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I have been mocked relentlessly by TV snobs about my deep affection ( alright, outright obsession… so what?) for this dark cop show. And really, in the scheme of things, Criminal Minds is just that- a cop show. Is it really all that different thematically from Hill Street Blues and Dragnet?

But back to the mocking. When the show debuted in 2005, it slipped through my radar for a few months. I adore Mandy Patinkin, but even he couldn’t drag me away from the American Idolization of television at the time.  I got hooked in summer reruns, and by season two’s premiere, I was an avowed Reidaholic.

There is the immediate critical derision- the show is violent ( really? I find it less gruesome than the CSIs and the L&Os. Nothing compares to Dexter, but comparing cable to network is like comparing a Les Paul to a crappy tourist shop ukulele). The show is misogynistic ( again, I take issues with this claim. The show itself is NOT anti-woman. The show takes it’s inspiration from real life. It’s the unsubs who are misogynists. And then why aren’t people harping on the OTHER shows of the procedural genre? SVU deals exclusively with sex crimes, which are almost always perpetrated on women and children. CM is only mirroring the world we live in, folks. Change the world, change the show). The show is so dark and dreary as to be suicide inducing ( I find the show dark and disturbing, but never, ever, dreary. Save for the ridiculous ” Honor Among Thieves”.) Critics may not get the show, and frankly, they rarely get the most populist of TV shows. But the fans are devoted, to the point of religious fervor. I know. I’m one of them.

Last season’s strike shortened series created a few episodes that felt like they were two story lines mashed together. The whole season suffered from violent up and downs, from the choppy ” Doubt”, which was the third season opener. The episode had been shot for season two, but was pulled after Virginia Tech. Than the whole Patinkin thing went down over the summer, and the show was edited to tell a different type of story, and Patinkin was allowed to go off and do Shakespeare. The loss of their fearless leader, and the Catch-22 they were in, created some interesting dynamics. Jane Atkinson showed up as an FBI director, only to raise the ire of fans because she dared to question our team and their methods. Fortunately, she left them alone. Joe Mantegna showed up as David Rossi, infuriating some fans until it became clear Rossi had some issues… and he would not eliminate our new( and for me, always the true) leader, Thomas Gibson’s Aaron ” Hotch” Hotchner. Episode Seven and eight showed the writers getting their mojo back, then the powerhouse episode nine, ” Penelope”, made everyone a believer again ( Penelope Garcia, played by the perfect Kirsten Vangsness, has been a fan favorite since minute one). The show had a hit ( ” Penelope”, ” Children Of the Dark”, the exquisite and painfully close to home ” Elephant’s Memory”, and the slam bang closer ” Lo-Fi”) and miss ( ” Doubt”, ” About Face”, ” True Night”, ” Damaged”) moments.

Season four is highly anticipated. The season three finale had our teams getting into identical black SUVs, and then- BOOM!!!!  What we do get is a hint that there is a terrorist cell attempting to do something ” big”. And that they know the BAU team is there. Season four picks up with our fearless leader Hotch standing, bloodied, his hearing fuzzy, as he stares blankly at a fiery SUV. In shock, he doesn’t even comprehend what has happened, even as a guy stands there asking him repeatedly if he was alright. When it dawns on Hotch that NY FBI head Kate Joiner is seriously injured, bleeding and unable to feel her legs, Hotch moves into fixer mode. When the first responders stop yards away, Kate has to remind him. The profile read that the terrorists’ targets are first responders. No one can come and help till after the area is cleared by the bomb squad.

Meanwhile, the rest of the  team is frantically trying to track each other down and find out if everyone is alright. One by one, Rossi, Reid, Garcia, J.J., Emily, and Morgan are accounted for, but Garcia and Lisa in the CCTV room find the footage of the explosion and the flying bodies of Hotch and Kate. Morgan arrives on scene and Garcia finally gets a call through and tells him that the kid who had been talking to Hotch was the bomber, and Morgan goes after him on foot.

Kate is unconscious and bleeding to death when an ambulance finally comes up to the site, and a lone EMT helps Hotch get her into the ambulance. The ladies finally make it back to Reid and Rossi, and Garcia is finally able to tell them the news.

Morgan chases our man down into the subways, where he confronts him ( yes, the ” show your face, you son of a bitch” dialog going on is cliched, but seriously, what would you say in this situation?) This is a moment that rings utterly true and has been mentioned before, in both real life and in fiction- the bomber points out that our side is afraid to do the one thing that his side is willing to do- die. Then he electrocutes himself on the subway cables.

As the team left in the office tries to figure out what the cell’s next step will be, Hotch drives the ambulance to St. Barclay’s, which is under bypass by the secret Service. Hotch manages to get in due to Kate’s grave condition, and then he collapses at the nurse’s station.

The team is running in circles, and both Hotch and Rossi point out the facts- and that the profile was wrong. The team convenes at the hospital, where they discuss terrorist cells, the motives of the one they are profiling, and the events leading up to that moment. That’s when it hits them- the hospital is the target, and Hotch delivered the bomb in that ambulance. The team is now in motion, and they go off for our bomber. Morgan heads off first, to get to the ambulance before our bomber. He takes the ambulance and burns rubber out of there, the bomber shooting at him fruitlessly. Failed at his mission, surrounded by FBI agents, the bomber slits his own throat after remote detonating the bomb. Morgan has gotten the ambulance to Central Park, where it explodes after he jumps out. After the mayhem, we learn that Kate has died in surgery.

The show ends with Morgan and Hotch, discussing the potential for Morgan to be transferred to the NYC field office. Hotch informs Morgan that he cannot give him the recommendation because Morgan shows signs of being unable to trust anyone, even if his loyalty is to the team. Seeing that Shemar Moore is not leaving the show, it’s safe to say that Morgan doesn’t take the job.

As far as season premieres go, this one is my favorite this season. Leave aside the hot factor of Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, and ( in my view, particularly) Matthew Gray Gubler. The performances are strong, the writing good ( despite moments of cliche and a somewhat telegraphed plot, it was still entertaining and a bit of a thrill). The show looked cinematic ( it often does- I’m convinced that this show gets an awful lot of it’s budget on the screen).

GRADE- A-

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