"Criminal Minds" The Slave of Duty (TV Episode 2009) Poster

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One of the show's most emotional
TheLittleSongbird14 September 2016
When it was good or at its best, 'Criminal Minds' is one of my favourites, and although it is frustrating that it became hit and miss from Season 6 onwards with a particularly underwhelming Season 11 its strengths are enough for me to not give up on the show.

"Slave of Duty" is not 'Criminal Minds' at its finest, and a small step down from the previous episode "100", which was a shocking, tense and emotionally devastating episode and one of Season 5's highlights. At the same time, it is not even close to being among the show's worst, like "200", "The Black Queen" and the worst of Season 11. Instead it is one of the very good episodes, if just falling short on being great.

The emotional impact is what is particularly striking about "Slave of Duty", with it being one of Season 5's and the entire show's most touching and emotional episodes. The beginning is one of the show's most touching scenes, while the scenes with Jack (portrayed beautifully by a very cute, but never cloyingly cutesy, Cade Owens) are heart-melting and heart-breaking. Love also the scenes between Hotch and Rossi, which show Rossi's wisdom, and the ones between Morgan and Rossi, showing a sympathetic side to Morgan, and the close and supportive bond within the team.

Regarding the case/mystery itself, it's not particularly original or inventive but it's never dull, and doesn't play second fiddle to the emotional content and never losing sight of what makes the show so great. And it has tension and suspense with a shocking twist and a standout scene with the foreboding line "Why do you have a key" delivered with such deranged anger and intensity. The unsub is not one of the show's most interesting or immediately memorable, but has enough personality and menace to be a proper threat and the scenes with him and Erika are intensely done. Rena Sofer and Wes Brown do great jobs individually and together.

The episode is as ever stylishly made, hauntingly scored with beautiful use of music at the beginning, sympathetically directed and tautly scripted, shining especially in scenes where the team are bonding and in the scenes with the unsub and Erika. The acting is very good, especially Thomas Gibson, Joe Mantegna and Shemar Moore of the regular team.

For all these many great things, there are shortcomings. Strauss continues to be as cold, underdeveloped and manipulative as ever, and one really doesn't buy her abruptly backing Hotch when she spent all her screen time in previous episodes wanting him out for reasons never made clear. The scene with Jessica also seemed a bit glossed over, while it could have been open to interpretation and Jessica may have been unsure what to make of how she felt it could have been a little ambiguous as to whether she was completely on Hotch's side or blamed or resented him.

Overall, solid episode and a very emotional one. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Funeral of Dreams
ttapola5 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
So, at the preceding episode's end it *seemed* Strauss was willing to look Hotch's beating of Foyet to death through her fingers. It is highly unrealistic and also troubling that the writers want us to believe that FBI (or at least Strauss) would just dismiss such extreme loss of control merely on the basis that Hotch *believed* Foyet would kill his son if Hotch didn't kill Foyet. Fact: Hotch killed a man who was already so beaten up he could not defend himself. Last time I checked, that constitutes as suspected manslaughter. At the very least, Strauss should be confine Hotch into psychiatric evaluation.

The episode begins with Haley's funeral, which is sombre and touching. Then Morgan confirms what I feared: Hotch will return to work. Implausible! The man clearly lost control - a law enforcement agency cannot put a person on field in that state. But hey, the writers of this series have proved time and time again that if anything, they are inconsistent.

But at least for this episode, the team has to manage without Hotch, being called to work from Haley's wake. They are in a race against the clock with an unsub who is likely to kill again within 1 day - this is always a simple but effective way to raise tension. But not inventive. The investigation presents several mysteries which give the episode more pull. It also helps that the show-runners have a reliable guest star.

Rena Sofer has proved herself to be very capable in recurring roles in recent years, in 24, Heroes and, after this aired, in NCIS. In the role of Erika Silverman, she makes us feel what it is like to be in this unsub's sick fantasy. Wes Brown is also great as the insane but imaginative killer Joe Belser. And the surprise turn that happens during Belser's capture of Erika is genuinely shocking.

Things also improve when Strauss "subtly" suggests that Hotch retire. Now this is somewhat believable. But this plot unsurprisingly falls flat when Hotch refuses full pension and informs Strauss he will return to work. Well, at least we can expect a leadership contest between Hotch and Morgan? It is, after all, foreshadowed by Rossi, right? I wouldn't hold my breath if you have not yet seen this episode.

In the end, one stand-out scene ("Why! Do! You! Have! A! Key!") is not enough to salvage a pedestrian episode. This is above average, but as 6/10, just barely. Another case of potential for a classic wasted. A shame.
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