Iraq War veteran Sgt. William Hightower goes to extreme measures to get authorities to investigate the disappearance of several people in Detroit, Michigan, one of those people being his sister Lee. The reason why the Detroit Police Department did not originally investigate is because those missing are exclusively people who live on the streets, specifically those that call the streets of the Cass Corridor home. Despite Hightower's action potentially landing him in jail, he gets his wish in that the BAU are brought in to investigate. The BAU's investigation brings them into Canada. Although they are there on the invitation of the RCMP, the BAU face the obvious problem of jurisdiction. When they get to the site and person they believe the unsub, they are initially dumbfounded due to the unsub's physical state. But he may know more than at first glance, which they will have to get out of him before the latest missing person, a young woman named Kelly, is found dead. This case is ... Written by
Lily Kershaw, who played Kelly on this episode, is the daughter of Glenn Kershaw who is a producer of the show. Lily also has some of her songs appear throughout various episodes in the series. See more »
Detroit has had an FBI field office since 1924, and has many Resident Agencies (satellite offices in smaller cities), including (at one time, at least) Port Huron. These offices are ignored and treated as if they don't exist. See more »
On first viewing, not much about "To Hell and Back" leapt out at me, other than the character of Lucas, the shock value of the pigs and the cliff-hanger ending.
Having just recently re-watched the episode, there was much more to appreciate on this viewing with the case more than engrossing enough to distract me from things that "To Hell and Back" has been criticised for like geographical inaccuracy and disrespectful representation of the Canadian police force. For a 'Criminal Minds' episode, although it does overall share similarities with the real-life Pickton murders and the film 'Hannibal', "To Hell and Back" certainly stands out and it would be hard not to forget it.
Compared to first viewing, criticisms are few. As somebody who doubted Hightower's guilt very early on, it did take a little too long somewhat for the episode to establish that. The episode has also been criticised for being gratuitously gross, mostly the harrowing and brutal atmosphere was handled incredibly well and was very scary and disturbing but for me "To Hell and Back" did go a bit too far with the pigs. We got the point very quickly so well before the end of the first part, while frightening and leaving one feel unsettled, one did wish that they weren't used so much and so in your face.
Flaws aside, as always, the production values are very atmospheric and stylish, and the music suitably moody. The script is tight and thought-provoking, also with surprising complexity, like with Hightower's dedication to his sister and the lengths he'd go through, the rapport between Kelly and Lucas, that between Rossi and Mason, Prentiss' dry lines, the poignant prospect of homeless people being tracked down being impossible and the twist with Mason was unexpected.
While not one hundred percent perfect, the storytelling is very engrossing and gets better and better, the few issues were in the first half whereas the second was excellent. The episode is not for the faint-hearted but a vast majority of the time the shock value was harrowing and chilling without being excessive or over-the-top, only with the pigs in the first half did it come close. The discoveries on the farm will wrench the gut and bring tears to the eyes, while the climax is nail-biting suspense and the cliff-hanger ending is just another big and very well executed surprise in an episode full of them.
The characters of Mason and Lucas are very well written, one really feels sorry for Lucas while being repulsed by the much more deranged Mason, despite him not being physically able. One also feels sorry for Hightower and understands his point of view, while Kelly is a victim that is likable and easy to root for due to her compassion, which seems genuine, and also her feistiness and the strength and courage she shows in order to stay alive. The BAU still work wonders together and are interesting individually.
Acting is very good throughout, with Paul Rae particularly astounding as Lucas, a "human monster" sort of character, though it's Mason who's the monster through and through.
In conclusion, not one of Season 4's best episodes (one of the best 'Criminal Minds' seasons with so many good episodes, with "Demonology" and "Catching Out" being two of very few disappointments), but a solid finale if not for all tastes. 8/10 Bethany Cox
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?