Criminal Minds – Recap & Review – The Longest Night (Season Six Premiere)

photo: cbs

Criminal Minds
The Longest Night (Season Six Premiere)

Original Air Date: Sep 22, 2010

JD – Staff Writer

So much has happened in Criminal Minds land over the summer. First, there was news that the spin off got the green light, which many fans weren’t happy with. Then the news that AJ Cook’s contract had not been renewed (and that Paget Brewster’s number of episodes were being cut) just blew the reaction to the spin off out of the water.

It sparked a massive fan campaign to keep JJ, and to spare Prentiss from getting shunted to the side. It kind of worked, and it kind of didn’t. JJ is still leaving us, but she got two episodes this season to wrap up, and Prentiss’ episodes were not as drastically cut as it was first reported they would be (though she tweeted that this would be her last season). Fan response to the final decision has been all over the map.

And that’s where we stood coming in to this new season, which made this season’s premiere both highly anticipated by some, and utterly loathed by others, even before it was broadcast. It’s probably part of why Criminal Minds slayed everyone else in the ratings, with over 14 million viewers. I wasn’t sure how I felt just before the show started last night; over the summer I had gone from plain furious at the casting news to deeply saddened by the loss of JJ and the impending loss of Prentiss, but I really want to continue to love my show, and was excited to see it back. So did the season’s premiere leave me with a feeling of hope for the future of Criminal Minds? Read on and find out.

Let’s take a quick look at where the season five finale left us. A serial killer (played by a repulsive Tim Curry) was hunting victims during rolling black outs in L.A. He’s been killing for 26 years, and has never stayed in one place. He’s been in L.A. before, though, and the team figures out that Spicer’s (Cop of the Week, played by Eric Close) parents were the first victims of the killer. Pennywise… er, our unsub, must have come back because he feels that he made Spicer into the highly regarded cop he is today. The team rushes to protect Spicer’s daughter, Ellie, following Morgan’s lead, and then the city’s power issues take out cell phone coverage.

Morgan and Spicer change directions when their first guess at where Ellie would be (Spicer’s sister’s house) turned out wrong, and wind up at the house Spicer’s parents were killed in, without having any way to tell the rest of the team where they are going. The unsub is there with Ellie and Spicer’s sister, Kristen. He bashes Morgan in the head, and ties him up. Spicer drops his weapon at the unsub’s demand, in spite of Morgan telling him not to, and gets shot. Kristen makes Morgan promise he won’t let anything happen to Ellie, but the unsub runs off with Ellie anyway, leaving Morgan and Kristen bound up and bloodied, and Spicer on the floor, probably dead.

Okay, I think that’s it in a nutshell. So on to last night’s premiere.

We get a lot of weird scenes with a boy (our unsub, Billy Flynn, as a child) standing in a field dancing with his mother in this episode, which is how the episode starts. I thought those scenes were a little silly and pointless, but oh well. Cut to little Ellie, running for her life. She’s gotten away, and beats on someone’s door until they open it. Ellie begs them to let her in, saying there’s no time to call the cops, and BANG, Flynn shoots them down.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team shows up at Kristen’s place to see Morgan and Spicer aren’t there. They quickly realize Flynn would have taken Spicer’s sister to someplace that means something to him. The house Flynn killed Spicer’s parents in. This is why they are awesome. Big question at the end of last season: How will the team find Morgan? Answer: By being awesome.

Morgan isn’t out of the game, either. He manages to roll his way around to look at Spicer’s sister (she’s fallen off the bed), and gets her to tell him what she remembers. Oh, and he avoids her question about whether her brother is dead, which means yes, Spicer is dead. I was getting tired of typing “Spicer” over and over, too, so that’s good for me.

Kristen tells Morgan that our bad-breathed bad boy travels around in an old, nasty RV, and we go back to Ellie in the RV. She realizes Flynn let her out on purpose to get those people to open their door. “We’re going to be a great team,” he says, after wiping the blood off her face with his own spit, which literally made me shudder.

The team shows up at the house Spicer (I can’t stop typing “Spicer” yet, can I?!) grew up in to find Morgan being a terrible patient with the medic. Kristen has been beaten and raped and is in bad shape. Prentiss gets in the ambulance with her as she’s taken off, and JJ and Reid get on the scene. When JJ walked on, I got an achey feeling in my chest knowing this was her second to last episode. You can’t see me, but I’m busy pouting right now.

