Thu
Mar 12 2009 6:52pm

God’s away on business

Being a review of Criminal Minds 04x17, “Demonology,” written by Chris Mundy, directed by Edward Allen Bernero

In this episode, a childhood friend of Prentiss’s seeks her out because another childhood friend has died under mysterious circumstances, thus leading the team onto a series of murders that may be the work of a serial killer—or may be assassinations carried out in retribution of the murder of a priest in Spain.

This serves as another entry in the ongoing discussion of God in the world of Criminal Minds, and whether he’s any good to anyone at all. (Generally, the answer seems to be no. Also, be careful what you pray for. Because you will get it, and you will be sorry.)

I found it interesting that this episode worked very well for me thematically and as a character exploration, and not so much in terms of plot. It’s another careful circle in the endless argument about nature vs. nurture, but I didn’t feel as if they covered as much new ground as illuminatingly as they usually do. Everybody was very much themselves, and very much behaving in anticipated manners, and it was juicy and rewarding to get a little Prentiss backstory, but it just never quite came together with a click.

There were so many gaps in the narrative that I felt in many ways it was was nothing but gaps. There were no solid answers, no justice for anybody—not for the murdered men, and not for Emily—and somehow this episode has a slow-paced, elegiac, drifting feel to it that seemed like it belonged to some other TV show. I actually am kind of hip to the idea of there being no answers (none at all), but I would have liked something a little more solid, here.

It’s hard even to talk about what I feel is missing, because it’s so very open. I did like the idea that an episode which centers on a conspiracy theory leaves the team unable to prove or disprove anything. But I felt as if the execution did not equal the ambition, alas.

On thing that worked very well for me, however, was the thematic freight carried on the idea that God doesn’t judge you. Men do. And their judgments are inevitably flawed—the moreso when they claim divine knowledge of right and wrong.

And those judgments can kill, or leave you broken in your faith, and that’s not God’s will. On the contrary, it’s a terrible injustice.

And not one that anything divine is going to save you from.

Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9 pm on CBS.

4 comments
Jane Dark
1. Jane Dark
I loved the backstory, and thought that it was well acted, but I'm afraid I thought the episode failed miserably in terms of plot. You write above that there were no solid answers...I'm not sure I even saw solid questions being raised: apparently four guys who are friends (sort of -- I never understood whether Emily's former love interest was lying when he said he didn't know who Tommy V was, or what) -- anyway, four guys go to Santiago and...happen to kill a priest? Go intentionally to kill a priest?

The writers seemed to want to make Emily's dead childhood friend (whose name I've forgotten) both uncomfortable with the ideological pressures of religion AND religious enough to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago. I'm not saying that such contradiction is impossible, but I felt like it was presented in too much shorthand. The most information we got was in relation to Emily's past. As a fan, I found that interesting. As someone expecting a carefully plotted show, I was completely disappointed.
Elizabeth Bear
2. matociquala
Jane, yeah.

For me, it was a weird blend of things that worked and things that didn't work.
Andrew Mason
3. AnotherAndrew
People do go on the pilgrimage to Santiago for cultural reasons or just as a challenge, so the idea of someone who is uncomfortable with religion doing it isn't that surprising. (No idea whether this would make sense in this particular case, but just thought it should be mentioned.)
Jen Moore
4. Jenavira
I joked about this being an Apparitions crossover on LJ, but it really did feel like an episode from a completely different show. One with a long, convoluted story arc with a morally ambiguous priest and a lot of questions about the nature of good and evil.

Which might be why I liked it, despite the plot that was more holes than plot; it was a very This Episode Is Not About You kind of thing.

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