After 11 years on the air Criminal Minds is still as thrilling as ever. Some may say a procedural like this is repetitive – same stories, different resolutions, same environment or boring characters. However, what the team at Criminal Minds continues to do is offer up new, shocking and psychologically terrifying episodes. I’m still not sure I’m over Dr. Reid’s face off two weeks ago in which he pretty much rendered a cold-blooded hit (wo)man powerless. It must be noted, he did it with his brain and wit.
Nevertheless, this week’s episode titled “The Bond” followed the BAU on their search for an UnSub using truck stops to pose the bodies of his victims. As the episode opens on what can only be assumed a nursing home (or psych ward), we meet a mother and her son, Randy. Randy is about to propose to his fiancee, and from their conversation we, as an audience, can deduce that they have be estranged until just recently. Mummy dearest asks whether the nightmares are still occurring where we cut to Randy picking up a homeless man, cut again to said homeless man dead and posed. So he’s the UnSub you ask? Seems like it, but not everything is as it seems when it comes to the criminally minded.
Cut to the debrief room and it is the weekly brainstorm of ideas, theories and quirky pieces of information that some should just not know (I’m looking at you Dr. Reid). Is it torture? Are the victims (also a middle-class white woman) surrogates for people in the UnSub’s life? Mommy issues? At this point, the audience is right there theorizing and predicting what exactly is the backstory with Randy and good ol’ mommy dearest.
Investigate, question, investigate. The team hits every side of this – the crime screne, morgue and police station. While Reid and Morgan discover that the UnSub may in fact be only beginning his career, as evidenced by hesitation in the stab wounds and the presence of bag fibers, JJ and Rossi believe differently; that the UnSub may in fact be experienced, showing a clear precision in skill when posing the body. Organised yet disorganised? A murder that looks improvised and spontaneous but a disposal site consistent and precise? Maybe said UnSub has a partner? Silent?
(Meanwhile, Randy has abducted a real estate agent, murdered her, and posed her similarly to his previous victims but with a little more respect. Not only that, he is growing more confident, brazen. Note: the shot of the “No dumping” sign pictured above Randy during this scene added a layer of disregard and irony).
As the story moves on, Garcia works her technological, light speed magic and discovers that all victims are connected by the family court system – a judge, a nurse and a teacher. We have a kill list. We can give the profile. Profiled as a rectification killer, carrying out these murders as a way to avenge their perceived wrong-doings, Randy, we discover is in fact doing it on behalf of his mother. Flora, a convicted murderer – who is not actually in a nursing home but an insane asylum prison – killed 6 truck drivers 30 years prior. Reason being – she was sexually assaulted and was seeking out the man who was responsible. During this discovery, we witness the bond Flora and Randy share – she manipulates him and still as impressionable as a child, Randy is powerless to his mother’s charm. It is subtle and beautifully acted (Veronica Cartwright), with silent glances depicting control and a parental guilt trip. It is twisted to say the least, but the bond they share nonetheless, seems timeless.
Aisha Tyler (who I must say is such a force on this show) does a kick ass job in questioning Flora. Her profiling skills are beyond and allow us an insight into the inner workings of a pretty insidious character. We begin to sympathise with the trauma and pain of Flora’s past and for a second forget that she is completely nuts. We forget that for over 30 years she has used her son to carry out her revenge plot with no care in the world. This diversion is nearly successful until we learn that Flora had found the man that had assaulted her (Randy’s father) and in turn compelled young Randy to help murder him and dispose of the body. As Randy starts to remember (while holding his fiancee at knife point), we as an audience then start to sympathise with him. This my friends, is why I believe this show is so successful. The psychology and pathology are just elements of these characters, that not all the Unsub’s portrayed are bad people but maybe good people that have made bad decisions or people left helpless at the hands of others.
The closing montage, a perfect ending and illustration of the type of relationship Randy and his mother share. Flora seems proud, possibly even jovial with what has been achieved but counter that with Randy – withdrawn, tormented and completely brain-washed. Bravo, Criminal Minds, on an episode exploring a different (slightly shocking) side to the bond between a mother and her son.