the office to try and help Quinn reunite with his own family, and Garcia’s still there, too, doing some usual computer checks. The rest of the team, meanwhile, is at Rossi’s, chilling and celebrating…

...until Emily starts to wonder if perhaps Quinn wasn’t a captive, but one of the cult’s recruits, trying to throw everybody off. As they race back to work, we see Garcia taken captive by a cult member, Owen shot and dying, and an Agent Meadows pointing a gun at Reid and telling him that if he doesn’t join the cult and do their bidding, Garcia dies.

And just who is Agent Meadows? Why, she’s a member of Quinn’s old ViCAP unit. As are some of the other cult members. In short, the cult is coming from inside the FBI!

And that, my friends, is how season thirteen ends.

So, in many ways, I liked this finale. I honestly thought, given Reid’s odd behavior throughout this episode, that we’d find out he had been recruited by the cult already and was being used to lure the team in to help him. I'm thankful that that wasn’t the case, that there was a valid explanation behind his distant demeanor (his frustration at struggling to solve a case he’d normally have no trouble figuring out, the fact he’s trying to get back into the swing of work again after yet another thirty day break). There was even some reference to his time in prison affecting him as well. It was a nice nod to the fact that he’s kinda been through an awful lot lately.

I also really loved JJ’s deep concern for him. She certainly spent a lot of time worrying about Reid during his time in prison, to the point where she tried to help make sure his mom was taken care of, so again, a good bit of continuity here. Plus, I just love the close friendship Reid and JJ share in general, and very much sympathized with her when she kept asking Reid to ease her worries.

Despite the intense, serious nature of this case, I did like that there were a few lighter moments sprinkled in as well, mostly courtesy of Luke and Tara. They have quite a fun rapport, and I liked seeing them crack jokes here and there throughout. We haven’t had a lot in the way of scenes involving those two thus far, and based off what we saw here, the show definitely should remedy that. And brief though it was, I’m always happy to see the team hanging out together at Rossi’s place. Are those season-ending gatherings a cliché at this point? Sure. Do I care? No.

As for the case itself, it certainly wasn’t predictable, which I can definitely appreciate. I honestly didn’t know which way the show would take us next at various points, and I liked that I could go back and forth a bit on whether or not Quinn was as innocent as he claimed. I’m also intrigued by the idea of cult members infiltrating the FBI. It’s a crazy premise, to be sure, and no doubt unrealistic in many respects, but I still think there’s some fun stuff they can do with the idea. The ending was appropriately dramatic, too. Sure, we know Reid and Garcia will get out of this predicament, but I’m very interested to see how they deal with this Sophie’s Choice-esque situation.

My main issue, and it’s one that’s plagued a few of the show’s cases in recent seasons, is that the case felt almost TOO twisty and complicated at times. It felt like they kept piling on all sorts of potential suspects to the point where it was a lot to juggle, and you felt like maybe just narrowing it down to a couple options would do. I don’t know that they really needed both Theo AND his parents. I think one or the other could’ve sufficed as a potential suspect alongside Quinn. And if they’d gone with Theo, he could’ve been a young adult instead of a teenage boy, thus making it a lot easier for the team, as well as us, to wonder who was the real bad guy. Though, honestly, as twisty and unpredictable as this case was, I also feel like the team could’ve ruled out some of these people a little sooner than they did.

In regards to the cult, as curious as I am about that aspect, the show will definitely have to explain how cult members can be hiding among the freaking FBI, of all agencies, as well as what their endgame is. We know the cult’s creating serial killers – are they hoping to make other people in the FBI serial killers, too? Do they want to recruit our entire federal government in general into the cult? I assume and hope, of course, these questions will be answered in the season premiere. But it’s just such a potentially grandiose plot on its face, and I feel like we’ve had an awful lot of those kinds of over-the-top, bizarre unsubs and cases lately. I won’t deny that it’d be kinda nice to go back to having the team investigate something a little simpler and basic.

I also think it would’ve been interesting if the show had been planting the seeds of this case throughout the season, with the team making allusions to the missing persons case and how they’d heard about it and were kinda quietly keeping tabs on it. Or maybe there could’ve been some mention of Quinn prior to this episode, hinting at his mysterious exit from ViCAP, so that we wouldn’t be dropped into meeting this new guy right away. It could’ve added to our suspicions of him, too.

So that’s these two episodes covered. What to make of the season as a whole?

Season Thirteen Overview/Season Fourteen Wishlist:

In general, I think season thirteen had a lot of really great ideas, and some very strong episodes overall. I appreciated that they touched on some current real world issues within some of their cases, I liked the idea of shaking up the team a little bit and seeing them out of their usual habitat, so to speak, and I think there’s a few episodes in particular from this season that can stand among the best of the series in general (hi, “False Flag”!). It was also nice to not have an unsub dogging the team virtually all season. The end of the Mr. Scratch arc and this creepy cult were good bookends to an otherwise quiet season on that front.

