Criminal Minds, “Pleasure Is My Business”

Beware of spoilers beyond this point!

This past week’s episode of Criminal Minds had me a bit flummoxed and so I thought I’d check in with Hathor readers and see what you all think, whether you watch the show or not. I should say upfront that CM is one of my favorite shows on television, and I’ve lauded it elsewhere for its responsible handling of issues of gender and sexuality and its (dare I say?) feminism. That said…

Episode 4.16 had all the makings of a compelling episode, although perhaps the fact that they opened with the following Camille Paglia quote should have given me pause: “The prostitute is not, as feminists claim, the victim of men but rather their conqueror, an outlaw who controls the sexual channel between nature and culture.” In any case, in this episode the unsub (“unknown subject of an investigation”) is revealed in the first scene (and in last week’s previews for the episode) to be a twenty-something woman, clearly coded as a call girl in only a lacy bra and thigh highs; she poisons her wealthy john with champagne. Cue the foreboding music and the opening credits.

Things start off pretty predictably. The BAU team, discussing their current unsub, note that a very small quotient of serial killers are female, and that they are often very discrete and able to get away with killing far more people than their male counterparts before getting caught (ah, yet another example of women being underestimated and undervalued for their skills!). Mentioning the infamous, real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos–who killed men she thought might be the type to rape her (and who was notably portrayed in the film Monster)–as a point of comparison, the BAU agents assume their unsub’s murders are also sexually motivated. In particular, they hypothesize that she chooses to kill certain clients because of some specific sex act they all like that triggers her in some way. But soon, clues reveal that the trigger for this particular violent femme might not be sex at all.

Suffice it to say, without going on and on for paragraphs recounting the plot, it’s not about sex, but instead something equally cliched. Megan (that’s the call girl’s name) has a problem with men who are…wait for it…too much like her father. Specifically, she targets wealthy businessmen who have left their wives and refuse to pay alimony and childcare payments despite the fact that they can shell out $10,000 without breaking a sweat for her services. Yes. She has Daddy issues. But it gets weirder.

In an inexplicable turn, Megan establishes a fascination with Agent Hotchner–an undeniable father-figure for the team and a man whose wife left him with their son in tow a couple seasons ago. Hotchner tries to talk Megan down over the phone, empathizing with her, but the final moments of the episode cement their connection. As Megan dies from the poison she swallowed after a confrontation with her actual father (where it’s made clear that he cares more about his reputation than his daughter), Hotchner sits and holds her hand, promising not to leave her. What a tender moment.

What baffles me is how we’re supposed to read this episode, particularly the ending. Are we meant to feel sorry for Megan–and excuse her pleasure in exercising her homicidal impulses during the early murder scenes–because she had a negligent father and only kills “bad men”? Are female criminals supposed to be pitied not condemned? (I should add that there are some sympathetic male criminals on the show, but the dearth of female unsubs across CM’s four seasons makes the abundance of ones we’re supposed to pity all the more obvious.) Is it inappropriate that I’d like to see a female unsub on the show that just likes killing people for the heck of it (or for some reason that doesn’t have to do with men!)? And what’s with the “daddy” backstory and Hotchner’s place in it?

I could go on and on, but what do you all think?

Comments

  1. SunlessNick says

    Is it inappropriate that I’d like to see a female unsub on the show that just likes killing people for the heck of it (or for some reason that doesn’t have to do with men!)?

    Not at all.

  2. Robin says

    “I should add that there are some sympathetic male criminals on the show, but the dearth of female unsubs across CM’s four seasons makes the abundance of ones we’re supposed to pity all the more obvious.”

    Admittedly, I don’t watch Criminal Minds on anything resembling a regular basis, but the episodes I have seen all featured male unsubs, most of them horribly deranged. The only sympathetic one I can recall was a surprisingly good James Vanderbeek playing an abused young man with multiple personalities.

    I didn’t catch this episode, but it sounds like CM has fallen into the trope of women with daddy/abandonment issues being “slutty” and violent as a result. It’s as if they can’t imagine one aspect without the other. Women who embrace their own sexuality are dangerous, just like women who kill people? Therefore, women who embrace their sexuality are likely to kill people? Really? That seems to be the message, whether the writers intend it to be or not.

    I realize that the sex-death connection runs old and deep within our culture. It’s the reason we’re so fascinated by vampires and other monsters. And we’ve seen plenty of male serial killers in various media that take sexual pleasure from killing, so it’s only fair that women are sometimes portrayed the same way. I might be nice if they had a non-parental-damage motivation once in a while, though.

