Criminal Minds: It Takes a Village (2011)
Season 7, Episode 1
4/10
Minefield
26 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After Prentiss' "death" in #6.18, "Lauren", the six remaining episodes managed 6/10 at best. They were lacking, in more ways than one. It was also troubling that Seaver (Rachel Nichols) was not even given a proper exit scene in the season finale. As of this episode, she's just gone. Prentiss (Brewster) and JJ (Cook, already present in Season 6 finale) are back, so all the writers need is to come up with a satisfying conclusion to the Doyle arc.

They fail. First of all, they reuse the hearing structure from #5.9, "100", the conclusion of the Reaper arc that did irreparable damage to the credibility of the series. It barely worked then, now it just doesn't. At start, we are told in the hearing that "two members of the team" are dead, yet we are shown JJ and Morgan alive, limiting the possible dead core members to Prentiss, Rossi, Reid and Hotch. Knowing that this is also Prentiss' return to fold, the stakes are effectively halved immediately.

It gets worse. Sooner than you can say "Redshirt", two nameless agents are revealed to be the dead ones. Way to keep up the suspension! The writers do, however, introduce a mystery to the flashbacks: someone had Declan, but it was not Doyle. A new player to mix up the game?

Then comes the heart of the episode: Hotch and JJ revealing to others that Prentiss' death was staged and the funeral merely a hoax. Conveniently, there is no time for Morgan to blow his fuse or Reid to point out to Hotch that the team leader betrayed his partners. Everyone must rush to find Declan.

Cue more retconning. Contrary to original status, Declan's mother isn't dead either! Doyle was only lying in Season 6. It's hard to believe the writers would have planned this when most of the stuff on this show is made up as they go along and retconning has become more common.

From thereon, it's all downhill. Sure, the climax stirs some adrenaline, but what the writers still haven't grasped is that for the audience, it is *really* hard to care about the fates of characters introduced in the same episode. Also, just like with Hotch totally losing it with the Reaper, the team breaking the strict rules and going all Jack Bauer, everyone is only chastised with a stern speak. They will be "closely" watched. Really? Seriously?

Ultimately, it's a combination of elements that are faulty already on their own - together they just make the whole episode collapse. Over-complicated plotting. Limited character moments. Lack of suspension of disbelief. Worst, once again the writers have forgotten that important rule of drama: "Without a sacrifice there is no heroism." It's also practically a safe bet that this show will *never* pull an "Amber Benson" on us like Joss Whedon infamously did in Buffy... This is a barely tolerable 4/10 and understandably I was ready give up hope, but surprisingly, the next episode, "Proof", is actually great!
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