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Criminal Minds: Season 9

Paramount // Unrated // August 26, 2014
List Price: $64.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted November 16, 2014 | E-mail the Author
In the latest of a continuing series, my wife Nicole returns to offer her thoughts on another show I'm not likely to ever watch.

by Nicole Rizzo

In 10 Words or Less
Everyone has a backstory, some good, some bad, always unforgettable.

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Criminal dramas, Joe Mantegna, Kirsten Vangsness
Likes: Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore
Hates: Too many Special Features

The Story So Far...
What's kept Criminal Minds going for nine seasons? The answer is simple when you have a cast of actors that pour every ounce of their creative being into their characters and a writing staff with the ability to come up with the most insane, demented and twisted storylines seen in primetime. During season 8, we were given a more in-depth glimpse into who each of the profilers were and what made them tick. This season is chock full of flashbacks. As personal backstories are revealed, we start to peel away the tough exteriors of each character and see them for who they really are and why they continue to do what they do. Being an FBI profiler is far from an easy occupation, it takes a certain kind of person to delve into the mind of a serial killer and have the mindseye to understand the kill, the killer and the victims better than they know themselves.

The previous eight seasons have been released on DVD, and DVDTalk has reviews of several seasons.

The Show
This season's storylines are raw, edgy and downright unimaginable. What goes on in the mind of a serial is an astonishing and perplexing thing, incomprehensible by many. The writers had a tremendous job in bringing such stories to life, and at the same time making them believable. It was with flair that we see the inclusion of personal association by each of the characters during various episodes. Last season saw the introduction of agent Alex Blake in the wake of Emily Prentiss' death. Though I enjoy watching Jeanne Tripplehorn each week, her character doesn't have the same dynamic amongst the team that Paget Brewster had. She has however, made a connection with Reid on a level even they might not understand, as she often gives him a run for his money in the "who's smarter than a fifth grader?" challenge. This season, we meet Section Chief Mateo Cruz, stepping after the tragic death of Erin Strauss. I was leary about a new addition to the already tight knit "family", would one more spoil the pot?

Hotch was reborn last season as he dealt with the death of his beloved Haley, who as we see again this season, is always with him, in some shape or form. Hotch is the leader, the coach, the mentor every FBI profiler would give their right leg to have in their corner. Its evident that Hotch will forever have his own personal demons but season 9 offers us a fresher, more vibrant Aaron Hotchner, one I look forward to watching evolve. With Jack, who forever reminds him of Haley, he is more nurturing, more protective, willing to make an effort when it comes to his son. Its not easy being the boss, but for some crazy reason, he makes it seem like childsplay.

I've waited 9 seasons for Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia to find true love, but the idea that they find it within each other's arms will have to wait a little longer. Derek has found his match in Savannah Hayes (Rochelle Aytes), literally a female version of himself with the same drive, ambition and dedication to her job as he has to the BAU. Will it last or be too much to handle? As always, and after nine seasons, Shemar Moore never lets the viewers down with his charismatic personality.

J.J. (A.J. Cook) has really come into her own since her days as media liaison in the beginning of the series. I was extremely surprised by the storyline the writers chose for J.J. this season, as it set a sour tone that she might betray the "family" that she has held so dear to her heart. Her relationship was Section Chief Cruz bothered me, but as the season unfolded, I came to realize and understand why the writers did what did. In the end, I actually walked away from this season with a new understanding of J.J. and how vital she is to the BAU. Talk about taking one for the team!

Penelope Garcia did not disappoint this season. If anything, she rose to a whole new level of "Garia-ness", something I admire and love to witness each week. In, "Black Queen", Kirsten Vangsness gave an astounding performance of who Garcia was before her Troll pencils, quirky coffee mugs and multi-colored hair. She had found true love in the arms of another before being Derek's "baby girl." For as much as I truly enjoy seeing her portray a kick-ass computer geek, hacker girl, I secretly wish she'd go head first into profiling.

My family and I, especially my eight year old, love watching trivia/puzzle games, as in Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. We sit and wonder each episode what goes into being the kind of person who can answer such trivial questions or solve the most obscure puzzles. And then the image of Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Grey Gubler) pops into my mind. What does it take to hold that much information in one orb the size of a cantaloupe? His recall ability is astounding and his intellect is mind-blowing, two very important and crucial talents that make him so crucial to the BAU team, someone they could never live without.

David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) is a changed man this season. After losing his beloved Erin at the end of season eight, his is more focused than ever on catching the bad guys and bringing resolution and honor to the victims. He's a little harder on himself also, almost holding a grudge on himself that he could have done more. He's always looking to make things "right", sometimes hurting his own emotional integrity to do. Not every case ends with a group hug, but every case etches a tiny piece of itself within David Rossi.

