Three young female college students have gone missing from Fredericksburg, Virginia over the span of six weeks, each abducted from a public place. The dead body of the first abductee has just been found at the Chancellorsville civil war battle field. Her mutilated body was covered with cigarette burn marks. This case is reminiscent of a still open case from 1980 where five dead women were also found in Chancellorsville, with the victims having the same burn markings on their body. The difference is that the earlier victims were prostitutes and runaways. The BAU speak to two people associated with the case in 1980: John Caulfield, the Fredericksburg sheriff working the case, and Karen Foley, a possible victim of the 1980 unsub who managed to escape. Through information given - or not given as the case may be with Foley - Caulfield and the BAU believe the 1980 unsub to be a man by the name of Robert Wilkinson, who died shortly after the original killings stopped. When Garcia locates a ... Written by
For me, "Birthright" is one of the lesser Season 3 episodes of 'Criminal Minds', and there are more powerful (emotionally and atmospherically), more layered and more complex episodes. It could have been more, but there is also a lot to like.
"Birthright" has been criticised for inaccurate depiction of Fredericksburg and not being believable in how the unsub knew so much about the old killings with so little information released. The first criticism this reviewer cannot verify, not being from the area but will not dismiss the criticism as it is not the first time that 'Criminal Minds' has been criticised for inaccurate representations. Admittedly some of the accents to me didn't seem that great, a couple exaggerated.
The second criticism is understandable. It is explained in the episode, but it definitely could have been elaborated upon more because it was done in a way that seemed underdeveloped and could easily have been missed. However, generally the story in "Birthright" is great, with great suspense, a chilling modus operandi intelligent use of profiling, some nice diverting twists and turns and a very surprising true identity for the unsub, it is made clear early on that it had to be somebody local and closely related but such a great job was done making another character seem the guilty one that the real identity was a shock. If there is a criticism though, it would have been somewhat more believable if it was that person responsible.
'Criminal Minds' has always been great for little character moments, and "Birthright" does not disappoint in this regard. The standout is the story between Rossi (who is settling in within the BAU very nicely after a naturally shaky first impression) and the sheriff, with the significance of the piece of jewellery Rossi carries round explained. One really feels sorry for Hotch in this episode at the end and what was done with JJ was very touching. The light-hearted humour is somewhat missed, but one can understand why it was not used in such a darkly harrowing and tragic story as it may have felt out of place if badly done.
Production values are slick and atmospheric with lovely use of locations, while the music is appropriately haunting without being over-bearing. Tautly and smartly scripted and solidly directed, "Birthright" also benefits from the great dynamic between the team, a suitably tragic ending and strong acting from particularly Joe Mantegna and Thomas Gibson.
In summary, could have been more but there is a lot to like here. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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