Criminal Minds: (S11E17) “The Sandman”

Review:

The latest Criminal Minds episode titled, “Sandman”, jumped forward 6 months following the events that saw Derek (Shemar Moore) abducted, held hostage and tortured. In the opening moments of the episode, Derek is seen arriving back at the BAU following an extended period of leave. We discover from this beat, that he an Savannah have been married in this time and in typical Derek fashion, he has not stopped his search for those responsible for his attack. As he makes his way to the team room, he is stopped in his tracks by Rossi (Joe Mantegna) – he is there to stall Morgan while the rest of the team organises a surprise welcome back party. The thing is, when your work is focused on analysing the behaviour of others it becomes quite easy to pick up on when people are being shady or trying to hide something. After agreeing to act “surprised” Morgan walks in, and is met with cheers and smiles as his team welcome him back. Savannah is now further along in her pregnancy, nearly about to pop it looks like and the team come together to celebrate the return of one of their integral members.

The case of the week is being introduced throughout these first few moments also; we are gifted with scenes of a black figure sprinkling sand on the eyes of a two parents as they lay sleeping in their bed. Acting as a blinding agent, the Unsub kidnaps their child while the mother specifically, attempts to rescue him. The father we discover was killed, and eventually the mother meets the same fate. But where is the child? Upon receiving the case, Hotch (Thomas Gibson) ensures JJ (AJ Cook) that 10 minutes of celebration won’t affect the case at all, regardless though, it is a child abduction, a case that takes quite high precedence over everything else. The team is soon enough on their way, theorising as to the ritual the Unsub may be following in order to gain some sort of satisfaction. The sand, the killing of the two parents and the abduction on the child – could this be personal? Revenge?

Dr. Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) is most certainly his famous self this week, with countless little monologues about the history behind the use of sand, the rituals that the Unsub may be enacting and the calculations he does to work out problems that regular individuals may certainly struggle with. It isn’t long before the body of the child is found, a reality that hits Morgan more so than we’ve seen before. Could it be his new status as a soon-to-be father that has his soul a little more shaken by this case? In a quiet moment between Reid and Morgan, the fears he holds at becoming a father are voiced. His questioning of how someone can do this to a child is evidence that he has moved into a new stage of his life, that from here on in, the cases involving children will hold more weight. Reid does his absolute best to ensure Morgan that he and Savannah are going to be the greatest parents, he just knows it.

As the team continues in their attempts to locate the Unsub, he is already attacking his next family. This time though, the mother survives. This change in ammo has the team baffled – why change it up now? Did something go wrong? As JJ questions the mother at the hospital, the team continues to piece together the little bits of evidence they have. Hotch makes a breakthrough, solving the mystery – the mother of the first family wasn’t meant to die, it was an accident. The Unsub is re-enacting an experience from his childhood where his mother inadvertently abandoned him. With this, they deliver the profile. Additionally, the team realises that the only way they may be able to get through to the Unsub is to have the surviving mother admit her guilt; admit to the public that it was her fault that her child was abducted. She is reluctant to do so, because really, it wasn’t her fault. With reassurance from JJ that this is the only possible way to reach the Unsub and to discover if her daughter is alive, the mother makes a statement. And it works.

The Unsub allows the child to call her mother, and as the mother once again is prompted by JJ not to use names or direct remarks, they seem to be making progress. That is until the mother unknowingly becomes emotional and calls her daughter by name. This mistake begins a downward spiral for the Unsub whose annoyance and disgust continues to grow. The cell signal gives them an area to work with, along with some Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) wizardry that helps uncover the identity of location of the Sandman.

The team assembles, cornering the Unsub in his lair of antique, handmade hour glasses and with a lunge towards them is shot with a double tap to the chest. It is key to note that the significance of the sand and hour glasses represents his experience of abuse. After he was abducted as a child, he was forced to watch the sand through an hour glass as the abuse occurred. In some way, we can now understand the motive behind his behaviour. As the case closes, Morgan and Savannah are seen shopping for groceries. As the share a simple conversation, the camera shifts to show a sniper view of the two. And once again, in the final moments of the episode, both Morgan and Savannah are put in danger. We hear Savannah yell “Morgan” as the screen goes black – Could Derek be the one in danger, again? Or is it Savannah this time? The promo for next week gives this away within seconds, showing a distraught Derek carrying a wounded Savannah into the emergency room. If last weeks “Derek” episode is anything to go by, this next episode is going to be just at thrilling and heartbreaking. These episodes, the ones that move away from the procedural aspect of Criminal Minds, are always exciting and a definite breath of fresh air.