God’s away on business

Being a review of Criminal Minds 04×17, “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.


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