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Criminal Minds - Flesh & Blood - Review: “Lineage”

An interesting thing has been happening in the world of “Criminal Minds” in recent seasons. They seem very focused on looking backwards with some of their stories. And I mean way, WAY back at that. We had Lindsay Vaughn, a victim from a case well back in season three, pop up in a very dramatic manner as part of Reid’s prison arc in season twelve. Season thirteen brought us the return of infamous killer Floyd Ferrell (also from a case in season three), still finding ways to inflict his horror on the public.

Now the current season has seen two more blasts from the past. The season premiere gave us we an update on what became of the members of the polygamous Liberty Ranch cult from season four’s “Minimal Loss”. And then there’s this episode’s case, which, again, returned to season three, connecting a case from that season to the one the team worked here.

Why is the show so determined to look back of late? Well, we are fourteen seasons into the show’s run. That’s usually the age where shows that make it to that point start looking at an end date, and with this current season in particular being the shortest one in the show’s history, that’s only further fueling the “Is this the end for the series?” questions. So from that standpoint, it’s only logical the show may want to have one last glance back at some of their more memorable cases and unsubs.

But I don’t think that’s the only reason. There’s also the fact that the show has been through a LOT of changes in recent seasons, with team members coming and going, and very few original members of the BAU left. It’s natural, as a result, that that could inspire a bit of nostalgia, a reminder of what a lot of fans consider the show’s “glory days”. Perhaps the show wants to remind fans that as necessary and unavoidable as some of the recent changes have been, they still treasure the old days, too.

And, on a less sentimental note, there’s also the fact that there’s been a few cases throughout the show’s run that ended with some loose ends still lingering. Many fans can point to a case that’s left them wondering, “So what happened afterward?”, so it makes sense the show would want to revisit some of those cases and people, and see what’s become of them. Unfortunately, in the cases of Lindsay, Floyd, and the Liberty Ranch gang, we learned the aftermath was just as bad as, if not worse than, what they’d originally been through, or put others through. This latest case is no exception, as we see just how deeply affected this unsub is by the trauma he’d been put through as a child years prior.

Fortunately, while some of the other revisited cases were a little hit and miss in how they were handled, this one works quite well overall. The connection between this unsub and the original season three case is believable and well-handled and explored, we get a good glimpse into how the connection affects the team members who’d worked both cases, and there’s just enough change and difference between the two cases to keep things from getting too predictable. It might seem funny to say an episode that looks back so much is one of the stronger ones of the season, but such is the case.

Alongside the case throwbacks, we also get an update regarding Emily’s personal life. It’s nothing super earth-shattering, but it is a sweet side story. It also has the feeling of the show wanting to give some tidy, happy stories for the team members as well, just in case things are indeed winding down. Even if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, though, it’s still refreshing to get a bit of a break from personal drama for these people.

With that, let’s delve into this case, and prepare for some flashbacks along the way.

The Case:

No happy start for our poor victim as this episode begins. Instead, we’re dropped right into the hellish action, with the victim stored away in a dingy, dirty room. He’s chained and strapped up and sporting a bag over his head. The unsub removes the bag, and the victim, understandably angry, takes that opportunity to try and threaten the unsub. Bad idea. The unsub, not swayed by the man’s threats, hits him.

A short time later, the team gathers at the BAU as news of this latest case comes in. Our above victim is the second man to be murdered of late. Both men were reported missing forty-eight hours prior to being killed, beaten very badly, and disposed, their bodies wrapped in tarps. So the unsub keeps them for two days...but why? Well, the team gets the gruesome answer to that question pretty quickly: during that time, the unsub removes the victims’ hearts. Lovely. What he does with the hearts has yet to be revealed, but the team is certain that they’re dealing with somebody with medical knowledge, somebody who’s been doing this for quite some time. So at least they’ve got one part of their profile squared away right off the bat.

The team may not know yet what becomes of the hearts, but we viewers get the answer when we next check in with the unsub: he’s keeping them preserved in boxes. Ew.

Emily and JJ look further into the men’s backgrounds. But that doesn’t really prove helpful, as the only major thing they seem to have in common, aside from the way they were both killed, is that they’re lawyers. One of the men, Sean, was married and had a daughter. The other man, Anthony, had been married and divorced twice, and had no children. They do learn one other interesting thing about Anthony, though – apparently there’s video footage of a woman approaching him in the parking lot of his workplace the night before he disappears. She seems to need some kind of help. That woman is the very last person to have seen him alive, too, so is she a witness...or is she the unsub they’re looking for?

There’s also the theory that she could be working with the unsub, luring these men in under false pretenses. Sure enough, we soon see a woman, Becca, meeting up with our next victim, a man named Dennis, and claiming to need help with her car. He later becomes the unsub’s next victim. She’s not the same woman who was seen chatting with Anthony, though. Is the unsub using different women, and paying them to help out? If so, what happens to these women after they play their part? He’d probably want to get rid of them, too, so they don’t reveal his evil plans.

