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Criminal Minds - Face Off/And in the End - Double Review: “Wheels Up”

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Hello, all! Finally able to post this...a little over a month after the finale aired. I am slow, I know, and my deepest apologies for the delay.

On to the review proper...iIt’s series finale time, everyone! We’re finally at the end of the road.

Naturally, there was a ton of speculation leading up to this two-parter. We knew from various sources that Rossi was looking to retire, a few faces from the past would make an appearance, Reid would find himself in peril yet again (because why not put him through the wringer one last time, right?), and there’d be a final showdown with the Chameleon. But there were still many other questions. Were there going to be unexpected guests? What kinds of flashbacks would they have? Would the team still all be together at the end, what with all the offers, both professional and personal, awaiting them?

Now that we’ve finally got the answers, I feel it’s safe to say that things didn’t play out quite the way I’m sure many expected. The issues with the potential team changes are resolved in rather surprising ways, and the flashbacks and guest appearances come about in a very unusual manner. Even the way the Lynch case wraps up is rather surreal. Personally, I’d always said that so long as the team members themselves were in good places when the show ended, that’d be enough to make me happy.

Fortunately, that winds up being the case. I figured we wouldn’t see any team members being killed off, and I’m glad to see that turned out to be true. The finale definitely left me emotional, though, to be fair, series finales often get me emotional in general. But I’ve been following this show for about seven years now, and writing for it for five (!) years. That’s a long time, though, admittedly, not as long as it has been for those who were into the show from the very beginning.

Overall, I’m glad that things with the team turned out as they did, though I’m also kind of conflicted in those feelings, because I liked the possibilities that opened up with where they could’ve all gone from here, too. And while I loved all the flashbacks and liked the guest appearances that we had, I feel they could’ve been handled and used in different ways? I’m just not sure this is the particular route I would’ve gone to get them here.

The resolution to the Lynch case had me conflicted, too. There were some interesting elements to it, but again, I would’ve gone a whole different route in regards to his ultimate takedown. I feel the same way about the storyline involving Reid in danger, and the guests that appeared as part of that. Basically, this finale can be summed up as a lot of awesome ideas and buildup, with some rather odd execution and anticlimactic endings. Even with those issues, though, there was a lot in here to enjoy, and I’m glad that the show and the fans got to have a proper goodbye.

So for the last time ever, let’s do this.

The Case:

“Remember? You and me? My yin to your yang?”

As we begin the first hour, Rossi is down in the basement of the FBI (“where the BAU began”, he explains). He’s looking over all he knows about Lynch thus far, and we get a brief recap of his history up to now along the way. Rossi’s reverie is quickly interrupted by a ghost from the past – Gideon! Young Gideon, at that (hi, Ben Savage, nice to see you again!). He’s trying to help Rossi focus and get the answer to the one question that’s been nagging him for the past year: why didn’t Lynch kill him when he attacked him in that field? The guy killed his own daughter and cur off her face, so it’s not like he’s got a line he won’t cross.

Gideon concludes that perhaps Rossi reminded Lynch of his father somehow. But that doesn’t make sense, Rossi says, because Lynch’s dad is dead. According to Roberta, he drowned in a boating accident. Gideon points out that that story seems eerily similar to the one Lynch has been telling about Roberta drowning Grace as a child.

That’s when the lightbulb comes on. Roberta was lying. Lynch’s dad must still be alive, and he’s trying to find him and settle the score once and for all. Sure enough, when we do first see Lynch, he’s now going by the name Edward Hines, and he’s meeting with a private investigator named Orlando Gaines, giving him some money to try and track his father down. The private investigator does ultimately find a man named Delvin that he believes may be Lynch’s dad, and proceeds to keep tabs on him.

Afterward, Lynch gets a call from a woman named Marilyn. Not the lady we saw him with in “Family Tree” – he’s killed her by then, and she gets put into an incinerator for her sendoff, which, yikes. Instead, Marilyn is his newest date...sort of. See, they had been seeing each other for a time, but then her ex showed up and wooed her back. Problem is, he’s become abusive, so she escaped, taking along her daughter Olivia, and now wants Lynch to take them both in. Oh, honey. Run. Lynch, playing the knight in shining armor, agrees to the plan.

