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Criminal Minds: Season 10

Paramount // Unrated // August 25, 2015
List Price: $55.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted August 25, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The latest of a continuing series, where my wife Nicole steps up to offer her thoughts.

By Nicole Rizzo

In 10 Words or Less
Like wine, Criminal Minds only gets better with age.

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Criminal dramas, Joe Mantegna, Penelope Garcia, Thomas Gibson
Likes: Shemar Moore, Kate Kavanagh
Dislikes: "Mr. Scratch", those who use the internet to bring harm to others
Hates: Creepy psychopaths that prey on the weak

The Story So Far...
It's a rarity nowadays to see a television show, let alone a criminal drama, survive as long as Criminal Minds has. Ten seasons and going strong makes for a very happy heart. What really separates from other criminal drama shows is the writers and directors' abilities to keep the storylines fresh and new but also relatable and captivating. The progression of the cast and their characters has been an amazing and memorable journey to witness. Just when you thought you knew or understood a character, something new is thrown your way. Each of the main stars of the show has come into their own over years, some faster than others, but all worthy of accolades and masters of their craft. Storylines this season are still edgy, dark, creepy as all get out and spellbinding, but most of all they sucked you in each week with stealth grips.

The more personal, touching or "too close to home" kind of episodes have continued to blurred the lines for our characters. I've made mention in my other Criminal Minds review that everyone has a backstory, baggage or a skeleton in the closet. Once again, the past can't help but find its way to the forefront, thanks to stupendous direction and awe-inspiring portrayals. The nine previous seasons have been released on DVD, and DVDTalk has reviews of several of those sets.

The Show
After watching an episode or two or five, I often wonder what it must be like for the writers and the actors to sit down at a table read and work through their scripts. I'm guessing that after ten seasons it's like coming home and sitting down with family, with the token "weird and crazy uncle" substituted by a psychotic and depraved serial killer.

With Beth being offered a job in New York and giving the long-distance relationship a try, Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) comes to the reality that his life is most settled with just himself and his son Jack. Juggling family and his work has been a lifelong struggle, and at times more than he can handle. It's his promise to keep others safe and protect them from the demons that lurk around every corner, but it's also those demons who have taken what he cherishes most away from him.

I really questioned Derek (Shemar Moore) finding true love with Dr. Savannah Hayes (Rochelle Aytes) during last season and couldn't for the life of me see where it was going to lead. How could he keep a relationship going with that schedule of his and why would someone want to wait around for him to realize if love was really what he wanted? Then it hit me that they are practically one in the same. They both protect and bring empowerment to those in need. They both keep insanely crazy and unconventional hours and most of all, they both truly love one another. As much as I have dreamt of a Derek/Penelope romance, I'm very content with where the writers and the actors have this relationship going and I hope to see more development in episodes to come.

When the character of "JJ" (A.J. Cooke) first appeared as communications liaison, I really never envisioned her character developing so much and in such an inspiring way. She was soft-spoken and kept to herself, never really delving much into her past and always afraid to look towards her future. Then she found love and had a baby. Her character's growth couldn't have come at a better time or a better pace. Each season we got a tease of what it was like to be JJ. I always felt like I wanted to know more about her, what made her tick, but kept her so sane in times of great intensity. And then last season "BAM!", there she was, the real, raw, bare to the bones JJ that I knew she was all along, fighting for her life against her captors and losing a life she so wanted. I was tremendously impressed with how she's stayed calm, cool and collected in front of her team and family, but just like the rest of us, can be broken so easily. She is a force to be reckoned with. Watch out psychos, JJ is coming for you with a vengeance!

The character of Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) is a breed all of her own. She marches to the beat of her own drum and isn't afraid to be herself, something every young girl in society should take notes from. She's a strong, level-minded, quirky at times, always there to lend a helping hand kind of person. Her character has blossomed in so many ways. I do find it funny how her phone conversations with Derek (Moore) and the other cast members have evolved over the years. When she first started it was, "Hey sweet lips" or "How's my Brown Sugar doing?" and now we find it a more refined, "You're on speaker Garcia" tone. What that says to the character is that Garcia has also evolved and become more refined over the past decade. I was completely in awe of her in "The Black Queen" (season nine) and welcomed getting an in-depth look at who Garcia really is and what she's made of. I get giddy every time she comes on scene, unless it's during a deeply emotional point in the episode, then I'm a mess right along with her.

