Criminal Minds’ hotly anticipated season finale was nothing short of gripping. After the previous episode left us hanging, we were all eager to see what storm Antonia Slade (Frances Fisher) was talking about. What did she know? What did she have planned? Well, the episode itself started off like any other normal morning – if by normal we mean Rossi (Joe Mantegna) and ex-wife Hayden, having breakfast together with an obvious post-sex glow. It isn’t presumptive to say they’re back together, especially when they are avoiding their daughters’ calls like the plague. They agree to tell her together; that is, the news of their rekindled romance. Elsewhere, the team are discussing vacation ideas – Spencer (Matthew Gray Gubler) is taking his mum on holidays, Lewis (Aisha Tyler) suggests Paris while Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) can hardly contain her excitement about visiting Emily in London. It has to be said, Kirsten Vangsness’ Penelope is one of the characters on television universally able to make an audience smile and giggle.
Hotch (Thomas Gibson) and JJ (AJ Cook) are preparing to carpool – with sons Henry and Jack in tow – when a group of heavily armed SWAT storm his apartment. After a short stand-off, Hotch is arrested and taken away; I guess the storm has arrived. Back at headquarters, the news has moved fast and the team is both shocked and concerned. Regardless though, they’ve jumped to attention. With theories of a possible game prank flying around, JJ arrives with all the kids – it’s bad. Rossi seeks out Hotch downtown to further discover he’s been taken by the United States Department of Justice. Not good. Hotch is taken in for questioning, and after demanding to know why he’s being held, the detective plays a 911 recording. The voice? Hotch – “Today will change everything”. Add to that evidence of bomb making equipment and ingredients, it doesn’t look too good for Hotch. Luckily, the team has been able to commandeer this information also; piecing together all that they have, they uncover that Hotch’s voice has been meshed together to create a fake recording. He’s being set up.
As the team continues to work, the reference to “The Storm” sparks a lead; a lead back to Antonia Slade and her son. What follows is a highly impassioned confrontation with JJ. AJ Cook is powerful in this scene, the genuine pain and disgust she has over her children having witnessed what they did is enough to push her to the edge. Antonia’s son has something to do with this and she wants a name. And she gets it – Asher Douglas. When the team arrive at Asher’s house though, something doesn’t seem right. It just doesn’t fit. Reid notices Asher is autistic and is incredibly high functioning however did not in fact buy all the ingredients to make the bomb. He does have a partner though. Or someone that is preying on his vulnerability and impressionability. Meanwhile, the Detective interrogating Hotch reveals that he received an anonymous tip and with this news, Hotch becomes angered and demands to know who it is. With the press of play none other than Mr Scratch – Peter Lewis – shows up on the screen. Remember the UnSub that dosed Hotch with that dissociative drug? Way back when? Yes, him!
While he is being questioned, Hotch is profiling as he goes and seems to always be one step ahead of the Detective currently interrogating him. That, and the rest of his team are hurriedly working way with Douglas. The Detective introduces a profile written by Hotch on workplace shooters – one that sounds exactly like Hotch himself – but is specifically written for someone named Eric Rawdon. With this new piece of information, as well as an admission from Asher about who his accomplice was, the team figure it out. Eric Rawdon has always wanted to make something go boom. He’s planning a prison break. They’re right, but they might be too late because in the meantime a police guard working at the prison is shot, with prisoners taking control. The plan is meticulous, but as the team and SWAT storm the premises they discover a tunnel has been built. Rossi, moving quickly, cuts off the prisoners going this route while the others spread out. Not sure I’ve held my breath for as long as I did when Lewis became cornered in the serial killer wing, not to mention when Rawdon opened the doors to the cells and she was well and truly dead meat. Lucky for Lewis, Hotch has been released and comes to the rescue. The team apprehends Rawdon and the other prisoners, when they realise the bomb isn’t actually at the prison. It is at another location – The Ivory Tower, a safe house for fundamentalist groups. Arriving just in time to stop the team from leaving, the BAU are involved in a blazing gun fight, ending in the explosion of a helicopter.
The team arrive back at headquarters, everyone safe and in one piece. Hotch is quick to reunite with Jack, who somewhat avoids eye contact and meaningful communication with his father; possibly a defense mechanism the young Hotchner has built up to protect himself from the demands of his father’s job. Rossi and Hayden also reunite, but Hayden is now second guessing her decision to give this another go. The job is still the job and she isn’t sure she can handle it. Rossi insists he is not walking away, but that he wants her to meet the team because for as long as he can remember they are all the family he’s ever known. I have to say, out of all the ex-wives, Hayden is the one I most see Rossi with. The team arrives, and as all great Criminal Minds episodes end, we are given a heartfelt, full of laughter and love dinner party that they’re all worthy of. But of course it’s too good to be true, with one by one, phones start to buzz. With a dejected look from Hayden, and a knowing downtrodden Will left at the table, the team assemble in a closed off room. Hotch has just received news of 3 more prison breaks all over the country, all organised by Rawdon. The worst part, it is the serial killer wings of each prison that have been rendered broken and not all serial killers have been located. There are 13 missing, and one in particular to be concerned about, Mr. Scratch. With looks of sheer worry, that is where we end Season 11. Can you believe it is 11 seasons later? This finale had it all – high octane action, visceral emotional drama, humour, suspense and a somewhat happy resolution but not before a much needed cliff-hanger. And now, we the recently announced Season 12 confirms, the BAU team will no doubt, be hot on the trails of these 13 serial killers. Each character this season has had their own journey and evolution; Tara Lewis has added a deeper psychological aspect to the team, JJ became more passionate as an agent, driven for justice more than I’ve seen, Reid has fallen and gotten back up, most recently learning to stand on his own two feet without Morgan. There were goodbyes and reunions, but what remains is the undeniable family chemistry and cohesion this team has. And 11 years later, this cast is as seasoned as they come, with a passion to tell honest, gripping and soul-searching stories still remaining. Bravo CM team, you’ve always got us on the edge of our seats.