    (On a completely shallow note, I really like Reid. He’s adorable. And he reminds me of Chaz Villette from <a href=”http://www.shadowunit.org/index.html” title=”Shadow Unit”. Yay, socially awkward geniuses!)

  3. says

    I too love Criminal Minds. I always watch it with a sense of anxiety because they have a tendency to brutalize the female victims. I don’t find the show particularly feminist except fro the fact that the women agents are extremely competent and respected parts of the team.

    That being said, this episode was interesting because it was less brutal. I like how they are confused about female serial killers because there really is no model cause there are so few of them. We got the sense that we should have sympathy for her because she didn’t kill just because she could like they describe so many of the guys but that she killed because she wasn’t nurtured properly and she was exacting revenge. It was like girl killers are emotionally attached to their kills and guys are not.

  4. Nialla says

    I didn’t catch this episode, but it sounds like CM has fallen into the trope of women with daddy/abandonment issues being “slutty” and violent as a result.

    In this particular case, the unsub purposely went out and bought the client list of a particular favorite of her father’s who’d retired. It was implied she wasn’t into it for the money, this was revenge against her father for leaving her and her mother high and dry in more ways than one so he could spend his money on high priced hookers.

    One of her clients survived because he was still a “good dad” in her view, because he didn’t cheat his family out of money or all of time, as he was on his way to pick up his kids when he left her. I think her connection with Hotchner was an extension of that way of thinking — she couldn’t understand why his wife left him, because in her mind, he was a “good dad” and that’s what she wanted.

    I think it’s going to be difficult to get many female unsubs on CM, since one of the main crimes they deal with are serial killers. Not many of those are females in real life. They have shown some working with male criminals, whether the women are willing, forced or brainwashed. Women can be killers, even violent killers, but not as many need the attention of the FBI as male killers.

  5. sbg says

    I wish I could say something eloquent, but I will say as an avid CM watcher – this episode did not keep my attention. I think I was writing a story at the time.

    Your entire post is probably why.

  6. says

    The Camille Paglia was a big WTF for me. I had very mixed feelings about the ep, and since I’ve been watching CM from the start on Netflix while catching both new eps and re-runs on my DVR, I have a few things to say here.

    First, a few general remarks for context. As far as the lack of female unsubs goes, and the brutalization of women, I feel CM is just following stats. In reality, the FBI is not aware of many female serial killers (though I think they may be missing quite a few, due to their own preconceived ideas about women and men), and most victims of serial killers are in fact women and children. Because CM at least bothers to show a variety of victim responses – some fight, some beg, some even escape – I can view all this as neutral in terms of women’s representation. A positive: the female agents are competent and not sexualized.

    What CM lacks is exactly what you say, Fourthwave – female psychos who kill because they enjoy killing. There have been such cases. The real FBI has studied them.

    I’ve only seen two female unsubs on CM so far: Megan Kane and Sarah Danlin (a group sexual assault victim who was discouraged from pressing charges because she was deemed too slutty to be credible in court, so she murders men who sluttily consent to sex with her, using Jack the Ripper’s methods). But I’m concerned about a pattern these two establish: both of these women have compelling reasons for their kills. They are sympathetic. These are also very traditionally pretty. Oh, hey, look – the trifecta of what women TV characters are required to be. And for two bonuses: both of them use sex to get men alone so they can kill them, and both of them end up crying as a supportive male authority figure offers a hand or arms for physical comforting. Lord have mercy.

    These portrayals are certainly not doing anything to advance the representation of women. In fact, several shows have done much better: the generally inferior L&O:CI had a better female serial killer in Martha Plimpton’s character. Davinci’s Inquest had this terrifying sweet little ol’ lady who takes care of old people in her boarding home while calmly poisoning them to death once they’ve signed over their assets, hitting them if they get out of line, and making her mentally challenged son bury them in the backyard. She was so crazy, and so good at hiding her tracks, that there was no telling how many people she’d killed. Now THAT is how female serial killers known to the FBI operate.

    CM needs to step up.

  7. sbg says

    I was going to say – hey, what about that woman with the underaged boyfriend who went around like Bonnie Parker, shooting and killing because she was just that effed up.

    And then I remembered that character was on Numb3rs, not CM.