When I think of the character Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), I instantly envision Albert Einstein. Both geniuses, intellectuals of the highest caliber, visionaries far ahead of their time and their peers, but most of all, I see crazy hair. It was funny that Gubler made mention of his character's insane locks, which again brings these characters into the human element. How many actual Dr. Reids are there walking around and we may not even know it? Not surprising was the enormous character growth of Dr. Reid, which sadly came from tragedy and near-death experiences. Reid has experienced loss before in this series, but nothing even close to the great, unimaginable loss he felt this season. For a time, I wasn't sure he was ever going to come out on the other side, but he's Spencer, unpredictable at times but always able to see things for what they truly are and stand for. He's brought so much to the team in a decade and I can't wait to see what else his knowledge and ability can offer.

I don't know what it is about David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) that instantly encompasses the viewer. Is it his demeanor, sensibility, strong Italian personality? Whatever it might be, I love it!!! There's something special and unique about Joe Mantegna as an actor and director. He brings so much of himself as a person to the roles he embodies. When he was brought on early in season three, I remember thinking he could never replace Mandy Patinkin, who for me was the backbone of the team. I'm a big fan of Mandy Patinkin, but Mantegna did him one better! As his character grew each season,, so did his own personal life, as storylines began to develop that brought Mantegna into his own light and not the shadow I thought he once would occupy. I was blown away by the two episodes in which Mantegna played opposite Meshach Taylor and a third featuring flashbacks. It wasn't until reviewing this set and watching the special feature "Salute" that I finally understood why it seemed so effortless for the two tremendous actors to work together. When I think of Criminal Minds, I'm reminded that the "team" is also a "family". Crazy as it seems, I can picture Joe Mantegna at the head of the big Sunday table, loaf of semolina under his arm and a grin from ear to ear and smiling his infectious grin. Mr. Mantegna, I'm sorry I ever doubted your impact on this show.

We saw the exit of linguistics expert Alex (Jeanne Tripplehorn) at the end of last season as she pursued a teaching opportunity in Boston with her doctor husband. With that exit came the opening of a new door for Kate Kavanagh (Jennifer Love Hewitt) to walk through. She is a former sex-crimes detective who's brings a new level of knowledge to the team. She is much like Hotch and Rossi, in that family-is-everything aspect, as she has stepped in to care for her niece when her sister and brother-in-law are killed in the 9/11 attacks. The question you are kept wondering, as she is a new character, is "Will she be stay around for the long run or leave the door open for someone else?" Personally, I hope the door stays closed and she sticks around! Loved her ever since Party of Five.

Many special guests have also appeared this season including Grant Show (Melrose Place), Pamela Reed (Kindergarten Cop), Kerr Smith (Dawson's Creek) and last but not least Ben Savage (Boy Meets World). (On a side note, I just recently turned 40, which explains my particular references.) Each actor gave an excellent performance and brought so much life to their individual episodes. It's quite interesting to see these particular actors in roles that are by far very different from which they are originally known for. Psychopathy, nut job or killer doesn't always fit certain actors. For these special guests, they fit perfect!

The DVDs
Shipped in a slipcase, the 24 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. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in English SDH.

The Quality
As with other dramas of a dark nature, these episodes look amazing and true to life in their anamorphic widescreen transfers, with colors that are sharp and beautiful. Its a fair representation of what's seen each week on television and does depict good filmmaking.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks on this set do a nice job of reproducing the way the show sounds when it airs, with the dialogue sounding clear from the front of the room, while the surround speakers have plenty of action, with sound effects and music filling the sides and rear.

The Extras
There is a plethora of deleted scenes (11:15) in this set with the indicated episode (a play-all option is not included.) These deleted scenes were well played out and a few should have made it to the final cut rather than the editing room floor. They range in from 29 seconds to 4:22.

The Gag Reel (4:28) is good, but very similar to most gag reels of television shows. It'sgood for one, maybe two laughs. What makes the outtakes for line and direction miscues funny, is the cast. There's just something about Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore and my fav, Joe Mantegna, that gets me everytime. Everyone gets caught spilling a profanity here and there and walking in when you're not supposed to even be in the scene. Like I said, it's good for a laugh or two. But…

I could not get over the special features. First off, on disc three is the must-watch "Salute", a heart-warming and extremely touching tribute to guest star Meshach Taylor, who sadly succumbed to cancer in June 2014. Taylor guest starred in two of the three episodes written about his character, Harrison Scott, with flashbacks of his previous performances in the third. I'll be honest and say I got extremely emotional while watching this extra. It was such a wonderful sight to watch Taylor portray Vietnam veteran Scott, a character very different from his days on Designing Women.

When we first meet Scott in "The Fallen" it's quite evident from the beginning that there is a deep connection between his character and David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) and what's even more of a blessing is that their renewed friendship is played out in season nine, "The Road Home" and ultimately comes full circle with, "Anonymous." Joe Mantegna expresses such heartfelt love for his television and real-life friend of 44 years. Though I sometimes find it difficult to pick my stand-out episode each season, it is the utmost truth when I say I could not look away each time Mantegna and Taylor were on the scene together. Their chemistry was magic and I'm assuming their friendship was as well.