Well, turns out that theory gets squashed fairly quickly, as the team soon manages to track down the woman who talked to Anthony. Her name is Kiara, and she has a history with solicitation. She’s clearly nervous, but when she talks to Tara and Luke, she insists that she knows nothing about any of the murders. Rather, she claims that she simply met up with a guy named Eddie after seeing an ad he’d placed online. He was apparently offering people five thousand dollars to help him supposedly play a prank on his dad’s friend, and when you’re desperate for money, well… A later interview with Becca, also a working girl, reveals a similar story. So these women are being used as part of the unsub’s ruse, but unknowingly so, and they’re not witness to the actual killings. And Eddie looks to be our unsub.

There’s another curious aspect to Eddie. According to Kiara and Becca, he’s described as being a young man, in his early twenties at best. How does somebody that young get so good at killing people? That’s when JJ makes a stunning realization about who their unsub might be. The case has been giving her some serious deja vu vibes thus far, and for a while she couldn’t quite put her finger on why.

But as JJ looks back over the crime scenes, the way the bodies are displayed, the removal of the hearts, that’s when it hits her why this case looks so familiar: it’s the exact same M.O. of a case the team had worked in Milwaukee eleven years ago. A man named Joe Smith had been going around killing women. He was gravely ill with cancer, and was angry that his ex-wife up and left, instead of staying to support him or their young son. Joe used his son to lure women in, and then he’d hold the women hostage in his house for forty-eight hours, forcing them to play out the wife/mother roles. When enough time had passed, he’d kill them, cut their hearts out, and dispose of their bodies. The case had ended when Emily offered to be “bait” of sorts for the unsub, sneaking into his home to try and catch him out. She’d been slightly injured by the unsub in the process, but she succeeded.

So why didn’t this case ping Emily’s radar as well? Well, that was back during a time of serious upheaval amongst the team. Hotch had been suspended, and Emily, in protest of the decision, had been planning to resign and transfer to another job. Gideon was in the wind as well. Hotch and Emily didn’t actually wind up working the Smith case until it was nearly finished. The only people who’d been on that case from the start were JJ, Morgan, and Reid, with Strauss accompanying them. And of course, Morgan is no longer with the team, Strauss is no longer alive, and Reid, while still with the team, is away teaching right now. The remaining current members of the team weren’t part of the BAU yet at that time, either, so obviously they wouldn’t see the similarities.

JJ and Emily continue to examine the connections between the cases, and that leads them to realize the true identity of their unsub. Emily reveals that after the Smith case ended, she quietly kept tabs on Joe’s son, David. He’d tried to reunite with his mom after his dad went to jail, but sadly, his mom didn’t want him. David was then adopted by a couple whose last name popped up during the current case. They’re known as the Addisons, and upon adopting David, they’d changed his Edward, or Eddie.

Last Emily had heard, Eddie was doing relatively okay in his new family, but she soon learns that he recently lost contact with the Addisons after moving out on his own. His biological father, meanwhile, managed to live with his cancer far longer than originally expected, and only died in prison just last year. That triggered Eddie, and soon after, he began his killing spree.

But why is he killing men instead of women? Why these men? The answer lies in a connection between all three of the victims. A few years back, one of the men, Dennis, was having an affair with an intern at his company, Robin, despite being engaged to his wife at the time. The night of Dennis’ bachelor party, Robin died in a drowning. An investigation ultimately ruled her death an accident – she slipped while jogging and fell into the river – but many have suspected since then that her death was no accident at all, and that Dennis had something to do with it. Sean and Anthony were at the party as well, and the rumor mill is that they may have helped cover for Dennis. Perhaps Eddie had a close bond with Robin, and is seeking revenge. Or maybe he’s working on behalf of her family.

“Let’s talk about the men who believe that they’re untouchable because of their wealth.”

Tara and Rossi meet up with Robin’s mom, Elizabeth, to get more information. She’s still clearly angry and grieving, and has been very critical of the investigation into Robin’s death. She claims not to know Eddie, and denies any knowledge of the men’s murders, though she’s not sorry to hear he might be killing the men she holds responsible. Tara and Rossi aren’t quite buying her innocence, however, and further investigation reveals that she is indeed lying about not knowing Eddie. She knows him quite well, actually – she’d been his therapist for the past year! Apparently, Eddie had been afraid for some time that he would turn out just like his dad, so he went to Elizabeth in the hopes of trying to find ways to fight what he saw as his biological destiny to become a serial killer.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth was not a good therapist for him at all. Instead, she manipulated him, making him believe that all men were violent, just like his dad. She then encouraged him to put those “family skills” of his to use and get true justice for her daughter’s death. When the team try to confront her about this, however, she’s gotten herself a lawyer, and he threatens to sue the BAU if they keep harassing her.

