Being a review of Criminal Minds 04x12, “Soul Mates,” written by Erica J. Messler and Deb Fisher, directed by John E. Gallagher
...in which the team journeys to an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Sarasota, Florida, to take on the captured member of a serial killer team comprised of two men who share everything, including a fondness for Tom Petty. (One wonders what Mr. Petty’s feelings are about his apparent popularity with serial killers.)
William Harris, the UNSUB in custody, is capably portrayed by Michael Boatman. I had mixed emotions about the episode, but Boatman was extraordinary, and his scenes with Shemar Moore (who plays Derek Morgan) were tautly unsettling. Over the course of the episode, Boatman goes from paternal and reassuring to smug and narcissistic smoothly enough that it’s hard to tell at what point the viewer stops wondering if he’s the right suspect and becomes convinced he knows exactly what’s going on.
How do you invite somebody to become your partner in a serial killing venture, anyway? How does that subject just sort of... come up over the dinner table? Apparently it does—it must—because teams of killers happen. Here’s an narrative that attempts to explore that dynamic, the relationship that forms under those circumstances, and the chilling bond of shared experience.
Unfortunately, it’s only intermittently successful.
For one thing, the pacing suffers. There’s no ticking clock, no driving engine. We’re told that Harris, the captured killer, must be released in twelve hours if more evidence (such as a confession) can’t be obtained, but the episode doesn’t present us with a sense of time pressure, especially once the missing victim turns up dead and there’s no one left to rescue. In some ways, it’s neat to see the team just going about their jobs (and it’s always fun to watch Reid apply his giant brain and knowledge of psycholinguistics to pick apart a text), but there’s not a lot of tension to drive the plot.
The episode does focus well on Morgan and bring us a certain amount of juicy character development for him.
I particularly loved the scene where he says “I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be in love with another man,” and everything about his body language says it’s—not a lie, exactly, but disingenuous. Abusive relationships are complicated, after all, and whatever Morgan felt for his abuser at the time, all that emotional broken glass is still in there, cutting away if he moves wrong. Love is not the right word, in a case like that—but need and dependency certainly inform his experience. Shemar Moore is a nuanced physical actor, given half a chance, and he really shines just then.
As do both he and Boatman in the scenes were Harris first attempts to race-bait Morgan, and then is surprised to find how much he has given away while gaining no advantage over his opponent.
Another aspect of the episode that I thought worked very well—and which is unusual, even for Criminal Minds, although it was the focus of my favorite first-season episode—was the examination of the psychological impact of Harris’ crimes on his wife and daughter. Often times, we see the aftermath of violence on the families of victims. But the families of perpetrators are victimized as well. Despite its choppiness and ragged pacing, this episode did an elegant job of bringing that out.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesday nights at 9:00 pm on CBS.