Back at Quantico, Reid visits Rossi, and the two have a chat about Lynch. Reid reminds him of what he had to learn when he first returned to the BAU all those years ago: he can’t, and shouldn’t, work this case alone. Rossi thankfully heeds his advice, and the team digs further into Lynch’s own twisted family’s past, They learn at this point that Roberta’s been paroled, but she has agreed to talk to the team. Hopefully, she’ll hold the key to Lynch’s whereabouts.

Emily sends JJ and Tara in to talk to Roberta, and a tense talk ensues as she makes clear how she plans to celebrate her freedom. Remember how angry she was at Lynch for killing Grace? Yeah. She wants to make him pay for that. JJ sympathizes with her anger, but stresses that justice is more important than revenge in this situation. Roberta seems pretty set on sticking to her plans, however, so the team will have to go back to the drawing board. At this point, Garcia gets info on both Lynch’s new identity and his “family”, as well as the private investigator. Seems Gaines was once a narcotics cop who spent a few years in prison for selling drugs! Irony! They pinpoint the location as Reno, Nevada, so time for a trip! Unfortunately, when Gaines sees Rossi and Reid poking around his P.I. office, he alerts Lynch.

As Lynch continues to plot his next moves, he recalls the murder of his daughter. For some reason, the show feels we really needed to see that in flashback, but the scene does reveal something interesting. As he’s killing Grace, he mutters, “You should never have been born!” Later, Olivia asks him where her mom is, and he’s evasive, claiming they’d had a fight and she took off. Translation: she’s dead.

As the team looks for Lynch, Roberta’s busy with her own hunt. She finds Delvin’s place, and he invites her in. He knows about the private investigator, and asks if she sent him. Roberta, of course, has no clue who he’s referring to. She’s there to talk about Lynch, but Delvin has no interest in discussing his son, pointedly reminding her she’s the one who wanted to have him, not him. Ouch. Roberta informs Delvin that Lynch is looking for him, and brings up his attempt to drown his son, and his wish that he’d never been born. Ahhhhh… Her rage intense at this point, Roberta pulls out a gun and shoots Delvin dead...fourteen times. She then stabs him forty-seven times after that. Damn, woman.

So now the team’s trying to track down both Roberta and Lynch. Their search for the latter becomes easy when Lynch calls Rossi with an interesting offer: they’ll meet up, and he’ll give up Olivia’s whereabouts in exchange for his freedom. Reid believes Rossi can appeal to whatever shred of humanity may still exist in Lynch; if he sees Rossi as a surrogate father of sorts, he can make Lynch believe in a chance at redemption. It’s a shaky premise, but they go with it.

Rossii and Lynch meet up in the woods, and over a little target practice, Lynch opens up, admitting to making the same threat to Grace that his father made to him, but he’s confused as to why Roberta saved him from his dad. He then warns Rossi that if anything happens to him, Olivia will die – he’s spiked her insulin, and has what she needs to fix it. All he wants to do is leave...which he does.

Lynch returns to Olivia at that point, only for Roberta to show up. She’s got a gun and she is pissed. She’s pointing the gun at Lynch, who shows her Grace’s face, which is in a framed case (that’s just freaking weird). and says, “I bet you’re wishing you let Daddy drown me now, huh?” This family is effed. Up. A standoff ensues as the team gathers at the house to debate what to do next. Reid places a call to Roberta, asking her to let Olivia go, and thankfully, she does. The team then prepares to enter the house and end the standoff...when it explodes. Seems the two ultimately decided to go out in some kind of twisted suicide pact.

So that’s it. Roberta’s dead, and so is Lynch, along with, unfortunately, six agents. Or so the team thinks. There’s something off about the way Lynch and his mom died. Neither of them presented as suicidal, so why go out like that? Reid’s ruminating on that question in his apartment later, and hits on a shocking realization. But before he can share it with the team, he falls unconscious.

