Criminal Minds: Season 4
Directed by Glenn Kershaw et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 1107 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 stereo surround English
MSRP: $ 64.99
Release Date: September 8, 2009
Review Date: August 27, 2009
With the cast firmly in place from season three, CBS’ Criminal Minds ran a smooth and consistent season for its fourth year on the air. As popular as ever and the lynchpin of CBS’ Wednesday night line-up, CBS even ordered some additional episodes making a total of twenty-six new episodes being offered to the public during this year. Beginning with the explosive finale from the season three cliffhanger (which actually takes the season’s first two episodes to bring the plot to a satisfactory conclusion), the new season wastes no time in plunging the various team members into one life-threatening peril after another in stories that this season seem more suspensefully amped up than in previous years.
As in the previous seasons, the BAU concentrates on the most serious of crimes, often involving serial killers. 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. Apart from agent Rossi (Joe Mantegna) who joined the team early during season three, the team remains the same from the previous season at the beginning of the set: the unit is now headed by Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson). Also in on the analyses of the “un-subs” (unidentified subjects) are team muscle Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore), genius in residence Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), department liaison J. J. Jareau (A. J. Cook)., sex crimes expert Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) and computer expert Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness). After J.J. goes on maternity leave, she’s replaced for a few episodes by Agent Jordan Todd (Meta Golding), but the work of the BAU ultimately proves not to be to her liking.
The show’s writers also vary the nature of each show’s investigations. In most of this season‘s shows, the Columbo model was followed: we‘re shown the perpetrator and wait to see the team track him down methodically (sometimes accomplishing the identifying through what appears to be rather large leaps in logic.) My favorite episodes, however, are those featuring 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.) Once in a while, a team member gets himself embroiled personally in a case either as avictim or as a suspect (Reid investigating a murder from his youth fearing his estranged father is the perpetrator is a good example), and occasionally, plots involving the agents from one episode resonate several episodes later (Hotchner’s injuries from the season premiere are keenly felt for several episodes, for example, and he also figures prominently in the season cliffhanger).
The stories are undoubtedly rather grim and grisly, and the show is definitely adult in nature. The series finds whatever lightness it possesses most often from computer expert Garcia’s innuendo-filled communications with the team while they’re out in the field, and they‘re most welcome. The show’s popularity means it can recruit some really sterling guest stars who often play the most reprehensible of killers. Among the outstanding guest actors turning in first-rate work this season are Luke Perry, Wil Wheaton, Jane Lynch, Jason Alexander, Bruce Davison, Walton Goggins, Mitch Pileggi, C. Thomas Howell, Jackson Rathbone, Alex O’Loughlin, and Garret Dillahunt.
Here is the list of this season’s twenty-six episodes contained on the seven discs in the set:
1 – Mayhem
2 – The Angel Maker
3 – Minimal Loss
4 – Paradise (my favorite of this season’s episodes)
5 – Catching Out
6 – The Instincts
7 – Memoriam
8 – Masterpiece
9 – 52 Pickup
10 – Brothers in Arms
11 – Normal
12 – Soul Mates
13 – Bloodline
14 – Cold Comfort
15 – Zoe’s Reprise
16 – Pleasure Is My Business
17 – Demonology
18 – Omnivore
19 – House on Fire
20 – Conflicted (neat twist ending to this mystery)
21 – A Shade of Gray
22 – The Big Wheel (outstanding acting makes this a highlight)
23 – Roadkill
24 – Amplification
25 – To Hell . . .
26 – . . . And Back
The series is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented on CBS in 1080i. These downconverted 480p masters are exemplary in color, flesh tones, and sharpness for the most part and in close-ups suggest high definition, dimensional images that are quite outstanding. Only the occasional soft shot tends to mar the otherwise startling image quality. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is wonderfully active with source music and plenty of ambient sound delivered to the available channels and occasional deep LFE as well. This is one of the most outstanding sound designs available for currently running television series, and it’s well represented here.
There are four deleted scenes which are attached to the main menus of the shows they’re from (episodes #2, 3, 9, 18). They are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
There are eleven “Working the Scene” behind-the-scenes mini-documentaries featuring a focus on one aspect of the show in question. Each appears on the disc where the featurette’s program resides. The episodes which contain these excellent vignettes are “Mayhem” (3 ½ minutes), “Paradise” (5 ¾ minutes), “The Instincts” (4 ¼ minutes), “Masterpiece” (4 ¾ minutes), “Brothers in Arms” (3 ¾ minutes), “Normal” (4 ¾ minutes), “Omnivore” (5 ¼ minutes), “House on Fire” (4 ½ minutes), “Conflicted” (5 ½ minutes), “The Big Wheel” (4 ½ minutes), “To Hell…And Back” (5 minutes). They’re all in anamorphic widescreen.
The seven major star characters of Criminal Minds are each given a 3-4 minute profile in which various writer-producers and the star who plays the character weigh in on what makes each person tick. They’re all in anamorphic widescreen.
There is a 4 ½ -minute gag reel for the season. It’s in anamorphic widescreen.
The first disc contains a trailer for Dexter and for many of the current CBS/Paramount crime procedurals (NCIS, CSI, Medium, Dexter, Ghost Whisperer).
4/5 (not an average)
Some outstanding stories paired with superb video and audio quality for a weekly television series make the fourth season of Criminal Minds worth checking out. Recommended!