  8. says

    I had to look up what “unsub” meant in the context of this show and article and all the comments, since I’d never heard the term before. If anyone else is reading who has not a clue what it means also, here’s the definition:

    “Unknown Subject Of An Investigation”

    There are many many instances of female serial killers. Generally, the ones the FBI notices are nurse “angel” killers (tho those are not by all means female-there was a notorious case of a male nurse in the news a few years ago, in CA, I think). And serial killer mothers who murder sequential babies and children. The children aren’t always biological, either.

    Aileen Wuornos was a stand-out because she actively went out to kill *men*–specifically, men who were looking for sex. She had a horrible history of sex abuse when she was a child and teenager. So, of course, she’s the “ripped from the headlines” model/example used by the writers of this show.

    TruTV has a listing of female killers, including serial killers. It shows that women who kill have just as many reasons to murder as their male counterparts.
    http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/women/index.html

  9. says

  10. says

    Gategrrl, that’s a great link. I think Velma Barfield may be who the Davinci ep I mentioned was loosely based on.

    Jennifer, that’s an episode I haven’t seen yet (Frankie Muniz). I didn’t count the woman in Riding the Lightning because she actually didn’t kill anybody – she just blamed herself for getting involved with the guy. She was a victim, really. The woman in the gypsy couple was another victim who had not herself (IIRC) killed anyone (that was just the men and the boys, wasn’t it?). She was less sympathetic than any of the others, given how she was raising her family, but we were made too aware of her own victimization not to sympathize. Or at least, that’s how I felt.

  11. says

    You all have given me a lot of compelling things to ponder, especially as regards what we can logically expect from crime shows and their depiction of both victims and female criminals. That said, some of my immediate thoughts:

    Robin, you write “Women who embrace their own sexuality are dangerous, just like women who kill people?Therefore, women who embrace their sexuality are likely to kill people? Really? That seems to be the message, whether the writers intend it to be or not.”

    As irksome as I found the episode, I’m not sure I’d go that far…only because despite Megan’s profession, she wasn’t really depicted as a super sexual character. Her use of sex work was more a means to an end (targeting these men). If anything, I think the fact that Megan wasn’t sex-crazed (and thus fulfilling the stereotype you mention) is one of the things the episode did right. Although perhaps her relative lack of sexuality (her presumed sexuality used as a facade to cover her desire for vengeance) is why we’re allowed/encouraged to empathize with her… And that’s definitely problematic along the lines you mention!

    Melissa, I think I’d have to agree with Jennifer that CM’s handling of its victims (though occasionally a bit sensationalistic) is actually pretty even-handed. Yes, women are often victims on the show, but they definitely aren’t usually sexualized victims (even when sexual assault is part of the crime at hand) as per the standard horror movie victim trope. And the fact that none of the female agents function as sex symbols is a huge plus for me (in fact, I think the closest a character comes to being a sex symbol is one of the male agent, Derek Morgan).

    Jennifer, I think one of the things I reacted so strongly to is exactly what you mention, the incessant need for the few female serial killers CM features to seek both vengeance against and, paradoxically, comfort from forms of male authority. The gypsy mom is an example I hadn’t thought of, but the whole Stockholm Syndrome thing made her seem–in my opinion–not in complete control of her actions and responses (not to say that it absolved her guilt). Not to mention the whole trope of the mother protecting her child at all costs…

    And, Gategrrl, you’re totally right about the “angel of death” type of serial killer, and I think they’re actually pretty common in real life. I’ve seen other shows deal with that form of female criminal…

    I guess one of my questions is why CM, with its penchant for exploring the some admittedly outrageous criminal minds, can’t be a little creative about its female unsubs (even if there are naturally fewer of them in the long run)?

  12. Nialla says

    I have to wonder how many times the FBI would be involved in hunting “angel of death” killers. Most of those are probably solved by local or state authorities.

    I know in many cases I’ve read about, the facilities themselves get suspicious and call in law enforcement, so there’s not much “searching for the killer” involved, it’s just putting together the evidence.

  13. says

    I did forget about one other female unsub – the wife in The Perfect Storm. The BAU was hunting a pair of men who kidnapped, raped and tortured young women, filmed it all and sent the DVDs to the women’s families. Only it turned out it was a married couple doing this, and the wife was the dominant partner. She was a real big bag of crazy, and there was nothing sympathetic about her crimes or motives, and she wasn’t running around vamping it up. Her crimes had to do with sex, as did her own history of abuse, but since her sexuality wasn’t portrayed or even denoted in the episode, I took that as just another statistical likelihood.