More on that later, though. The team soon realizes what Reid discovered as they look over the final report on the case. While going through the list of victims, they’re horrified to discover that Lynch’s name isn’t there. Turns out he’d set the house to go up, and managed to escape In the process! He’ll likely be targeting the team and their families now, so they immediately get security detail for them. This backfires when Lynch, upon finding the officer guarding Rossi’s house, kills him...and tricks Krystall into letting him inside. Hand to God, I actually yelled, “No! NO!” at this point.

Fortunately, Krystall catches on pretty quickly, remembering the talk she and Rossi had about Lynch last season. It’s too late, though, as he kidnaps her and tries to make his escape. And what’s he going to use to get away? The team’s jet. Okay, sure, we’ll go with that. Rossi gets a call from Krystall alerting him to what’s going on, and he knows what he must do: trade himself in order to let Krystall go free. His plan works, with Lynch handcuffing him and the two boarding the jet.

What now? “There are things none of you know about that jet,” Emily replies, which, wow, way to be cryptic. But we soon learn what she means. As Lynch prepares for takeoff (yeah, he’s trained to be a pilot. Go figure), Rossi frees himself and sneaks a gun out of an overhead compartment. A shootout ensues, and Rossi manages to get the door open at one point, but not before being shot as he tumbles out of the plane! No worries, though, his vest caught the bullets. Whew. The team continues shooting at the jet, with JJ’s shot igniting the fuel tank, causing an explosion! Yep. JJ blew up the BAU jet.

So hands up, who among you saw that ending coming? Certainly an unusual way for this case to wrap up. I get that it was meant to be a kind of dramatic metaphor to signal the true end of the show and all, but it also came off kind of...bizarre and awkward? I think it would’ve been better to either have Rossi capture Lynch at long last and let him rot in jail. It would’ve zapped Lynch of his cockiness, and it would’ve been satisfying to see the team’s final case end with the unsub being sent away. Or, if Lynch must die, let him die in that house explosion, having his demons ultimately get the better of him.

The whole scene with Rossi and Lynch meeting up in the woods was a weird way to go as well. I like the “try to empathize” plan in and of itself, but for a team as skilled as this, one would think they’d have found a better way to approach and confront Lynch, so that he had less chance to escape. And while I get the nod to Foyet and Haley with Lynch and Krystall, I wish they hadn’t gone there at all. I’d have preferred they just let the team take him down without any loved ones in peril.

On the plus side, everything with Roberta was intriguing and gave the storyline some great tension. I kind of wish she’d survived, both because it didn’t track that she was so ruthless only to fumble last minute during her confrontation and also because she was an interesting character in her own right. Not saying she had to go free, ‘cause she was a killer, but I would’ve liked to see how she’d handle the aftermath of Lynch either dying or being sent to jail.

I also enjoyed seeing Rossi lean on his years worth of knowledge and experience, and the way they worked Gideon into his conflicts regarding this case. It was a nice nod to the team’s origins, and a great way to show just how much of an influence Gideon was on the team, and how his presence still lingered all these years later. A proper full circle sort of thing.

The team may have been busy chasing down Lynch, but one team member wasn’t present for the latter part of that investigation: Reid. Let’s check in and see what was going on with him.

Meanwhile, back at Quantico:

As mentioned earlier, after Reid realizes Lynch has escaped, he falls unconscious. Why? Well, he was near the house when it exploded, and got knocked back onto the ground. Initially, all seemed fine, save for a bit of a ringing in his ears, but the blast had more of an impact than he realized. Which is why, when we first start the second hour, we find ourselves going through some interesting hallucinations and flashbacks, courtesy of Reid. He steps off the elevator at work, and is immediately taken back to the early days of the team. And I mean early – we get a flashback to a scene from the first season finale, “Fisher King” - the one where the team’s discussing their vacation plans. Hotch, Morgan, Elle, Gideon, they’re all there and it’s really bittersweet and aw. But since Reid’s out of it, he imagines they’re all still actually there.

As Reid keeps walking around, he heads into Garcia’s office, only to find Strauss there! Yes, Strauss. She informs him of what’s really happening – he’s suffered a brain injury. She then takes him to the wall honoring agents who’ve died in the line of fire. Reid worries that this might be schizophrenia settling in, but she assures him it’s not. Perhaps she’s a manifestation of the guilt he feels over all those who’ve died?