Clearly she’s not going to be any help, and Eddie’s still out there killing, so now the team decides it’s time for drastic measures. They try turning Eddie’s ruse back on him, picking a woman to answer his latest ad in the hopes of luring him in. Problem is, Eddie is wise to their plan. He actually calls the “bait”, asking to speak to Emily specifically. Eddie is surprised to see and hear her, and remembers her visits to him. He’s upset that she failed in her promise to be there for him, and explains that he has to punish these men, just as his father deserved to be punished. Luke and Matt spot him and try and chase him down, but Eddie gives them the slip.

The team puts all of the remaining men from the party into protective custody...but Emily realizes, with horror, that Eddie may not want to target them anymore. Rather, she believes his feelings of betrayal against a maternal figure will lead him to retaliate against a woman this time. He’s going after Elizabeth! And indeed, when Emily and JJ finally discovers his little murder lair, that’s where they find him and Elizabeth. Eddie’s destroyed all the boxes of hearts, feeling remorseful over the murders. He believes the men were actually innocent and Robin’s death was an accident, just as many had initially assumed.

“This isn’t who you really are.”

Emily starts trying to reach out to Eddie, hoping to finally connect with him the way she’d initially planned. At first he’s reluctant, insisting that he’s no different than his dad. But finally, Emily manages to reach him, even going so far as to offer herself up in place of Elizabeth. At first, Eddie considers the idea...but he just can’t do that to the one woman who managed to show him kindness when he was a child. He drops his gun, and breaks down sobbing. Emily embraces him, bringing him some much needed comfort, before he’s finally taken into custody.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, confesses to manipulating Eddie all these years, and putting him up to these murders. She, too, is taken in, but what becomes of her, we aren’t sure. Emily, Garcia, and JJ reflect on the case at the end, expressing sympathy for the tough life Eddie lived, and Emily struggles to avoid blaming herself for not being there for him more.

I have to say, this episode was quite a pleasant surprise in terms of throwback references. I loved that JJ was the one to realize the connection between the two cases – not only did it make sense given she was the only current member in this particular episode who was there for both cases from the get-go, but it was also a subtle reminder of how much work she put into the original Smith case. She had to pretty much take charge of what little team there was for a good portion of that episode, and had to deal with Strauss and her hovering on top of it all. Naturally that would make that case all the more memorable for her specifically as a result.

I also liked how JJ’s realization highlighted just how much things have changed over the years in regards to the team lineup. Rossi’s been with this team so long that I think some people tend to forget he wasn’t there when season three started right away. The connection between the cases was a painful reminder of both who we’ve lost, and, on a positive note, who all we’ve gained, within this BAU family. Plus, I just really like it when newer team members get to learn about some of the more memorable cases the long-running members have worked, or personal events they’ve been through. It’s like a rite of passage, a way to show they’re truly a trusted part of the team now.

Despite the fact that Emily came into the original Smith case late, I do like that we got to see the effect it had on her as well. It’s so fitting that she kept tabs on Eddie after the case ended – we know she did that with Declan, so why wouldn’t she be like that with kids from other cases as well? Especially given the strong parallels: here’s a boy being raised by a violent father, learning how to be like him, just as Doyle tried to raise Declan in his dangerous world. Of course Emily would react to that. The fact that Emily had to stop keeping tabs on Eddie when Doyle came back into the picture just highlights the tragic irony and similarities, and I love how the show nodded to that part of Emily’s history without needing to go in depth, and that JJ, of all people, would understand those similarities especially well.

As for Eddie himself, I felt the show did a great job at making him sympathetic. We already knew his backstory, he was a character we connected with before, which helped us get to the action quicker. What little new information we did learn about him fit well with his history and his family situation, and did well at showing us how hard he tried to fight what he saw as his fate. Some of the saddest unsubs are those who know full well what they’re doing is wrong and try to fight their darker urges, and I liked how this episode explored Eddie’s struggle in that regard. It was heartbreaking to see that he was manipulated by yet another adult he thought he could trust, but given his history, it also made sense that he’d be especially vulnerable to people like that.

I also liked the contrast between his motives for killing and those of his dad. His dad was just out and out cruel and sadistic, reacting to being scorned by a woman. Eddie, meanwhile, thought he was actually committing justifiable killings. His killings were motivated by his desire to defend a woman and avenge her death, not borne out of hatred for women. That’s especially interesting when you consider his biological mom rejected him and his therapist manipulated him. But of course, if his adoptive mom was kind, which it seems she was, and since he got to experience Emily’s kindness as well, he was able to discover that not all women were as awful as his father claimed.