    Additionally, she wasn’t seeking revenge against men, nor did she find comfort in any of them. She was just another abused kid who grows up to be an abuser, which makes her more like most of the male unsubs.

  14. says

    Jennifer, I think “The Perfect Storm” is one of the few episodes I haven’t seen. Its premise just sounded a little too upsetting, and I made an executive decision to skip it during my season 2 DVD viewing.

    Season 2 especially seemed to have a lot more gruesome/graphic visuals in its depiction of the victims — I’m thinking particularly of the episode “Legacy,” in which the killer traps people in a sort of house of horrors very reminiscent of films like those in the Saw franchise. In any case, maybe I’ve just become inured to violence on the show, but even though the last two seasons have included some pretty spectacularly violent criminals, it seems like the actual representations of said violence has eased up a bit from earlier seasons.

  15. SunlessNick says

    Yes, women are often victims on the show, but they definitely aren’t usually sexualized victims (even when sexual assault is part of the crime at hand) as per the standard horror movie victim trope.

    Also, one trap I’ve never seen them fall into is the victim deserving it or somehow making it happen.

  16. says

    I had a far far far too long reply (that I may turn into a post), but I don’t want to post a manifesto in your comments. So instead I’m posting this only far too long comment:

    I think the quote is meant to be – not ironic exactly…. Just that one isn’t supposed to blindly agree with it or see it as the moral of the story, but rather see it as an idea that will be explored, a question that will be considered. They’ve – this particular writer has – done that before. Plus the end quote wasn’t meant to be taken at face value either, which makes them rather like bookends. Another thing CM likes to do.

    *****

    By my count CM has had 8 female serial killers. Plus about 4 to 6 sort-of-but-not-quite. Like Natalya in Honor Among Thieves. Like the mother in Bloodline. Or, you know, Elle.

    Of those, I would say about 5 are especially sympathetic. With 2 being sympathetic on the level of Megan Kane – where we like the victims less than the unsub (even if we know she needs to be stopped).

    Now, I think that has more to do with the difference in power between the unsub and her victims, something that is more likely to swing that way when one is talking female unsub and male victim rather than vice versa, than it being a result of her being female per say. But well….explaining that idea further and then why I think this both makes sense and still doesn’t completely excuse CM was why my comment got to be insanely long. So I’ll just stop that thought right there.

    As far as pretty goes, that’s kinda hard to say because it’s easy to tell that all the actresses have been pretty, but, like Nikki Aycox’s character, they usually don’t play that up much. I would say only two have been pretty the way that Megan Kane was.

    And on that note, I would also like to point out that many, many of the male unsubs have been attractive. And when they are, they usually play it up a lot. They, more than the female unsubs, kinda have to if they want to get people – especially women – to trust them enough to make it easy kill them.

    *******

    I didn’t see the theme to be so much about daddies and sexuality as it is about gender and power – and who has to listen and who gets to talk. As Bear points out, the whole cold opening is about the male gaze, and then we go straight from that to the asshole trying to keep JJ, etc. out of the loop. Even Megan herself was more focused on Hotch (supposed) failure to speak truth to power than if he was nice to his kid. And the husband being nice to his wife didn’t save him from her wrath at his arrogance.

    *****

    “(On a completely shallow note, I really like Reid. He’s adorable. And he reminds me of Chaz Villette from <a href=”http://www.shadowunit.org/index.html” title=”Shadow Unit”. Yay, socially awkward geniuses!)”

    love, love, love Reid. to a million billion trillion pieces

    And his resemblance to Chaz prob has something to do with Bear (and I think most or all of the other Shadow Unit writers) being a huge CM fan.

    Also, if you haven’t read her take on gender in CM already, you must. just click on the “geeks with guns” tag

  17. says

    Nick, yes. I especially liked a moment in”Fear and Loathing”, in which a killer was targeting African-American teenage girls who liked to sing and were “good girls” who didn’t sneak out and so on. One of the sisters of a murdered girl, who wasn’t such a “good girl” herself, said of her sister “She didn’t deserve this.” Emily looked at her intently and said, “Nobody deserves this.” It wasn’t something Emily needed to say for the story to make sense or to do her job; it was as if she simply couldn’t stand the idea that the girl might think girls who sneak out DO deserve whatever happens to them, and wanted to give her another perspective.

