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October 9, 2015

Criminal Minds: Ashes and Dust

by Jonathan Toomey, posted Mar 22nd 2007 11:22AM

Criminal Minds(S02E19) Well that was just about the most disturbing episode of Criminal Minds yet. I can't remember a past installment being as graphic as this one. It was an excellent episode, but I'm surprised some of the scenes (especially the opening one) made it through the cut.

It was hard to stomach at some points. That opening scene was downright creepy as the arsonist watched the family burn. While not as graphic, the scene where he tossed kerosene all over that SUV with the family inside was equally hard to watch. This show definitely knows how to push the limits though because as I said, this was a great episode with a well done ending.

The episode focused on the leader of an environmental group, and for a large portion of the episode we were led to believe that he was indeed the arsonist. He wasn't and we instead found out that he was terminally ill with leukemia.

There was a very cool dynamic between Hotch and this guy though. This wasn't the first time that Hotch's devotion to family has come into play, but this was the first time he really got emotionally involved in a case. To the point that Morgan and Gideon had to hold him back from running into a fire. Hotch is usually very stern and calculated, so to see him really get intense like that was very telling of the type of person he is when he's not on the clock.

Elsewhere, there was another interesting line that I picked up on. Earlier in the episode, while the team was at the round table discussing the case, Reid made mention of the type of killer this arsonist was. He said that fire was his drug and that it would be almost impossible for him to stop without help. At that point he gave Gideon a bit of a glance. The impression I got from that is maybe Gideon has enrolled Reid in some sort of rehab for his addiction. I think he's doing something though because the look Reid gave him looked like a nod of appreciation.

Overall though, very satisfying episode. From a crazy guy who keeps Molotov cocktails in the cup-holders in his car to a guy willing to sacrifice his life to stop a madman, the episode covered the whole spectrum. Once again, Criminal Minds has proven that it's like nothing else on TV.

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Since Ashes and Dust was a Hotch centered emotional episode, I wondered:

Thinking more about Hotch's history as presented so far. We know a few things, he was a Prosecuting Atty before he was a Profiler, and he has at least one younger brother to whom he assumed a quasi-parental role. It seemed from an earlier episode that he was referring to himself in regards to childhood abuse. (Natural Born Killer) In the episode with the retired profiler, he seems to have a long history as a Profiler and doing the job with Gideon, who has been around at least 18, and maybe more years. (Unfinished Business) Hotch is married, to a woman he met and seemed to marry in either right out of High School or College (Fisher King part 1) with one young son and he feels constantly stressed between his family and his job. As someone else remarked, he is sensitive to crimes that target or harm children.

In Ashes and Dust, he actually describes his stress to Gideon, who seems to understand but does not offer advice. He also identifies with the first suspected arsonist's circumstances.

What I have not been able to figure out is Hotch's timeline. I would think he is presented as someone in his mid-late 30's, but if that is right, then he could not have a profiler himself at the same time as the retired guy was one (18 years ago). FBI agents have to be at least 23, and generally have at least a Master's degree. He would have graduated and passed the Bar no earlier than say, 25 or 26, which would make his career as an Atty last a few years and he would be in his early 30's. That gives him less than 10 years to become Sector Chief of the Profiler Squad. I did not find a time line at the real FBI site for career advancement, but that does not seem long enough to me to become so senior in a very highly competitive field.

I dearly hope the writers/producers keep personal information straight about the characters and that there is some sort of character bible around to keep the writers informed.

March 24 2007 at 2:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This was all that everyone said, graphic, creepy and disturbing. The killer was not a genius, although he was effective, his persona as a frustrated adolescent seemed real to me. I think most crazy killers are not up to self-analysis or talking it out intelligently with the BAU.

Hotch has a very good puppy-dog-in-the-manger look and used it effectively. I am more than happy to have him angst his way through this season.

The Prentiss aside to Reid at the beginning was awkward, I thought it was more a defiant gesture on her part to show Reid's past rudeness to her was noted and not forgotten.

I would not let anyone with fear of fire watch this one, lest they have nightmares for a month.

March 22 2007 at 9:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

David, I understand the flaws in the logic that you percieved. The first one I am not an expert on, but remember he torched the back door to force the family to the front door in order to trap them by wedging the objects at the top of the door jam.

Secondly, I think he might of done the same thing with the car but possibly from the exterior? I don't know if he had the time to wedge the doors shut on all sides but he seemed to have a fascination with not only watching his victims burn but trapping them so they are helpless to do anything - much like how he felt in his own life.

All in all, I think it was a well done episode, writing, acting, and directing. Getting to know Hotch a little better was a nice development, but I get the feeling its just another sporadic installment that doesn't lend much to the overall arc it's trying to accomplish.

March 22 2007 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree that the burning family scenes were hard to watch, especially the one in the car. I also agree that i liked seeing some more emotion from Hotch and I liked they way they did that.

I had a different take on the Gideon-Reid exchange. To me Reid seemed to glance at Gideon with guilt not appreciation as he talked about someone not being able to stop by themselves.

And the Prentiss-Reid exchange seemed awkward to me. I know she was teasing him but it came off not pleasant to me. Maybe it is just me because I am having a very hard time warming up to her character.

Anyway, thanks for the review. It's another great episode of a great show.

March 22 2007 at 1:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

liked the episode, but there were a couple breakdowns in logic that my wife and I picked up.

The opening fire in a one-story house. Who heads through a flaming hallway to go out the front door? Go out the window.

The car fire in the garage. What car starts out unlocked, but then locks itself and prevents the occupants from unlocking it?

CM ususally doesn't drop the ball like that.

March 22 2007 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I likes the part at the table meeting in the begining when Reid was spouting facts and percentages and then ended with "few" and Prentiss questioned him about the percentages and he said "I'm trying to be conversational" It showed me maybe after the drug thing he is trying to fit in more

March 22 2007 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have to agree, this was one of the best written episodes this season. It was nice that they took a step away from Reid and really focused on Hotchner, who has, historically, been a little light on the character development. I did notice the Reid/Gideon exchange in the middle, and appreciated the little update without turning the whole episode into a rehab diatribe.

What I will find intriguing is how they deal with the "absentee father" archetype that is so frequently seen in crime dramas. There were parts of this episode that gave me flashbacks to SVU and Elliot Stabler before all of the anger issues. The question is how will Hotchner deal with the stress of maintaining two rigid faces, perfect fed and perfect father. Will it be anger issues, drinking, affairs, or some other unique twist. I'm routing for the last.

It seems like the writers this season are setting up every single character up for an impending breakdown. Hotchner and his home life, Reid and the drugs, JJ and the inadequacy issues, Gideon and the fear of losing team members again. God only knows what they are going to do to Morgan, Garcia, and Prentiss. It's creating some great tension just waiting for the other shoe to fall. I can't wait to see how this season is going to wrap up.

Kudos to you Criminal Minds!

March 22 2007 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Absolutely agree, everytime i thought something creepy happened the guy upped it a bit more the next time.

March 22 2007 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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