And on that note, I really loved the moment when Emily hugged Eddie after talking him down. It was genuinely touching and surprisingly sweet. She still saw the broken, lonely little boy who needed love, and he clearly showed remorse for what he’d done, so his breakdown felt natural and cathartic. It’s enough to make one hope that he finally does get the proper help and care he’s needed all along.

The ambiguity surrounding Robin’s death made the story that much more intriguing, too. Her mom confessed to manipulating Eddie, sure, but it still felt like Robin's story wasn't fully resolved. Was her death indeed an accident, or was she murdered...just not by those men?

If there was one big complaint I’d have about this episode, it’s that I tend to agree with those who felt it was a little too torture porn-ish throughout. The original case managed to give us an idea of the unsub’s violence without having us witness the murders and beatings themselves. It would’ve been nice for the show to give us more of that kind of restraint here. Outside of that, though, I thought this was the strongest “throwback” case storyline the show’s done of late, and hopefully, if the show revisits another case down the line, they do it in this kind of style. I can certainly think of a few other stories that have yet to be fully resolved.

This case brought back a few haunting memories for Emily, but luckily, this episode wasn’t all doom and gloom for her. We also got to see some progress between her and her new boyfriend.

Meanwhile, back at Quantico:

So hey, remember Agent Mendoza from the episode “Twenty-Seven”? He and Emily had kinda flirted a bit with each other at the end of that episode, agreeing to go out once he’d healed from his injuries he suffered as a result of the case they’d worked?

“You winged it? You don’t exactly have the memory of our boy genius, you know?”

Well, good news: the two of them finally manage to have their date this episode! It starts off a bit shaky at first – Emily is running behind in getting dinner ready, and a call to Rossi reveals that she screwed up cooking one of his gourmet dishes (she used cooking wine, and as Rossi explains, “If you no drink-a the wine, you no cook-a with the wine.”) making things even more complicated. Mendoza arrives in the midst of this chaos, and luckily, he’s very chill about the whole situation. The two decide to share a pizza instead, and things are going well. Mostly, at least. Mendoza admits to Emily at one point that she’d rescheduled their date so many times that he was starting to suspect she might’ve been reconsidering their getting together at all.

She dismisses the idea, assuring him that the rescheduling was just an unfortunate side effect of her very busy job. It’s a fair point, and the fact she has to break their date when she’s called in to work this episode’s case just further proves the impact this job can have on one’s romantic life. At first Emily wants to stay and continue her date, but Mendoza insists she go.

After the case wraps up, Emily invites Mendoza over once again, this time for breakfast. She then confesses to Mendoza that while it’s true her job did affect her attempts to get together with him, he wasn’t entirely wrong in his initial assumption that she was blowing him off. She’s not had the best luck with romance throughout her life, and was afraid of getting too close, and having something go wrong. But given how laid back Mendoza is, given how much he genuinely cares about her, given that he can understand, on some level, the hectic nature of her job, she figures this relationship might just be the change she’s looking for after all. And Mendoza happily agrees. By that time, breakfast is ready, but Emily decides the food can wait a little longer. Ahem.

I said at the end of “Twenty-Seven” that I was fully on board with this romance between Emily and Mendoza, and this episode has further confirmed how much I’m enjoying these two together. I love how laid back and relaxed he is – it’s a perfect contrast to Emily’s more nervous, controlled personality, and I like how we got to see that contrast here. Any guy who can roll with a dinner disaster is a guy worth keeping around, I say. I also enjoyed Emily trying to turn to Rossi for help with her food, and I will forever love that Rossi shares his recipes with the others whenever they have some personal special occasion happening.

I also liked Emily opening up a little about her struggle to allow herself to be in a stable relationship. Again, a good, subtle nod to her tumultuous history, and I like it when Emily allows herself to be vulnerable, and let her insecurities show a bit. It’s part of what makes her so relatable, and it explains a large part of why she’d connect so well with somebody like Mendoza. He seems like just the sort of guy who can help her deal with those insecurities and give her the confidence she deserves.

I also like how she and Mendoza are addressing the whole, “I have a busy job” issue right away. Saves them the trouble of having to learn to adjust to that problem later. As we’ve seen with Will, Lisa, and Savannah, it’s probably a good idea for these guys to date people who have busy jobs of their own. Makes them that much more understanding of the struggles the team members go through with always being called in to work. Here's hoping things continue to go well for these two.

Two-thirds of the season down, one-third left to go. Moving fast, isn’t it? Hope you’ve all had a lovely holiday season, and may you all have a happy new year! Let’s hope 2019 gives us a good wrap-up to this season, if not the series as a whole.

What did you think of this episode? Did you enjoy the throwback to an earlier case? Did you sympathize with Eddie? Do you believe violence is inherited? What other past cases would you like to see revisited? Is the Emily/Mendoza relationship working for you thus far? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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