Strauss then disappears, and Foyet shows up next! Yeah, we’re just bringing all sorts of people back here. He starts to taunt Reid about the explosion that killed those agents, and when Reid looks at the wall again, he sees his own photo up there! But why is Reid hallucinating Foyet? He was Hotch’s nemesis. Foyet explains that Hotch is the reason Reid’s thinking of him, that he’s remembering the pain this job caused his teammates, too. They may have survived, but they still carry scars, and the job still took its toll, as we saw with Hotch after Haley’s death.

“You need to find that kind of passion with someone again.”

Foyet then brings Reid back to his apartment, so to speak, but there’s somebody else there this time: Maeve. Of course, this makes Reid recall the night she died, and he tearfully apologizes to her for letting that happen. She reassures him she has no regrets, and confesses her love of ‘90s romantic dramas and comedies, especially likes one that sounds a lot like the summary to City of Angels.

Offering to help Reid figure out what to do next, Maeve takes him to Gideon’s grave. Reid mentions how long it’s been since he last saw him (twelve years, seven months, and twenty-three days, if you’re wondering), and recalls the similarities between how his dad and Gideon left, and his wish for Gideon to get a happy ending. Maeve assures him that Gideon is happy now, telling some weird story about him being fascinated with an octopus named Mildred, which, what?

Reid explains he’s afraid to die, for fear he’ll let everyone down. Maeve asks him what he loves, and his answers are cute and varied, with her obviously being on his list. Aw. As they continue talking, they recall their one and only fight, about which poet was the greatest. She and Reid each quote from the work of e.e. cummings (her favorite poet), sharing one final hug before Reid hears his mom’s voice.

While Reid’s spirit is off on its (literal) soul-searching journey, JJ and Garcia get him to the hospital upon discovering him in his home. Soon, Diana shows up, and her distress over seeing her son injured, as well as the talk of surgery, is palpable. She asks Garcia if Reid’s been in the hospital before, to which I say, oh, how much time have you got, dear? This leads Garcia to start recalling all the other times the team and their loved ones have been in the hospital, as well as her own stay after being shot. That’s a long, long list, and it clearly leaves her rattled.

Diana tries to distract herself by talking to Reid about their favorite clouds, and that leads to her and Garcia having a debate about his eye color. That discussion is quickly resolved when Reid finally wakes up for good, and it looks like he will ultimately be okay. Hooray!

So this part of the story was...strange. I loved the flashbacks, odd though some of them were. I mean, I’d prefer to remember some of these team members from latter seasons in happier times, and of all the flashbacks I would’ve picked regarding a moment between Diana and Reid, a scene from “Surface Tension” seemed a strange one. Surely there was another way for her to face the realization it was Reid lying there than to draw on that memory?

Plus, there were plenty of team members that didn’t even get a nod at all. No Seaver, Todd, Kate, Stephen..I know they weren’t on the team very long, but still, it would’ve been nice to find a way to give a shoutout to all team members from the past at some point, and maybe have the team reflect on and acknowledge whatever bonds they shared with them (do Reid and Blake keep in touch? Is Kate doing well? What became of Elle? How’s Morgan doing? Etc.). Some of the flashbacks were weirdly inserted as well, which made things feel kinda choppy. Still, it was nice to get a glimpse of at least some of the team members once again, and I’ll never turn down a nod to the cute moments from “Fisher King”.

I also liked seeing Strauss, Foyet, and Maeve again, though I wouldn’t have used this storyline as a means to bring them in. I like the consensus among fans that they were supposed to be a mix of the good and bad the team dealt with over the years, but I don’t think we needed to have that shown through Reid hallucinating them all episode. I would’ve much preferred to see, say, Rossi reflecting on Strauss for some reason or another, or even Emily, given they had the most interaction and ups and downs with her over the years. I would’ve liked to see the entire team reflecting on Foyet, and what they each took away from the horror he inflicted on Hotch, and the team as a whole. Since they were giving a nod to Foyet and Haley with Lynch taking Krystall captive, that would’ve been the perfect opportunity to actually bring Foyet into the storyline.

