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Criminal Minds: Season 11

Paramount // Unrated // August 30, 2016
List Price: $55.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted September 10, 2016 | 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
When it's so good, you can't stop watching.

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Criminal dramas, Joe Mantegna, Shemar Moore, Aisha Tyler
Likes: Thomas Gibson, Penelope Garcia
Hates: The unknown of serial killers

The Story So Far...
My heart skips a beat each season when I know Criminal Minds will be back on the air come September. I relish in the fact that I have season upon season to watch during the summer hiatus to prepare myself for what's to come. The journey has been long and winding since the series first began in 2005. The premise of the show as a criminal drama has remained a constant with unthinkable and unexpected storylines thrown the viewer's way each week. The evolution of the series as well as its cast has been such that each is a worthy asset to television. It's the chemistry between them that makes for a spellbinding, twist-and-turns, edge-of-your-seat drama, proud of the accomplishments and accolades it's received over the last 11 years.

I honestly wasn't expecting to see much of character changes or development this season as I did in the past. Not to say the characters and the actors who portray them aren't capable of such growth, but more I felt the characters had, after ten seasons, finally come into their own and were ready to remain steadfast in who they were. Not to give away too much, I was left after watching the 22nd episode saying to myself, "Are you kidding me? No way!" It's that kind of viewer reaction that has kept Criminal Minds rolling along and hopefully, for viewers like myself and those of you out there who love a juicy criminal drama, will continue its path into legendary television. The show has aired for 11 seasons on CBS, and 10 seasons have been released so far. DVDTalk has reviews of several of those sets.

The Show
I try sometimes to think about what goes on behind the closed doors in the writers' department of Criminal Minds and then I stop because, honestly, it's kinda creepy and scary to imagine how they come up with the storylines they do. There are some slight similarities with stories taken from past and current headlines, but it's the length and development the writers go to that really makes the episode pop. The more I watch Criminal Minds and other series of it's likeness, I learn more and more than the criminals that are currently locked up have some amazing, disturbing and unbelievable stories to tell.

I was curious to see where Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) would go this season. Since day one, his firm but friendly demeanor is what has been the glue keeping the BAU team together. Even in the midst of his own crises, whether personal or work related, he's able to keep it together for himself and his team. I was a little let down this season to see that Hotch wasn't given more of a chance to grow, I do credit Thomas Gibson for keeping Hotch steadfast in his ways.

I have to say that, after watching this season, Derek (Shemar Moore) and Savannah (Rochelle Aytes) are my new favorite television couple. Now matter what is handed their way, be it tragedy or triumph, they both gave stellar performances, playing many times off of each other to build a particular scene. I did question if the writers knew what they were doing when they gave Derek a love interest and would that take away from his insatiable "Baby Girl" attraction, but to my surprise, the choice proved to be a wise one as it gave viewers a look into yet another dimension of Derek Morgan.

By now, most viewers are aware that Shemar Moore is no longer part of the Criminal Minds family, a choice which came by way of wanting to see where his journey would take him--what was on the other side of life. The production team did an amazing job of putting together "To Derek, with Love" (19:53) as their way of giving Moore the proper sendoff. Even after the decision to end his run as Derek Morgan, it was during the first few seconds of the tribute, that he utters, "This is the end." As a long time Criminal Minds viewer and fan of the "Baby Girl" club, I felt myself gasp as he said those words. Many shows will kill a character off or send them away with the hopes of them returning someday. It is with great regret that Derek Morgan will never walk through the doors of the BAU again. In staying with the "family" theme of the show, the entire staff wanted in on the farewell, as his closest friends and showmates either directed or wrote his final episodes. Moore stressed that the decision was difficult but he had gotten to a point in his life where after spending such a large part of his life within the Criminal Minds family that it was only fitting that he take a leap of faith for himself. Will his departure change the dynamics of Criminal Minds? Who knows. All is can say is, "Keep dreaming! Keep dreaming!"

I was happy to see that while giving J.J. (A.J. Cooke) a chance to be home after the birth of her second son, they opened the door for yet another new character in Dr. Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler). I've watched Aisha Tyler often as one of the co-hosts of The Talk, also on CBS. She's funny, she's serious, she's intelligent and witty, all traits lending to a strong character as a Forensic Psychologist. Her initial performance was so captivating that I found myself cheering at the end of the episode. She'll earn her stripes in due time while juggling personal calamities as well. There's something lurking in Dr. Lewis, I can feel it. I hope to God we get to see it this coming season. She's definitely a people person as it was an instant meld between Tyler and the rest of the cast, especially J.J. From the get go, it's obvious J.J. is indeed a new woman as her responsibilities as a mother of two, wife and FBI agent take their toll. No one ever said life was easy, but the rewards are priceless.