New last season to the BAU was Alex (Jeanne Tripplehorn.) She had a lot to prove to the team and to herself as she learned to put the past behind her, or so she thought. Letting go of old rivals, heartache, or betrayal is never an easy thing to do. Its going to take more than her intellectual genus to get her out of her own mind. Is facing her demons head on what will make them go away or will running as far from them as she can be the answer?

As much of a hard-ass as she was to the BAU team, I miss Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson.) I did enjoy seeing her briefly in some flashback scenes this season. She may be gone, but she's always just a thought away. With her untimely departure, I really didn't think anyone could fill her place, but there he was, Section Chief Mateo Cruz (Esai Morales) ready to start stirring the pot from the get go. I did have some reservations that there wouldn't be that character that brought conflict to the seemingless happy round table, but he delivered and I liked disliking him, as I did with Erin Strauss.

I have to say I was thrilled to find myself re-watching two stand-out episodes from season nine, compared to my usual one. In, "Route 66", I remember watching it unfold and thinking, "If they kill off another character, I'll never watching this show again!', but then realized how on earth could they bury Thomas Gibson's character, the glue that holds the BAU together. So I continued to watch, and absolutely loved how the storyline played out. I was a little grossed out by the often unexpected "blood" issues Haley was having, but I felt that writers as well as the characters delivered a fantastic resolution to the "The Reaper" storyline. the love shared between Aaron and Haley was so evident as he he struggled so deeply with being the one he loves or staying with the ones who need him most.

I'm sure somewhere in the world there is a Penelope Garcia fan club. And rightfully so that it exists! "The Black Queen" actually shocked me quite a bit. We're so used to seeing the cutesy, funny, insanity driven Penelope that when the dark, goth-laden image appeared, I didn't know what to think or feel about Penelope. By the end of the episode, I had a whole new understanding and admiration for her character, as she she really grown and developed through each season. She's someone you don't want to mess with. For some reason, its so hard for us as humans to see past our own faults and weaknesses to see the true strength that lies within.

I love this series so much. I admire the writers for coming up with such insane and demented storylines over and over. As viewers we're left wondering how could someone do such a thing or is that even possible. The tremendously chemistry between the characters is what brings those stories to life and sees them through. I found myself smiling after some episodes when the psychopath got what he deserved and shaking my head in disbelief after others when the episode revealed something about a team member I never saw coming. I look forward to what season 10 brings to the BAU and how much sicker and crazier the writers can get.

The DVDs
Shipped in a slipcase, the 23 episodes in this collection arrive on 6 DVDs in three clear, dual-hubbed ThinPak cases, with episode info on the back. The discs feature animated anamorphic widescreen menus with options to play all the episodes, select a show, adjust the set-up and check out bonus features. Consistent with the previous sets, this season's Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in English SDH.

The Quality
Often looking quite dim, these transfers match the qualities of the show's previous releases, delivering an image with a quality level of fine detail, appropriate color and solid black levels. There are no issues with compression artifacts or other visual defects.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks mimics the show sounds' broadcast presentation well, with the dialogue sounding clear in the center channel, while the sides and rears feature a great deal of activity, including atmospherics, effects and music.

The Extras
Season nine brings a few changes to the extras, starting with the new "For Eyes Only" featurettes (taking the place of season eight's "The Profiler's Handbook" and apparently any other featurettes.) There's one for every episode this season, ranging from 2:47 to 14:05 (on the big 200th episode), but most fall in the area of three to five minutes, with the total package providing just shy of 114 minutes of behind the scenes insight. The "For Eyes Only" pieces feature interviews with a mix of actors, effects supervisors, producers and directors, giving a peek at the production of the show, including the inspiration for many of the plots and thoughts from the actors who stepped behind the camera this season.

As usual, there are deleted scenes, with a total of eight from seven episodes, running 3:31. These are mostly brief and unnecessary to the show in any real way. Also very short this time is the gag reel, which is just 1:28 of goofs from the set, mainly thanks to Moore.

The other extra that returns this season is the audio commentary, and this time the number is bumped up to three, with two from Gray Gubler ("Gatekeeper" and "Blood Relation") and one split by Cook and producer Erica Messer ("200.") The tracks are entertaining (Gray Gubler's especially, as he brings a dual perspective as actor and director) and they provide plenty of info into how the show is made. The Bottom Line
I'm a sucker for a good drama, whether it be a medical or criminal, I can't get enough. I look forward to reruns of Criminal Minds on a regular basis. Even if I've watched the episode numerous times, with the plot and characters emblazoned in my memory, I'll sit and watch. I find it both fascinating and disturbing that the writers can come up with such intense storylines. The cast are true artists in what they bring to each episode. Together, the writing, the direction and the execution of the episodes are a must see, a must watch, a definite must love!

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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