Criminal Minds: Season 4, Episode 11

Normal (17 Dec. 2008)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
8.5
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 643 users  
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A serial killer known as the Road Warrior is gunning down blonde women on roads in Orange County, California and the BAU suspect that the victims are surrogates and that it's only a matter of time before he kills the real one.

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Title: Normal (17 Dec 2008)

Normal (17 Dec 2008) on IMDb 8.5/10

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Norman Hill
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Detective Thea Salinas
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Burke Manning
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Judy Hannity
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Vanessa Hill
Rudy Moreno ...
Victor Alvarez
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Sasha Hill
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Storyline

Middle aged Caucasian blonde women are being gunned down on the freeways around Los Angeles. Based on victimology, the BAU determine that the women are surrogates for someone in the unsub's life, probably his wife or former partner. The unsub is feeling emasculated, this feeling onset by some specific traumatic event, but precipitated by perceived attitudes toward him. However, the killings are getting progressively brazen, where the BAU believes the unsub will eventually kill the real blonde woman in his life, and the children associated with that relationship. When the team locate the unsub, it may be too late. Written by Huggo

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17 December 2008 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?

Goofs

The unsub shoots out the driver's side window on his first victim's car, then when the car flips, the window is intact again. See more »

Quotes

[Norman admits to his wife that he's the Road Warrior]
Vanessa Hill: [laughing it off] Of course you are, dear. And I'm the Zodiac Killer.
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Connections

References Goldfinger (1964) See more »

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A Well Respected Man
(uncredited)
Written by Ray Davies
Performed by The Kinks
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Empty Words
2 September 2010 | by (Finland) – See all my reviews

Like another reviewer has stated, Mitch Pileggi is the main draw here. He's a very versatile actor and this is some of his best work. His character here is *nothing* like Walter Skinner of The X Files (no hyphen!). Of course, even a talented actor can elevate standard material so far, but fortunately the script is good, and Pileggi really sinks his teeth into the character who in the beginning seems unoriginal and even unintentionally comic (the Road Warrior references), but in the end is revealed to be as much a victim as his own victims.

The majority of episodes of Criminal Minds follow a pattern that is starting to become tedious: A serial killer is established (nothing wrong with that). The police are helpless. The BAU arrives and some(one) of them lectures on the evolution of a serial killer (this unfortunately happens here also) and predictions are made of the killers upcoming actions. Predictions that almost always are spot-on. Then, it is just a matter of time before the unsub is caught. And with that, much of the potential tension evaporates. Often we end up with a race against the clock. If that isn't formulaic, nothing is. Yes, the BAU wouldn't be very good in their job were they more often wrong than right, but they make even a small mistake way too rarely. Here, it is *refreshing* to see them make a mistake (or two) - it makes them more human, not unerring supercomputers that predict human behavior as it were upcoming weather. And it makes the story *so* much more intense when they are reactive instead of pre-active.

A special mention of great directing and editing in the opening sequence where Norman (Pileggi) goes off: it's nail-bitingly tense and the car-crash is spectacular by TV standards. Sadly, it seems to have swallowed so much of the budget that impressive wide shots are rare in the climactic chase. Simplicity is used effectively in the scene of Norman lying in his bed, after having paralyzed a particularly unpleasant fellow driver, just staring emptily in the ceiling, the overall feel being unnerving in just the right way. In the middle of the episode, there is some unnecessary material, such as the waaay clichéd portrayal of how Norman is being treated by his colleagues (or as he *thinks* they are treating him). And a shotgun in his cubicle? Really? Fortunately, as soon as Norman is blasting away with his pimped-up shotgun (gotta love the enhancements!) with that dead stare in his eyes, Pileggi delivers the chills perfectly. And his meltdown in the end is just magnificent work of acting, aided by a twist I think few saw coming, making this one really bleak episode indeed. Morgan's line "it's going to be all right" is either a stroke of black genius from the writers or just a lucky coincidence. How the frak is it going to be all right? Emptier words have rarely been spoken. What robs this episode one star is the tacked-on "happy feelings" ending that seems totally out of place in relation of the rest of the episode. After such a harrowing journey, viewers should be left searching their feelings, not force-fed happiness. A shame. 8/10.


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