In the ambulance, Kristen tells Prentiss that Flynn listens to the radio constantly, and even stops what he’s doing when he hears himself mentioned. Back at the crime scene, Morgan calls Garcia to check out the RV, snaps at her, then tells Hotch she should be more professional. Someone is cracking, and I thinks it’s the guy with the gash in his head. I loved Hotch’s reply, though, that she always gets the job done. It’s not the line but the way Hotch says it that gets me. This is how it goes in my head:

Morgan: She really needs to be more professional.
Hotch: (flat stare) Like you are right now?
Morgan: …

Morgan gives a little “this is so horrible, and I feel guilty, and I feel angry for feeling guilty, and this is all on my shoulders because I promised, but I’m not going to actually say that out loud, even though I know you’ll probably figure it out ‘cause you’re so awesome,” speech to Hotch, and then we’re back at the RV. Ellie is proving to be a pretty tough little girl, telling Flynn they aren’t a team and that people who hurt other people are cowards.

A motorist (“motorist!” I say in my Wadsworth voice) pulls up, and Flynn gives Ellie the “we are gods because we decide who lives and dies” talk, then the radio broadcasts the information about the RV. Too bad, so sad, motorist. You’re toast. Then the radio says Flynn is with a girl with long brown hair, and Flynn goes at her with a knife.

Fake out! Was anyone really thinking he’d kill her? I was just expecting him to prove he never learned to give a haircut in beauty school, which is exactly what happened. While Flynn attempts a medium length layered do, the team is at the police station trying to figure out why Flynn would change his MO. Morgan barks at Garcia again when she finds nothing on the RV search, but Prentiss appears from nowhere to tell the team she knows how to contact Flynn. Radio. JJ suggests the emergency alert system to communicate over all the local stations, and she heads off to figure out how to do that.

Flynn, satisfied with the not-so-cute haircut he’s given Ellie, picks out a house with a kid’s bike in front of it, knocks on the door, pretending to be returning the bike, and shoots Daddy dead. Flynn tells Ellie to go get the boy and bring him to the parents’ room, while he “comforts the widow”, so she does, and he’s about ready to do some “comforting” when he notices a family picture on the nightstand. It shows two boys, not one.

Ellie, as it turns out, is pretty badass. She tells Flynn that she told the other boy to go tell the neighbors at the next house to call the police, then tell the next house, and the next, and so on. Rock on, girl! The team hears about a bunch of phone calls from the neighborhood as the neighbors are all leaving their houses and coming for Flynn (how awesome is that?!), who starts to leave before he realizes he’s trapped. Or is he? He finds the resident’s keys, commandeers their car, and smashes through the garage door when he realizes it won’t open in a power outage. Annnnnnd he’s off again.

Morgan and Reid go through Flynn’s RV when they get to the scene and find articles on Spicer, with mentions of Ellie underlined. Ellie was his target all along, not Spicer. When Morgan talks to the rest of the team, they think maybe Flynn sees himself as a grandparent in a twisted way, because he let Spicer live when he killed Spicer’s parents.

JJ manages to get in touch with the Secretary of Defense, after plowing through “a bureaucratic pile of steaming sh–” (and I’m not censoring that for decency’s sake, JJ conveniently gets someone on the phone before she finishes the word). She gets access to the emergency alert system, and then finds out that Hotch wants her to be the one on the radio to talk to Flynn. He’s too far to get back to do it himself.

JJ: I’m not a hostage negotiator.
Hotch: I’m sorry. You are today.

Woohoo! Okay, I admit this scared me at first, but looking back, I think this was pretty awesome. At least the show is letting JJ kick butt before she leaves.

Garcia, on Reid’s request, digs into crimes in the sixties, and finds our Billy Flynn when he was a kid. Long story short, his mother was a prostitute who used to make Billy hide in her bedroom closet, where he had to watch while she had sex with men (Um, what?! Didn’t he have his own room?!). Then one day he killed his mother and her John (“ironically named John,” as Gracia says) and went to Juvy, but was released when he turned eighteen. Hotch sends this all to JJ, along with pointers like “empathise with him”. And JJ gets the honor of flipping that switch to take over the radio waves. Billy and Ellie are conveniently in a car listening to the radio.

