The Wife:

Last season ended with a bang. More accurately, the third season of Criminal Minds ended with images of members of our BAU team getting into their respective black SUVs . . . and then watching in horror as one of those SUVs exploded in a fiery inferno. Fans have spent all summer wondering which character would be killed, maimed or otherwise destroyed. My husband and I had our money on Shemar Moore, who plays Agent Derek Morgan, as Moore ran into some trouble with the law in July 2007 after being caught racing at high speeds. We all know what happens to actors on Lost who get DUIs, and we feared Criminal Minds might take a similar approach and begin season 4 with Morgan dead.

Entertainment Weekly reported that the new season of Criminal Minds would definitely feature a new communications coordinator for the BAU, we began to suspect that pregnant JJ’s life may also be in danger. It would obviously be horrible to kill a pregnant woman, but, frankly, Criminal Minds is not above that.

It was quite a relief to see that it was Kate Joyner, chief of the New York Bureau, who was hurt in the blast and not one of our BAU regulars. However, this did not quell the drama as each member of the BAU team was all in separate places when the explosion occurred and none could find the other members of their team. Garcia eventually managed to make contact with everyone except Hotchner, who was with Joyner when the explosion occurred. As Hotch tries to help Kate, who is paralyzed from the waist down and delirious, a passer-by comes along and offers to help. He tries to call 911, but when the paramedics arrive, none will pass into the blast site. Per FBI orders that the first wave of the medical responders were the actual targets of the bombers. Meanwhile, Garcia analyzes the video feed of the blast from various angles and realizes that the passer-by acting as a Good Samaritan was actually the bomber. She alerts Morgan to this fact, and Morgan sets after the man on foot through the subway tunnels, where he encounters the man walking barefoot along the tracks, ready to reach over to the electric third rail and die for his beliefs, which he eventually does.

This bomber, Sam, is none other than 90210‘s Michael Steager, which totally explains why his character Navid has been missing from several episodes. He’s clearly too busy with his terrorist cell in New York at the moment.

Id move her, but Im relatively certain I would completely sever her spinal column if I did that by myself.

I'd move her, but I'm relatively certain I would completely sever her spinal column if I did that by myself.

Hotch and Joyner finally get an ambulance to help them, which Hotch must drive to the hospital himself. When the team meets him there, they realize that the paramedic in the Hotch’s ambulance is actually the mastermind behind the bombings and that he’s planning on blowing up the hospital and the government personnel undergoing surgery inside of it. Morgan races off on his own to the ambulance lot to get the vehicle out to a clearing in Central Park during the 5-minute window in which Garcia can shut down all cell phone signals in the New York City area to avoid detonation. I cannot begin to describe the intensity of this scene. Oh no! Maybe Morgan won’t make it and Shemar Moore will be written off the show after all! It certainly seems that way as Morgan doesn’t get to finish telling Garcia his final message before the ambulance explodes in the clearing. Fortunately, it seems, Morgan was able to jump out just in the nick of time and tells Garcia that she is his “God-given solace,” ending with a line that I think perfectly epitomizes the Garcia-Morgan relationship: “Woman, don’t you ever, ever stop talking to me.”

I realized during this episode that I short-changed this show a little bit in my recent post about procedurals and why I like them. I said that, of Bones, House, Numbers and Criminal Minds, Criminal Minds has the least drawn-out characters. This episode completely proved that wrong. The characters on Criminal Minds all have a deep sense of loyalty to one another. They would die for each other. While their interactions are wholly more professional than those of Bones, who all love each other very much and display that love openly and often, it’s clear that everyone in the BAU cares about each other. Prentiss cares deeply about JJ’s emotional well-being, Rossi wants to help Reid take care of his darker thoughts, Morgan loves Garcia in an all-encompassing platonic way and everyone wants Hotcher’s family life to take less of a backseat to his work. They spend a lot of time together on these cases, and it’s clear to me that, through that, they’ve all learned to take care of each other.

The connection between the BAU members is only one part of what makes Criminal Minds a truly great procedural. The other element is that each episode is created with a high amount of dramatic potential. The cases are truly depraved, often terrifying and the show refuses to hold back those elements of dread. I had my hands over my mouth when Morgan was driving that ambulance into the field. I was thoroughly drawn in. I cannot say this about The Mentalist, where there was no sense of dread, terror or dramatic tension. My procedurals have to have either great characters or great drama, and Criminal Minds fills my need for both.

The Husband:

I was so invested in which BAU agent’s SUV exploded at the end of s3 that when I got my hands on the DVD, I watched the final sequence frame-by-frame at work, looking for any clues. The show covers its tracks, though, and found through some quick frame grabs of SUV license plates that the only person I was sure was not going to be blown up was Agent Prentiss. The rest was completely up for grabs.

I decided that they wouldn’t kill Matthew Gray Gubler’s character Dr. Reid because, well, I’m not sure if I’d watch the show every week without him. He’s that good of a character. And Mantegna’s Agent Rossi is too new (and the actor too famous) to perish so quickly into his run.

I also decided that there was no way that Hotch was the victim, since upon Mandy Patinkin’s exit from the show, he was the glue that held the BAU team together and was indispensable. (Sorry Mantegna. You haven’t proven yourself to be a very worthy lead on the show in that way, so I’m sticking with my Thomas Gibson.) Imagine my surprise when not only is Hotch launched many feet in the air from the explosion, rendering him temporarily deaf, but collapsed later at the hospital.

So that left me with JJ and her F.B.I. boyfriend and Agent Morgan as potential victims.

It was a tricky episode, to say the least. Seemingly built around fan investigation, it acknowledged our own hypotheses about the show’s direction and exploited our own worst fears in relation to the members of this very loyal BAU team. Criminal Minds gets far higher ratings than I would expect it to – high-quality shows that I really like tend to be ratings-challenged and viewer-ignored – so I’m always surprised when it treats its wide audience more like a clue-searching cult audience. It makes me as a viewer feel important. I don’t watch CSI often, but I know that its one saving grace in my opinion is that it treats its audience in nearly the same fashion (that is, as a cult audience).

In short, Criminal Minds surpassed itself with this episode, a tense and emotional hour that matches even the best episodes with the grossest cases.