My biggest complaint is that a lot of those interesting ideas ended almost as soon as they started. For instance, a higher up scrutinizing the team has been done before, but I was totally on board with the Barnes arc idea upon first hearing about it, because I thought that it’d be a perfect opportunity to put a twist on it by tying her investigation of the BAU to some of the crazy events they’ve been through these past couple years. The mole, Cat using BAU information to go afte Reid, the shift in BAU leadership...I thought we’d learn this was all part of some bigger plan that Barnes had going. They spent so much time making her into this uber-villain that it would’ve made sense to just go all the way and have her be the scheming mastermind that she initially seemed to be.

Instead, they just had her be some usual bureaucrat on a typical power trip, which is a role we’ve seen before from every other person who’s investigated and gone after the team. Add in the fact that they had the excellent idea to force the team to work whole new jobs, thus putting them in new scenarios that could’ve been fun to further explore, only to have that separation last a couple episodes at most, and in the end, that whole arc just fell flat and seemed kinda pointless. Nothing really changed.

The other main issue I have with this season is the lack of any real detailed exploration of how the team’s dealing with all the hell they’ve been through. Sure, they made occasional mention of Reid’s time in prison, and he had the 100/30 day setup, but that was about it on that front. I’ll grant that given all the crap Reid’s been through over the years, perhaps he’s at the point now where he’s developed a coping mechanism for it all, but still...being thrown in prison and accused of crimes you didn’t commit isn’t something that happens every day. It would’ve been nice to delve into the aftermath of that a little further. At the very least, they could’ve at least mentioned what the heck’s going on with his mom. Is she still living with him? Did he move her somewhere new, for safety’s sake?

Then there’s Emily. On the plus side, we did get to see some instances of how running this team has affected her. She’s never taken kindly to people questioning her, so it was good, and logical, to see her responding in typical form here, standing up for the team and struggling with the stress of it all. But I think it would’ve been interesting to see some friction between her and the others at some point leading up to and during that arc. Maybe she was more strict with Reid after his prison stint. A team member died in the line of duty, so maybe that led her to be extra protective of the team and wary of sending them into the field (especially alone, which seemed to happen an awful lot this season). I think that could’ve added an interesting tension of sorts and a new angle to an otherwise routine storyline.

And, as noted, a teammate died this season, but you wouldn’t know it, given how little mention that got after the season premiere. I get that Stephen Walker wasn’t with the team very long, but still, one would think that there might be at least an occasional mention here and there. Maybe have Garcia glancing at the wall of fallen agents as she passed in the morning, or Rossi and Emily could commiserate over the loss of somebody they both knew for a while and considered a friend, or Emily could talk about keeping in touch with his wife and kids. Just something to show they were mourning the loss to some degree.

These last few complaints lead me into my main hope and wish for season fourteen: let’s see the emotional aftermath! I’m all for big, dramatic stories with these guys, but seriously, once the dust settles it would be nice to touch more deeply on how they’re all coping. These guys have been through A LOT of stuff in the past few years. I’d like it if the ramifications lasted more than a couple episodes, and had some sort of significant effect on them.

And if the show does set up a new season-long story arc? Let’s see it go in some new and intriguing directions. Granted, given this season is, as of now, expected to only be fifteen episodes long, I’m guessing they won’t do a big season storyline. So if that’s the case, then my hope is that, after the chaos of the 300th episode, they turn their focus to the team’s personal and professional lives. This show can’t last forever, after all, and it won’t surprise me if things wind down for good sometime soon. This would be a perfect opportunity to start laying the foundations for whatever final storylines they may have planned for the characters, both individually and as a team. I also hope, if this is the show’s last season, the cast and crew have been informed of that ahead of time. Or if they don’t know for certain yet, that they’ll write for the possibility.

And on a lighter note, I’m always up for seeing either guest appearances or mentions of former team members on this show. But I hope, if former teammates do show up, they get to play some significant role in the events. It’s fun to see Morgan appear, but it’d be nice to have his guest spot in an episode last for more than, like, five minutes, and include him branching out and interacting more with the others as well.

That’s an official wrap on season thirteen. One week to go until we hit that big milestone! I can’t wait to discuss the 300th episode with you all, and see what season fourteen has in store for us all.

What did you think of the double season finale? Did you enjoy both episodes, or did you prefer one over the other? What were your favorite moments/storylines from season thirteen? Least favorite? What are your hopes and wishes for the 300th episode, and season fourteen as a whole? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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