Reid reflecting on Maeve was an appropriate touch, given his burgeoning relationship with Max, but it does seem weird they’d go through all that and not even at least make a mention of her, or at least allude to their relationship as a sign that he’s starting to look forward and move on, whether or not Max winds up being “the one”. It also would’ve been really nice to let this finale play out without Reid being put in danger yet again. We all knew he’d make it out and be fine, so it seemed a pointless way to bring him to this conclusion. I would’ve preferred him taking down Lynch alongside the rest of the team, and letting that case, along with all the talk of change within the team, be enough motivation for him to recall Maeve and explore the concept of moving on.

All of that being said, however, it was nice to see Diana and Reid together one last time, and to see Diana in a relatively stable state as well. We’ll just sidestep all the myriad issues with her even having any say over what the doctors could do for Reid, because I’m not looking to this show for medical accuracy, so I’ll roll with it. And I liked Garcia being by Reid’s side as well – I’ve always appreciated the friendship between them, and this was a nice little callback of sorts to their interaction in “Demons”. Plus, it explained Garcia’s decision to move on to some degree. Why this would be the catalyst and not any of the other numerous near-death experiences the team’s had, I’m not sure, but again, rolling with it).

So that’s two parts of the final storyline down. Of course, now the big question: how did the team ultimately say goodbye?


“I wanna freeze right now, I wanna soak this in.”

When this two-parter begins, there’s a lot of potential changes coming for the team. Emily’s got the option of either becoming the FBI director or moving to Denver to be with Mendoza. JJ could move with her family to New Orleans and work in the field office there, or take over as unit chief if Emily moves up. Rossi, upon believing s the Lynch case has been closed, starts thinking about retiring, news which immediately has Krystall making party plans. And Garcia shocks the team with her own announcement: she’s been offered a job in Silicon Valley! It’s for a research group that aims to combat climate change. Yes, it’s looking like much of the team will be going their separate ways by the end.

Well, it doesn’t take long for one offer to go down the drain. Thanks to the blunder in the Lynch case that left six agents dead, Emily, taking full responsibility for the outcome, loses the chance to be the FBI director. She remains unit chief, which leaves JJ’s chances at that job looking slim. A month later, with Reid recovered, the team gathers at Rossi’s place, leading him to reflect on all the other happy occasions and team celebrations that have occurred in his backyard. So this is it. Rossi’s retiring and settling down to a happy, quiet life with Krystall. To our surprise, the team’s actually staying pretty well intact. At least, for the time being, anyway. Emily and Mendoza are looking at investing in some land in Denver for the potential future, but JJ and her family aren’t moving to New Orleans at this time. Reid’s doing some teaching and consulting, but still working with the team. And Rossi’s decided it’s better for him to stay and do what he’s done for much of his life.

There’s only one person actually leaving the team for good, and it turns out to be…Garcia, of all people. Seems the stress and tragedy and horror of this job eventually came to be too much, and so she figures a change is in order. But she’s not taking the Silicon Valley job. Instead she’s working at a non-profit in the area. So she’ll still be close by in some form.

As a result, the gathering has now turned into both a sendoff for Garcia and a celebration of the team in general. We get a fun montage of everyone singing and dancing to David Bowie’s “Heroes”, and then things get emotional as Emily and JJ each make toasts, followed by Garcia herself. It’s clear everyone is struggling to hold back tears at this point, and I can sympathize, because I’m a blubbering mess, too. Garcia thanks everyone for their love and support, and makes a nod to the Beatles, who, you’ll notice, inspired the episode’s title.

Oh, and one other intriguing thing happens. In the first hour, Luke tells the team that he and Lisa broke up a while back, so he’s currently single. At the party, he comes up to Garcia, and reminds her that hey, since they’re not working together anymore, there’s no conflict of interest, about a dinner date? Garcia looks happily surprised by the offer, and accepts. Aw! I’m on board with that pairing, so yay for them!

