Evil is a state of mind.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The Seven Layers of Hell. Somewhere in between lies Criminal Minds: The Seventh Season, a much less lucky variation of seven than I was hoping for, especially after the excitement of Season Six.
Criminal Minds showcases the talents of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, led by SSA Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson, Dharma and Greg.) This season features the return of a once-departed team member…and then sees them depart again. Spoilers in full effect.
The biggest element of Season Seven is the return of Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster, Dan Vs.), the agent whose death had been faked at the end of last season. Unfortunately, Brewster’s return had been leaked months before, so the whole thing fell a little flat.
Speaking of falling flat, I was disappointed with the lack of follow through on that storyline, especially how Emily’s death/return affected everyone. For a group of characters who have been so close for so long, the effects were severely understated. In truth, those feelings could have been dealt with for an entire season or more, but the show fell right back into the typical “unsub of the week” much quicker than I anticipated. An agent leaving is far from unfamiliar ground for the show, and I wish they had shown us something new.
That’s not to say Season Seven was uninteresting, because the writers continued to provide interesting cases for the team, with each team member getting their moment in the sun; something that doesn’t always happen with a large ensemble. Hotchner deals with a new love interest while his partner David Rossi (Joe Mantegna, The Godfather: Part III) struggles with feelings for his ex-wife, whose battle with ALS profoundly affects David, such that he adopts a more paternal role on the team.
Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore, The Young and the Restless) spends most of the season angry. At first, he’s angry at Emily’s death and resurrection, but that’s quickly tossed aside when his cousin is discovered to be alive. Last season, Derek chose to lie to his family and tell them a body they’d found was his cousin, who’d been missing for years. So when she’s discovered alive it comes as a bit of a shock. But her involvement in case with a truly disturbing unsub forces Derek to re-evaluate his work/life balance. One additional reveal about his past keeps him angry for the rest of the season, and his is the arc I’m most interested in for Season Eight.
Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler, (500) Days of Summer) takes a passive-aggressive approach to this season, spending time giving everyone associated with the Prentiss situation the cold shoulder. But a crisis of faith around whether he’s doing enough with his talents eventually sees Spencer recommitting himself to the team.
Jennifer “JJ” Jareau (A.J. Cook, Bringing Ashley Home) also returns this season, though her arrival is somewhat diffused by an appearance in the Season Six finale. This year, JJ struggles with the demands of being a mom, as well as the team’s newest profiler, but is rewarded with the happiest ending of all.
And then there’s Prentiss herself. At first, Emily overcompensates for her return, going out of her way to try and reconnect with each of her team members. But once she admits she’s struggling, we’re left to wonder how that struggle will manifest, only to discover her departure at season’s end is to be permanent…or is it? After all the drama surrounding her death and resurrection, the idea of her leaving again left me questioning the validity of the entire storyline. Then I learned the door has been left open for a future return.
Rounding out the team is technical analyst Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior), the series’ most static character. Garcia is the first to accept Prentiss’ return and continues on with life as normal. That is, until her boyfriend (scene-stealer Nicholas Brendon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) proposes and an abrupt response isn’t what anyone expected.
Season Seven’s final episode is anything but abrupt, feeling instead like a series’ finale. Which is smart, given the show is perpetually on the bubble. But Criminal Minds will return for an eighth season, leaving me hope that Season Seven’s lost potential is brought to fruition. Specifically, the loss of one team member, the addition of a replacement (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love), and how the team adjusts. It’s something the series has dealt with several times, and I am wondering if there’s new ground to tread.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer (much like Season Six) still has softer edges than I like to see, especially for a show broadcast in HD. There is some pixelation and a darker than necessary color palette used to underscore certain stories, both of which prove quite irritating. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix continues to use audio cues in a very specific and effective way, but the surrounds are rarely used. I’d rather have more depth to the sound field than a hollow multi-channel track.
As far as bonus features go, Paramount offers up deleted scenes (basic trims), a gag reel, and featurettes, all of which are Electronic Press Kit (EPK) in nature. The behind-the-scenes footage provids an engaging look at some of the season’s big action set pieces (actually just for one case); a series of faux-drunken wedding toasts, which are pretty consistent with what you’d imagine these characters would say; and a music video parodying Hotchner’s oft-uttered phrase “wheels up” which you can feel free to skip.
If you were hoping Prentiss’ return was going to shake-up the show and inject new life, you will be sorely disappointed. Criminal Minds: The Seventh Season loses any new ground it may have gained much too soon, falling back into a tried-and-true formula after only a few episodes, but the cases are intriguing enough to hold your attention.