    Mickle, sounds like you know the show better than I do. I certainly haven’t come across 8 yet (but I only watched Honor Among Thieves last night, so I have a lot to go). Your take on the quote makes sense. The episode could be read either way – Megan did get some fabulous revenge, but I took her suicide as indication that it was a hollow victory. There was no “power” attained that she wanted to keep. It was just enough power to lash back, not to achieve anything more substantial.

    (On a side note, I do not classify Elle as a killer. I really, REALLY had trouble with how they resolved her arc, because I firmly believe Hotch and Gideon totally missed all the signs that she needed a lot more time off and counseling, and let her down in a big way. Then again, her kill was extremely sympathetic, and I tend to full-on root for a character who kills a rapist, no matter the circumstances.)

    Getting back to the Megan Kane episode, I’m still trying to sort out some thoughts there. One thing I keep coming back to is the fact that she went ahead and killed the man who had been good to his wife until the day she died. Why did she do this? Because, like all the other men, he STILL expressed arrogance that the system would work for him. People would take care of Mr. Honky’s needs like usual, and Mr. Honky would get away with whatever he wanted. The fact that this guy just wanted some discrete hanky panky rather than to cheat his family didn’t reduce the offense she took. While Megan’s primary motive was clearly to eliminate men who go out of their way to cheat their families, this act revealed that their entitled attitudes bothered her as much as their actions.

    This caused me to read the episode more as Woman v. The System (As Symbolized by Daddy) than Woman V. Daddy. I was still annoyed by Megan’s unresolved issues with her father because the trope is so much more common on TV than it is in real life (seriously, I know something like 10 women who have Gotten Over It for every 1 who’s still stuck on desperately trying to get something from Daddy – or Mommy – that she will never receive). But when Megan went ahead and killed the jerk who loved his wife but reveled in how the system would protect him at the expense of others, I went from abstractly supporting her choice of targets to punish to actually rooting for her, because the scope of her vengeance now went beyond her own personal issues. She was acting on a social conscience at that point, in my view.

    I’m not sure I *should* have seen it that way…? I’m just saying I did, to open up further discussion.

  18. says

    Mickle, granted, there are a few episodes I missed as well, but I definitely didn’t realize there were 8 female serial killers so far. I can only think of 3 or 4 who are the main antagonists of their episodes (as opposed to characters such as the gypsy mom and Natalya, who I think of more as accomplices). I’d be interested to know what you’re counting as a “serial killer.” Perhaps I’ve just missed some!

    I’m not entirely sure I’m willing to read the episode quite so generously as an exploration of gender and power. Rather, I do agree that that may be what they were trying to do with the episode–and did do to a certain extent–but the overall execution seemed lacking to me, especially towards the end.

    I read Megan’s murder of the “good guy” as her spiraling out of control, de-evolving, not as a calculated decision because he proved to be similar in mind to the men she targeted. Whether or not this was supposed to be a story of Woman vs. The System, I felt by the end Megan became very self-involved (not that I blame her, she was dying after all, but it negated for me the idea that she was doing all this for some greater good). “You’re the first man I ever met who didn’t let me down,” she says to Hotch, which seemed a little heavy-handed, a little schmaltzy, and kind of ruined some of the positive feelings I had earlier in the episode regarding its gender politics.

  19. says

    I read Megan’s murder of the “good guy” as her spiraling out of control, de-evolving, not as a calculated decision because he proved to be similar in mind to the men she targeted.

    Yes – in hindsight, you’re right about this. I mean, I think this is what the writers were going for. My interpretation (and this is why I said I wasn’t sure I “should” have read it as I did) was a hopeful projection I formed at the time of that killing, which in hindsight, was not borne out by the rest of the episode. (This episode had a weird triggering effect on me, BTW – that’s why I’m having trouble sorting through it.)

    “You’re the first man I ever met who didn’t let me down,” she says to Hotch, which seemed a little heavy-handed, a little schmaltzy, and kind of ruined some of the positive feelings I had earlier in the episode regarding its gender politics.

    Oh, gross – that line annoyed me, too, but I just got what it implies about the script itself. The writers positioned Hotch as the Good Daddy Figure. So this episode really wasn’t about anything but Little Girl Lost finding her Good Daddy. Sounds like a porn plot.

