Directed by Gloria Munzio et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 1007 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 English
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Review Date: September 30, 2007
Of all of the procedural crime dramas that dot the prime time landscape, CBS’ Criminal Minds is by far the most dour. Bones and The Closer are lighter and more genial, Cold Case is more emotionally cathartic, the three CSIs are more forensically oriented, and Numb3rs more mathematically centered. Criminal Minds remains the darkest and most oppressive of them all. That doesn’t necessarily mean bad, mind you, but the grimness of the tone makes watching an entire season of episodes in a few days something of an endurance test.
The perpetrators in this series are lethally venal in nature, and to its credit, the series writers don’t shy away from plucking killers from all walks of life, all ages, and, obviously, both sexes. In any episode, the killer might be the neighborhood garbage collector, a youth center director, or the cute, cuddly child from next door. And hot on the trails of these violent offenders is the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit headed by Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin). Also in on the analyses of the “un-subs” (unidentified subjects) are director Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson), team muscle Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore), genius in residence Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), department liaison J. J. Jareau (A. J. Cook)., and computer expert Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness). The team undergoes a transition about six episodes into the season when actress Lola Glaudini (who played sex-crimes expert Elle Greenaway) left the show and two episodes later was replaced by Paget Brewster playing Emily Prentiss. The momentum of the show was undisturbed by this switch in actresses.
The show’s writers also vary the nature of each show’s investigations. In most, the episode is a standard mystery where the team discovers clues, narrows down the list of suspects, and arrives at the killer’s identity by the end of the show. (Almost all episodes are closed-ended and don’t necessarily have to be viewed in order. The non-serialized nature of the episodes makes it very easy to come and go with one’s viewing without having to remember a season-long story arc.) Occasionally, we’re treated to a Columbo-like scenario in which we know the perpetrator’s identity early and watch as the team tracks its way to the same knowledge. And, once-in-awhile, a team member gets himself embroiled personally in a case so that the focus turns to eliminating him as a suspect in addition to finding the real culprit.
The cast is a very good, very determined cross section of character types, but one’s enjoyment of the show will be aided if he can relax his suspension of disbelief as the Jason Gideon character arrives at his conclusions more by seeming-psychic means than by a thorough studying of the evidence. True, his long experience in dealing with violent offenders may give him uniquely special gifts in ascertaining their motivations, but as played by Mandy Patinkin, Gideon arrives at his conclusions in a quick and altogether too pat manner. The series finds whatever lightness it possesses from computer expert Garcia’s innuendo-filled communications with the team while they’re out in the field, and they‘re most welcome. The overall grim tone of the show can sometimes be overwhelming.
Here’s a breakdown of the season’s 23 episodes. An asterisk (*) marks those episodes which contain an audio commentary. The names in parentheses identify the participants.
*1 - The Fisher King, Part 2 (Edward Allen Bernero, Amanda Bernero)
2 - P911
*3 - The Perfect Storm (Erica Messer, Debra Fisher, Nicki Aycox)
4 - Psychodrama
5 - The Aftermath
6 - The Boogeyman
7 - North Mammon
8 - Empty Planet
9 - The Last Word
10 - Lessons Learned
11 - Sex, Birth, Death
*12 - Profiler, Profiled (Edward Allen Bernero, Glenn Kershaw, Shemar Moore)
13 - No Way Out
14 - The Big Game
*15 - Revelations (Chris Mundy, Matthew Gray Gubler)
16 - Fear and Loathing
17 - Distress
18 - Jones
19 - Ashes and Dust
20 - Honor Among Thieves
21 - Open Season
22 - Legacy
23 - No Way Out, Part II: The Evilution of Frank
The series is presented on CBS in 1080i, and this down converted 480p image is among the best I’ve seen for a TV box set. The images are usually very sharp, and color saturation is strong and very rich. There are many dark interiors in the series, and shadow detail throughout is excellent. On occasion, however, moderate-to-heavy grain can appear in nighttime outdoor scenes, and minor aliasing is a momentary problem on a few isolated episodes. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters.
Criminal Minds boasts one of the most active sound fields of all television dramas. With the number of explosions, crashes, and other action-oriented events, the sound designers have fashioned very dynamic ways to use all available channels in the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. To hype the tension in the many confrontational scenes especially as agents often race toward the climax of an episode, the LFE channel is especially well used.
The set contains four audio commentaries (see above list for specific episodes) featuring writers, directors, and occasional cast members. All four are informative and full of chatter with very few silent patches.
“Profilers, Profiled” is a 12-minute anamorphic featurette detailing the journeys of each of the main characters during season two. Oddly, not one word is mentioned here or in any of the other featurettes about actress Lola Glaudini’s leaving the series.
“The Physical Evidence” details many of the elements used in the filming of season two’s episodes. Information on the two-part episode involving Frank, the serial killer (played by Keith Carradine), the costuming, explosives, and use of green screen that all help to give the series its unique flair are also covered. This anamorphic featurette runs 14½ minutes.
“Behavioral Science: Real-Life Criminal Minds” takes several of the season’s better stories and has real life profilers comment on their veracity. This interesting feature, filmed in anamorphic video, runs 17½ minutes.
“Meet Kirsten Vangsness” is a quick look at home and at work (both on the set of the show and backstage at the theater company where she also works) of the actress who plays the jovial computer whiz on the show. It’s a slight 6-minute anamorphic featurette.
The bonus features also include two deleted scenes which run a total of 4½ minutes. The second omitted scene is introduced by producer Gigi Coello Bannon who explains why such a charming scene between Morgan and Reid was dropped.
There is also a 4½-minute gag reel, not particularly funny but in one moment featuring a stunt person dressed as the abominable snowman startling actors Shemar Moore and Mandy Patinkin.
The set also included trailers for the DVD sets of Twin Peaks, Dexter, and all three CSI series.
Criminal Minds is far from CBS’ best procedural (I’d give Cold Case or Without a Trace that distinction), but there is enough entertainment value and acting talent on display to make an occasional tune-in an enjoyable experience especially if the violent subject matter isn‘t a turn-off to you (the show can be quite grisly). Fans of the series will welcome this handsome collection of the show’s second season, the last in which Mandy Patinkin will appear on a regular basis.