Disc Six is overflowing with special features and extras. At first glance it looks like so much, but it's so worth the viewing.

"Top Ten" (29:47) is a compilation of the best stories from this season. All the favorites featuring the cast we all love. It brings the viewer deeper into the story and gives the characters more of a human element. It;s sure to bring back some good memories as you watch. So much has happened over the last decade and there is so much more to come. I can't wait!

As a music teacher, I was thrilled to see a featurette devoted to the music of the series. Because such an emphasis is put into the storylines, characters and dialog, viewers forget how tremendously important the music is to a television show. With "Greatest Hits" (8:52), we finally get to go deep into the great musical minds of composers Scott Gordon, Marc Fantini and Steffan Fantini. Through their compositions and incredible layered sound effects, scenes are enhanced and given that extra kick of pizzazz that catapults them into a universe all their own. I could have watched this segment over and over again and it was awesome each time!

In "Memo from The Acting Director" (6:38) Thomas Gibson, with assistance from co-executive director Virgil Williams, discusses what it's like to be an actor in front of the camera and a director behind it, all at the same time. It's wonderful to see the writing and directing staff giving the actors the opportunity to lay their own personal mark on an episode.

I was a little nervous the first time I watched a commentary episode. I thought for sure my ADD would kick in and I wouldn't be able to watch the show, listen to the background dialog and follow along with the episode discussion. But to my surprise, it was super easy, mainly due to the fact that I had watched each episode several times already, allowing me to just focus on the dialog as it pertained to the image on the scene. In the commentary for "Nelson's Sparrow" (43:33) the team comes "home" to find one of our beloved characters has met a tragic and untimely death. Executive director Erica Messer and the ever quirky and much loved Kirsten Vangsness talk the viewer through what it was like to co-write, direct and perform in such an emotional episode. What makes the writing of this show so believable is the theme of "life interrupted" and never really knowing what the next minute, hour or day will bring. The dialog between Messer and Vangsness on how the story originated, also a separate sub-feature titled "Origin Story" (6:25), is once again like sitting down with an old friend. For the first time, the true "birth story" of the BAU is revealed and reminisced with such pure grace. The episode is filled with flashbacks galore, and with it brings such emotion for the entire cast as they all sneak back into their "special place" and remember their team member, partner, mentor and friend.

Matthew Gray Gubler not only does an outstanding job of his commentary for the episode, "Mr. Scratch" (42:13) but also an exceptional job as director. This episode was by far the creepiest, not just because I ended up watching it almost 1:30am after a near marathon of episodes earlier that evening. I actually had to stop mid-show and try and go to sleep because I was so freaked out. The slightest noise in my house made me jump. Needless to say, it was well worth waiting until the light of day to complete my viewing. With a storyline of such a sinister demeanor, it begs the viewer to ask if they could truly distinguish between what they think is happening and what is really happening. The thought of not being in control of my own mind gave my chills. As you watch the episode and listen to Matthew's commentary, you can really begin to see how he put many personal touches into the episode.

The writers are at it again with giving viewers and fans of Criminal Minds another tease of what goes on in other divisions of the FBI and what could possibly be a fabulous spin-off series of its own. In "Criminal Minds International" (9:36) we meet the elite international division of profilers. Each BAU character basically has an international counterpart, even Garcia, in Russ "Monty" Montgomery (Tyler James Williams). The team, lead by Jack Garrett (the ever amazing and captivating Gary Sinise) is comprised of to the point and by the book Lilly Lambert (Anna Gunn) and Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney) who wouldn't think twice about taking one for the team. You can see the similarities between Jack and Hotch, Lilly and Rossi and Matt and Derek. It's almost like looking in the mirror. I hope to God the writers seriously consider developing a spin-off series with this incredibly talented team of actors.

One special feature I could have lived without was "H.I.M: Business As Usual" (3:29) a satirical piece featuring a superfan who is also a rapper. His works include songs expressing his love for the BAU. Not my cup of tea. I actually thought for a minute it was a real thing. Thank god it wasn't.

The Bottom Line
This series has come so far in the ten years it's been on the air. Its brought the insanity and deviance of serial killers onto televisions sets and into our minds. It's made us stop and think what could happen and contemplate the reality from fiction.The cast will always be our beloved "team", some have stayed for the long haul and others only long enough to leave an imprint. I am constantly amazed at the quality and level of the Criminal Minds writing staff and directors and their ability to bring to life stories one can only hope to be fiction. I eagerly look forward to what waits ahead for the next ten years! If the first ten years is an indication, it's going to be quite a journey!

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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