  20. says

    I wouldn’t say I found the episode triggering, per se (as opposed to how I think I might react to “The Perfect Storm,” which is why I don’t intend to watch it), but I agree that there was something about this episode I just found a bit off-putting, something that just sorta made me cringe.

    So this episode really wasn’t about anything but Little Girl Lost finding her Good Daddy. Sounds like a porn plot.

    That just made me laugh. When you put it like that, it certainly does!

  21. DragonLadyK says

    I don’t think this episode was about social commentary; it was about Hotch. Megan was the anti-Haley.

    Haley — Hotch’s ex-wife for the non-CM viewer — embraces the Social Order. She likes her nice house, nice meals, and the edifice of the “normal life.” Though she feels symapthy for the victims of the criminals Hotch persues, she is unwilling to forgo the American Dream for herself to see that the criminals are stopped. Haley leaves Hotch for his failure to provide that ideal Haley strives for — she sees Hotch as flawed for his inability to leave the BAU. “No, because you always have to be the hero,” she accused.

    Megan, on the other hand, sees the edifice of the social order as a lie. She knows the kind of things “good men” do — she saw her father do them and later her clients. She therefore exacts justice on the deserving but also seeks by her kills to “throw back the curtain” and reveal the Wizard for the fraud he is. She chose to exist outside the social order by becoming a prostitute. As an outsider, she appreciates Hotch’s efforts (and the view; she was pretty shameless about checking him out in the elevator). She is even furious when he seems to be “playing ball.”

    Hotch exists between the two extremes. Hotch is Old Money, yet he chooses to exist as a cop outside the realm of high society just as Megan forbore the privilige of her own station. However, unlike Megan, Hotch works within the rules to fix his chosen problem, staying within the realms of the socially acceptable (as represented by Haley).

    Megan was even small and blonde, like Haley.

    Megan is also in a way Hotch: Hotch feels like a whore when he plays politics, and in a different life he could have very well become a klller himself.

    DragonLady

  22. says

    Fourthwave, the triggering was very specific to my life experience. I wouldn’t expect it to affect anyone else the same way. My father was very much like the men Megan targeted. Beyond that, I don’t even understand specifically why it took me to an unpleasant place instead of a triumphant one (public humiliation is the only possible revenge with narcissists, after all), but it did. Took me three days to realize it had put me into a mild panic attack, and that there was nothing substantial behind the panic attack.

    DragonLady, that’s an interesting perspective. It didn’t occur to me, but when you point it out, it makes a lot of sense.

  23. says

    DragonLady, you make a really good point in your comparisons of Haley and Megan. I like the idea that Megan was imagined as a sort of counterpoint or foil for Hotch and his life (and it especially makes sense considering that Hotch is found in his office, early in the episode, watching his son on his computer). Still a weird episode, in my opinion, but I do love all the underlying depth it’s generated in our discussion.

  24. says

    You know, I hadn’t thought of it quite that way DragonLadyK. Fantastic points.

    And a much better articulation of why I didn’t see Hotch as being made to be “the good daddy” than I ever got to in my aborted replies*. In some ways it’s more like the traditional “woman torn between two men” scenario (House of Mirth style, not typical TV style) – it’s not so much about “love” as it is about deciding who one is going to be. They’ve done this before with Hotch as well – Kate Joyner was even more of a Haley clone than Megan was. While there was never any romance between Joyner and Hotch on screen, the whole dynamic between them was very much meant to highlight the choices Hotch had made in his life.

    As I said before, I really liked the episode. But I do think it’s one of the ones where the meaning changes if you know the backstory, and I think I would have had a different reaction if I wasn’t a fan. Which I think is both a flaw of the episode and a inevitable result of what is generally a strength: complex and interesting characters whose stories are told through hints, allusions, and fantastic acting rather than a lot of exposition. Not all episodes rely this much on the backstory to make sense, but the ones that focus more on a single team member are more likely too, and this was very much advertised as a “Hotch episode” long before it aired.

    *since fourthwave touched on one of my reasons for not seeing Hotch being depicted as the Good Dad:

    “considering that Hotch is found in his office, early in the episode, watching his son on his computer”

    Note that he is watching his son on the computer – not playing with him on one of the days he goes to visit or talking to him on skype or any of several dozen other ways he could have been actually interacting with his son. CM writers have a lot of respect for their viewers – they expect us to notice that, and all that implies.