I thought we had seen all there was to the backstory of Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) when the "Black Queen" storyline was played in season nine. I figured what else could they get her caught up in that would rock her, her team and the viewer to their core. Well, they did it again. She's refined herself and her character so much over the seasons and it's honestly refreshing to have her character there to add some relief from the difficulties of their daily responsibilities. This season brings many new challenges to Garcia's computer cave as well as to her character. I don't know what I'd do if they ever got rid of her fuzzy pen and quirky mugs. I'd be a mess.

I have to say, I'm never surprised at the performance level of Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) both within professional situations and those rare, but genuine personal moments as well. Dr. Reid has a lot on his plate, with his own awkwardness and intellectual superiority, amongst other issues, but he never loses sight of who he is--he is who he is for a reason, and that's ok. The relationship dynamic between Spencer and his mother is one that will again bring him tremendous struggle this season but also clarity in how he handles other relationships.

I admit to doubting the choice to bring David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) on after the departure of Gideon (Mandy Patinkin). I first felt as if they did it to replace Patinkin but I quickly understood why the series needed the character dynamic of David Rossi to play against that of the other members of the BAU team. Rossi is that father figure everyone is searching for and after much wishing, he's finally allowed that chance to be a father with the newfound relationship of his daughter Joy (Amber Stevens) who happen to appear during last season. Changes are in store for David Rossi--more chairs around the "family table" means there is so much more to be excited about for next season.

The DVDs
Shipped in a slipcase, the 22 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 setup and check out bonus features. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in English SDH. Not a thing different from last season.

The Quality
There is a clear representation of excellent film making with the crisp, vibrant and bold colors featured in this set. Lighting and background music add to scene changes when going from everyday to dark and dismal. I love watching a few episodes, in the dark, right before bed. Sounds like the perfect night, right? There were no imperfections in the display.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks on this set do a fine job of reproducing the show as it sounded during its time on television. Front speakers catch scene dialogue while surround sound speakers pick up background noise, special effects and background music. If you're not listening to this in surround sound, you're definitely missing you on the amazing experience it offers.

The Extras
Once again, there is a plethora of deleted scenes (11:23) in this set with the indicated episode (a play-all option is not included.) I found the deleted scenes to be helpful in giving the viewer the opportunity to see how the scene might have played if taken in a different direction with portions of each making the final cut. Deleted scenes range from :45 to 3:31 in length.

The Gag Reel (2:28) is one of the shortest I've watched in the Criminal Minds series, which in all honestly isn't a terrible thing has they all seem to the same flubbed lines, goofed entrances and/or slip of the tongue profanity.

I was happy to see that a new feature has been added to the "Extras" portion of the DVD set entitled "Criminology" (22:31), in which the writers and directors are given the opportunity to discuss why they chose to play a certain episode in the direction that they did. Whether it be focusing on the how and whys of the act or the thought process behind the criminal themselves. With five episodes being featured, it was a nice addition to give the viewer a better insight into why a particular storyline was chosen.

The commentary extras are also a nice addition to this set. I was leery last season that I wouldn't be able to focus on watching the episode with the faint dialog and listening to whomever was giving the commentary. I am happy to report that it was a breeze! When you've watched as many Criminal Minds episodes as I have, you develop the ability to become one with the episode as you listen to the commentary. I rather enjoy this feature as I'm one of those people who likes to know why or how a particular thing happened. The writers and actors participating make for a delightful experience.

  • "Derek": Moore, writer Breen Frazier
  • "A Beautiful Disaster": Gubler
  • "The Storm": producer Erica Messer, Frazier

I found "Dirty Eleven" (23:56) to be rather enlightening and a refreshing reminder than even after eleven seasons, numerous personal and professional tragedies, the characters in Criminal Minds work for one of the most dangerous departments of the FBI. They come in contact with the sickest, most demented, deranged criminals known to man. This feature shows that even when a criminal is caught and locked behind bars, the danger doesn't always go away.

With the introduction of Dr. Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler) in episode one, it was a nice welcoming touch to include "The Good Doctor" (8:28) to its extras lineup. Though by the time we get to the end of the season Dr. Lewis feels like she's been around for a while, it was good to give a refresher on what makes her tick and why she chose to be a part of the BAU. I have a feeling that there is a lot in store for Dr. Lewis in the coming season and we're going to see her in some intense situations.

The Bottom Line
Few television shows have had the longevity that Criminal Minds has had for the past 11 years. It's quite astonishing that the writers are able to keep the storylines flowing the way they have without repetition or boredom. As with nearly every season thus far, there were times when I wasn't sure if the show was coming or going, but ultimately, it's the cast that brings it back around and continues to carrying on. I'm curious to see where Criminal Minds leads itself this coming season and who we'll be seeing around the table.

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.

Follow him on Twitter

*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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