Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars

Being a review of Criminal Minds 4×10, “Brothers in Arms,” written by Holly Herald, directed by Glenn Kershaw.

In this episode, the team travels to scenic Phoenix, Arizona—seen here largely at night—to hunt for a serial killer targeting the city’s police force. It’s an unexceptional episode, solid but without any real outstanding characteristics, and a little heavyhanded on the obvious pathos for Criminal Minds. I suspect that’s a feature of bringing in a new writer who doesn’t yet have a strong sense of the rhythms of the show, and that it won’t be an ongoing problem. I also note that the director on this episode is another alumnus of Third Watch, for that cop show vibe.

It was interesting that the episode was set in Phoenix (home of the infamously problematic Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department), when it was one of the few Criminal Minds episodes in which local law enforcement is so unsympathetically rendered.

I figured out that the cornered suspect wasn’t the UNSUB a bit before Hotch and Prentiss did, because the officer was shot in the chest. Also, I noticed that they skipped the exposition on why the first victim is important—they just assume that the audience will know that the first victim may be linked to the killer. Yes, they have us trained now.

I did like that this was one of the episodes where the characters got to be logically wrong about things for perfectly good reasons, and later correct their misapprehensions with better evidence. At the outset, Morgan believes that the UNSUB is shooting the victims in the throat because they’re wearing body armor; later, we learn that it’s for symbolic reasons. There are a few pleasant character moments—Reid’s irritated cattiness with the problem police lieutenant, a little more development of Morgan’s Tragic Backstory, Hotch’s big-dog saunter as he’s luring the UNSUB out at the climax, Team Prentiss-and-Rossi, and a couple of beautiful lines for Garcia—but on the whole, it felt like a filler ep.

Not a bad filler ep, mind you, but one without any big emotional impact, despite the forced pathos of the denouement, with Morgan at the graveside of one of the slain officers, comforting his family, when they’ve played that scene before and better.

Morgan might have been aware of how empty the words he was saying were—we know he is, because that’s been made plain since we first found out about his backstory—but I’m not sure I felt like the narrative knew it.

Criminal Minds airs Wednesday Nights on CBS. New Episodes resume on January 14th.


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