A monster they call destiny

Being a review of Criminal Minds 04×18, “Omnivore,” written by Andrew Wilder, directed by Nelson McCormick.


In which the team travels to Boston for the first time since Jason Gideon got five people killed there, to confront the resumption of a cold case from Hotch’s past. A Zodiac/BTK-style killer has re-emerged from a ten-year hiatus, and there’s a terrible secret as to how he arrived at that sabbatical.

I’ll be upfront: I loved this episode. I love the way Andrew Wilder writes Hotch, and I think Thomas Gibson (as I’ve said before, one of the most consistently underrated actors around) did an amazing job with the material he was given. With the able assistance of this writing team, he has taken a character who could very easily have been just another stone-faced workaholic by-the-book hardass, and turned him into a man of ethics, honor, loyalty, and determination.

This episode is almost all Hotch. Rossi and Morgan get a few good licks in, but in general, it’s all about the bossman, and the ways in which he deals with the crushing responsibility of his job—and his inevitable failures. And as is usual for mid-season Criminal Minds (I think they wait until the network is distracted to air the really edge episodes) not only does the team lose—for only the second time, they’re soundly defeated by a villain who gets away. (One of the reasons I’ve become so fanatical about this show is that they don’t win all the time, or even consistently. And my favorite episodes always seem to be the ones where something doesn’t quite work out. Horatio Caine never has these problems—but then, I don’t write a column about Horatio Caine.)

I was really fascinated by the wisdom Rossi has to bring to Hotch this time around. Especially given that the failings Hotch is exhibiting—obsession, egotism, over-identification—are the problems we most often see in Rossi. In fact, in some ways, those are his defining character traits. Hotch, on the other hand, is more often so self-effacing that you can forget he’s always there, shoring up his team, gambling on them, taking the risks for them so they have room to do their jobs.

In addition, this episode was graced by two strong guest stars—C. Thomas Howell, as the revenant serial killer’s only surviving victim, and Justin Louis, as the reporter who has made a career out of following this particualar killer. I was in particular impressed by Louis, whose character is neither a syncophant to the FBI nor a foil, but rather a man of conscience doing a job just as ethically and spiritually demanding as the one the profilers are attempting. I thought that was beautiful, and eloquently done.

In this episode, we see some of the cost of the job. It’s only a job, true, and somebody will always step up to do it. But it’s a job with consequences and compromises, and the failures cost a lot more than humiliation. They cost in lives and devil’s bargains.

The Silence Of The Lambs-esque riff in which the villain finally escapes is only fitting: as is the implication that he will be back to haunt Morgan and Hotch, whose failures he’s made so apparent.

All in all, along with “Normal” and “Memoriam,” one of my favorite episodes of the season so far.

Criminal Minds airs on CBS, Wednesday nights at 9 pm.


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