JJ’s “talk” with Billy starts out awkward, but she eventually hits her groove, telling him that while it’s obvious she’s not a hostage negotiator, she is a mother, and she knows that what his mother did to him was wrong. And she tells him that she doesn’t sympathise, which made my heart jump. I was afraid for a moment they were going to push her off the show by having her mess up and firing her from the BAU for getting Ellie killed. I am so glad I was wrong. She goes on to tell him what she thinks a mother should tell him, and it works.

But before the team can head off to the scene, Prentiss gets a phone call that Kristen has died, and Ellie is left with no one, as Morgan points out. There’s no time to dwell, though, because the team gets word that Flynn let Ellie go. She’s in someone’s house in the neighborhood she and Flynn stopped in. Flynn is in another house, and they all rush to get him. On the scene, they get another phone call. Flynn wants Morgan to come into the house alone.

What happens next, I love. Hotch tries to stop Morgan, and Morgan pulls out the “when you needed us, we were there for you” card. Um, wasn’t Morgan the one protesting giving Hotch his space when he was on the verge of break down? Hello, role reversal!

Anyway, Morgan goes in and finds Flynn in the bedroom with the residents tied up at his feet. He and Morgan have a little power play before Flynn goes off on a tangent about his mother:

Morgan: You won’t shoot me because I’m not afraid of you.
Flynn: Oh really? Is that it?
Morgan: Yeah, I dare you to shoot me.
Flynn: I miss my mommy.
Morgan: …

Okay, he really doesn’t say that, but he starts going on about how he really thought that he saved his mother from her life when he killed her, but now he’s not sure. I love Tim Curry, and I think this was one of the few scenes they really used him well. The single tear, the emotion without going too far. I loved it. And then Flynn pulls out a classic, suicide by cop. He points his gun at Morgan, and BANG. Bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang. Bang? Seriously, did you use enough bullets, Morgan?! I think you killed him!

Morgan leaves the house (apparently leaving the tied up people in there?) and Ellie is brought to him. They exchange words that we can’t hear, then Ellie hugs him. I want to know what was said, but I think Ellie is going to play a big part in Morgan’s life after this episode, if the spoilers I’ve read are right. But aw, that end was sweet. Ellie does the single tear thing too, and Morgan kisses the top of her head. Again, aww!

Last night when I watched this, I liked it. When I watched it again today, I liked it even more, though that might be because I got to break it down and poke fun at it. But really, part of what I like about this episode, I didn’t pick up on until I wrote this. The play between Morgan and Hotch was subtle, but it was there, and with the rumor being that Hotch and Morgan are going to grow closer this season, it laid the groundwork wonderfully without being obvious.

The tension between Morgan and Garcia was a little overplayed, in my opinion. I could have done without the “she needs to be more professional” comment, at least, but I was pleased that Morgan swallowed his pride and apologized before it simmered. And speaking of Garcia, one of my favorite lines of the night? “I don’t know who was talking right then, but… word.”

And yes, Criminal Minds played the mother card again, which is a big annoyance to me in general. Ever since JJ had a baby, it seemed like every other episode JJ had a little “omg I can relate to that because I have a baby” scene. But I really think this scene was very effective. It wasn’t a scene playing on a mother’s fears like it had been until this episode. In this scene, it was playing to a mother’s strengths. That made a huge difference to me.

I am both sad and encouraged by the promo for next week. JJ is leaving, but I think it looks like the show is really giving her a good send off. They aren’t killing her or disgracing her. They are letting her move on in a way that’s positive for her. At least that’s what it looks like. We won’t know for sure until next week, but I’m hopeful.

So what did you guys think of the premiere? Love it? Hate it? Still bitter about JJ? Give me your two cents!

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12 Responses to Criminal Minds – Recap & Review – The Longest Night (Season Six Premiere)

  1. Ok so I’m way behind I know but I just watched the episode tonite. I’m interested in Ellie’s character. Everyone keeps saying what a horrible acting job she did and her character wouldn’t act like that, etc. However, someone pointed out that she did the single tear thing same as Flynn. And Flynn commented on how she was much different than her father. I think unfortunately that Ellie is a budding serial killer; she has the right personality/behavior and with the series of awful family events along with the horrific event of being with Flynn probably damaged her just as he was damaged. They kept making parallel comparisons between the two through the whole episode, it must be for a reason. She seemed to lack empathy completely, and when Flynn called himself god and she could be too, there was a power in her eyes. But maybe she’ll use it for good.

  2. Gua says:

    Great review! I could totally hear Wadsworth saying “motorist”. 🙂

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