'Criminal Minds' Season 6, Episode 1 (Season Premiere) Recap (VIDEO)
by Piet Levy, posted Sep 23rd 2010 5:55AM
['Criminal Minds' - 'The Longest Night']
Two primary thoughts about the start of 'Criminal Minds' Season 6 last night: First up, this was by far the most dramatic, moving episode since last year's chilling Reaper-Hotch showdown (the show's greatest episode ever), an exceptional feat for a procedural-driven series entering its sixth season.
Second, why does JJ have to go? It was downright criminal (pardon the all too obvious pun) that A.J. Cook was forced out, particularly after the terrific performance she gave in this, one of the show's best episodes in recent years.
You may recall the Season 5 finale ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. In that episode, the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit was hunting for the Prince of Darkness (Tim Curry), a despicable serial killer with horrible hygiene (and especially rotten teeth no dentist would dream of touching). His M.O. was killing people during a blackout, something he had mastered over 26 years. The episode ended with Darkness killing a detective (Eric Close), raping his sister, kidnapping the detective's pre-adolescent daughter Ellie (Isabella Murad) and beating up the BAU's baddest agent, Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore).
The premiere basically picked up where the last episode left off. Darkness tried to make Ellie his partner in homicide, to share his miserable lot in life, to ruin her childhood. 'Criminal Minds' has featured many a monster, but Darkness may be the most heartless. "The question isn't why do I kill people. The question is, why I don't kill everybody," he explained to Ellie. Oooh. Creepy.
Making matters worse, the power grid in Los Angeles overloaded, so the entire county was in the dark, making it a true field day for a man who loves to kill in the dark. The BAU tried desperately to figure out Darkness's identity, with Morgan getting so agitated he even snapped at his precious "Baby Doll," sweet, loopy computer tech Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness). The BAU learned that Darkness's real name is Billy Flynn, that he grew up the child of a prostitute and killed his mother when he was a teenager. Knowing his back story, and learning from a victim that Darkness loved to listen to news radio hoping to hear reports about his crimes, JJ got clearance to address Darkness directly through all of the area's radio stations, to try to convince him to let Ellie go.
JJ had no negotiating experience -- Hotch (Thomas Gibson) usually handles that, but he couldn't get to the radio communications center in time -- and Cook did a great job of selling her character's nervousness and, eventually, her resolve. "What happened to you, it isn't fair, but what you're doing to her isn't fair either, and if anyone should understand what that feels like it's you," she told him. "You have the power, you can do what you want to do. But for once, you can choose to use that power to do for Ellie what should have been done for you. You can choose letting her go. You can choose teaching her, yes, there are monsters and it's okay to be afraid of them, but it's not okay to let them win, and it's not okay to be one." Good stuff. Kudos to Cook, and to the episode's writer/director, Edward Allen Bernero, for giving her such a strong four-minute monologue. Really, it's the least the producers can do to make up for her unjust canning.
Well, after JJ spoke to Darkness through the radio, Ellie was set free, and Morgan and the team located Darkness at a house, gun in hand, hostages at the foot of a bed, leading to another powerful scene. Curry can be a fine actor, but he does tend to chew the scenery, and that was definitely the case with his smiling, repulsive Darkness. But in this last scene, the actor, giving a tearful performance while never resorting to sympathy, made Darkness human and sincere. "When I shot her," Darkness told Morgan about killing his mother, "she looked at me with such ... she was ... I think relieved. I think I helped her escape. Was that really true, or did I just imagine it to make killing her easier to live with?" But Morgan wasn't moved. He didn't flinch in the slightest as he fired nine rounds into Darkness when he pointed a gun at a hostage.
It's doubtful that 'Criminal Minds,' a show which, like Tim Curry, can be melodramatic from time to time, could be this consistently good each and every week. But at least it provided a great season opener, and a great end for Cook's run, as she officially leaves after next week's episode.
A few other thoughts:
-- Darkness may have been a despicable human being, but he sure had great taste in music: Three different Leonard Cohen songs were used for trippy dream sequences depicting Darkness as a young boy with his mother in a field, standing under a solitary tree. (The songs, should you want to make your own Prince of Darkness playlist, were: 'Night Comes On,' 'Dance Me To The End Of Love' and 'Sisters of Mercy.')
-- The episode also featured 'Who By Fire' at the end and, if you may recall, Cohen's 'I'm Your Man' for the Season 5 finale to introduce the Darkness story line. This just solidifies our personal theory that a Leonard Cohen song makes any movie or show better. (Except for that sex scene in the pretentious superhero movie 'Watchman' set to Cohen's 'Hallelujah.' That was just wrong.)
-- Young actress Isabella Murad is one to watch. We never expected such a strong, mature performance from a girl playing the hostage of a serial killer (the pairing of Darkness with Ellie definitely made Curry's caricature more like a character). And to see Ellie quietly cry at the episode's end, a single tear dripping down her cheek, was heartbreaking. It's nice to see that 'Criminal Minds,' while escapist entertainment, rarely cheapens its ending. When it comes to catching criminals and investigating crimes like these, there's never a happy ending.
-- For nearly every episode, 'Criminal Minds' has featured a previously spoken or written quote, delivered by one of the actors via voice-over, to illustrate the episode's theme. This week, Cook had the honors, with a quote from Buddha: "A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another, the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another, it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden."
What did you think of the Season 6 premiere? Was Curry's Darkness one of your all time favorite villains? And how do you feel about Cook's performance and saying goodbye to JJ next week?
'Criminal Minds' airs Weds., 9 PM ET on CBS.