The next day, Garcia’s clearing out her office, only to run into the team, who are surprised to see her leaving so soon. She’d planned to move at a time when they weren’t there, because otherwise it’d be all tearful goodbyes again, which, understandable. Now they’re all there, though, they have one last get-together in the conference room, with Garcia giving away some of her knick-knacks as gifts. Reid gets a teacup that he decides to call Mildred, in honor of Gideon’s octopus friend (seriously. What?).

The fun times are soon interrupted when Emily gets word of a case (and they have a new jet to travel in as well! Ooh, la, la!). Even at the end, unsubs gotta unsub. There’s another round of hugs before the team makes their way to the elevator, and Garcia bids them all goodbye one last time. She then heads to her now empty office, writing something on a sticky note and slipping it between the openings in the table. After that, she shuts down her computers, taking a final look around the office before turning off the lights and closing the door.

And that’s a wrap. We’re done. On the one hand, I like the idea of everyone still ultimately being together, both on and off the job. A lot of fans have seemed to like the idea of the team still going on doing what they do, just without us watching them every week, and it is a fitting ending in many ways. There’s so much craziness going on in the world as it is, so to have something as simple as the BAU remaining stable and intact makes the ending that much more welcome and reassuring. It doesn’t surprise me that Garcia would stay close by, either – no way would she move so far from her friends. Not unless they were all scattering to other parts of the country or world.

On the other hand, the possibilities offered by all these changes and moves did intrigue me, so I’m kind of sad that at least some of them didn’t come to fruition. I would’ve particularly liked to see Emily and JJ move up and take their respective offers. That’d still allow them to work alongside or in close contact with their teammates, while also giving them interesting (and trailblazing, in Emily’s case) new roles to pursue. Also, while I’m personally glad Rossi’s staying, at the same time, he’s well past the retirement age, which I’d have to think would pose an issue. It just felt anticlimactic to tease these dramatic changes and not go through with at least a couple of them.

That issue aside, however, this was easily my favorite part of the entire finale, bittersweet though it was. It was nice to have one last get-together at Rossi’s, and fun to see everyone cutting loose and partying it up. The final goodbyes among the team were perfect and moving (that shot of everyone, sans Garcia, in the elevator will forever hit me right in the heart), and I really felt like I, as a fan, was being included in their goodbyes. The love and appreciation among the cast for each other, and to the fans, came through loud and clear.

So yeah. The finale wasn’t perfect, no, which I think is largely due to the final season being so short and compact and a bit rushed. I feel that had they had more time, they could’ve fleshed out some elements of these storylines better, to make them not feel so abrupt. The same could be said for a lot of storylines throughout the season in general – more time spent exploring Reid and Max, and the aftermath of some of the stuff the team’s been through recently, resolution to things like Garcia’s stalker, even more time spent on the team weighing these potential job offers and changes. Stuff like that. It is a shame that the show’s final season was so short, so very “blink and you’ll miss it”.

Ultimately, though, I am happy that the show and the fans did get some kind of proper closure, and the cast and crew got a chance to say goodbye. This show’s served CBS well for fifteen years, so I appreciate that they gave them that heads up. Not every series is that fortunate or lucky. And at the end of the day, I’m happy that the show ended the way it did.

I’m going to keep this final bit short and sweet: Thank you to SpoilerTV for allowing me the chance to review this show, and to the previous reviewer, Laura Markus, for both her own excellent reviews and for graciously passing the baton to me. I also want to thank all of you who’ve read and commented on these reviews over the years – your support is greatly appreciated – and the fandom at large as well, for all the entertaining, thoughtful, and passionate discussion and debate.

And last, but certainly not least, a gigantic thank you to the cast and crew of “Criminal Minds” for giving us fans fifteen amazing seasons. It’s been a hell of a ride. Wednesday nights just won’t be the same.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to grab some tissues.

What did you think of the finale? Did you like how they closed the Lynch case? Are you surprised at who stayed and who left? Or are you happy that the team (mostly) stayed together? Are you equally as surprised by Luke and Garcia getting together? What do you think Garcia wrote on that note she left in the office? What flashbacks and appearances were your favorites? Was there anything or anyone else you would’ve liked to see in the finale, via flashback or in person? What will you miss most about the show? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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