    And just in case that was a little too subtle for some viewers, regular viewers will be reminded of all the other times we’ve seen Hotch watch videos of his son – and all the conversations that have surrounded those scenes. None of which have shown Hotch to be a Good Dad. Someone trying to be a good dad, yes, but like most people, often failing.

    The point of that scene is not just to let everyone know “ok, people, pay attention – this episode is All About Hotch.” It’s also meant to remind everyone of the times he’s let people down before. Which means it’s also a nice bookend to when Hotch lets Megan down. (Megan dying would be considered very much a Lose for the team. They work almost as hard to keep the unsubs alive as they do to keep their victims safe.) Hotch doesn’t agree with Megan’s assessment of him any more than he believed/agreed with his son when Jack told him that “everything’s going to be ok” when Hotch went to go talk to him about the divorce.

    We, otoh, are supposed to make up our own minds.

  25. says

    Mickle, it’s true that one of the things I really liked about the episode (although, I still can’t go so far as to say that I liked the episode as a whole) was the emphasis on Hotch and his frailties/failures/gray areas.

    I wish Prentiss’s episode this past week had been as thoughtful as regards her character… But that’s another story.

    Just a quick question…when did Hotch talk to Jack about the divorce? I don’t remember that (and I’ve seen every episode in this and last season). Or were you just extrapolating…?

  26. says

    Just chiming in to say there ARE several more female criminals than I recalled initially, so I’m sure Mickle’s estimate is correct. BUT the team is hunting a male unsub in most of those episodes, only to find out, whoops, it’s a woman. So only two women, if I’m not mistaken, have been *profiled* as women. I’d really like to see them profile that the killer is a woman in a crime that doesn’t have anything to do with sex.

    Re: Prentiss’ story last week – did the Vatican edit that or something? We never found out why the victims went to Spain, but as the last victim was being rescued, he yelled at Morgan, “Don’t protect him [the priest/killer]; they didn’t protect you when you were a little boy!” I thought sure our victims had been molested by the priest in Spain, that THIS, not Emily, was what had messed up her friend, and they had gone to Spain to kill the guy and this buddy priest of his had taken it upon himself to get revenge. But we got no explanation. Just that very strange line of dialog and a big gaping plot hole that CM would not normally leave.

    And I just recently watched an ep in which Hotch tells Rossi (I think?) that he told Jack he wasn’t going to be around as much, and he thinks Jack understood, and then Jack ended up reassuring him, as kids so often do.

  27. Nialla says

    Last week’s episode didn’t make any sense to me either. I filled in the blanks much as you did. It seemed the obvious choice, based on what we saw, but nothing was ever explained.

    For a show that focuses on explaining the “why” behind the criminal’s actions, this was very poorly done. Perhaps they decided to change the plot hinge at the last minute because storylines with pedo priests and their now adult victims wanting/getting revenge have been done a lot.

  28. says

    “Re: Prentiss’ story last week – did the Vatican edit that or something?”

    I thought they were just being vague, and ended up leaving too many loose ends and making a ep that didn’t really work. They tend to be very noncommital when it comes to religion, which doesn’t work well for being clear.

    “as the last victim was being rescued, he yelled at Morgan, “Don’t protect him [the priest/killer]; they didn’t protect you when you were a little boy!””

    That’s….odd. Seeing as how in the hell would he know that about Morgan? Even if he knew what happened to Morgan from the papers, Morgan wasn’t molested by a priest, so it’s not like his feelings on the subject of religion are obvious or well known. So…I dunno.

    Either they cut chunks of the story out or they started with several ideas and never really made sure the story was cohesive. Either way, it was the most confusing episode, like, ever, I think.

    My biggest complaint? That they can’t seem to do an Emily story right. They can do scenes really, really well. In large part cuz Paget rocks. But the Prentiss episodes have some of the biggest plot holes of any of the eps, and that’s really annoying me.

    “And I just recently watched an ep in which Hotch tells Rossi (I think?) that he told Jack he wasn’t going to be around as much, and he thinks Jack understood, and then Jack ended up reassuring him, as kids so often do.”

    Yeah – that was the hug I was referring to. Rossi says he smart, like his dad. Hotch looks unconvinced (to me). And Rossi’s not the best authority on the subject. Also, shades of Hotch giving pep talks to Gideon.

  29. says

    That’s….odd. Seeing as how in the hell would he know that about Morgan? Even if he knew what happened to Morgan from the papers, Morgan wasn’t molested by a priest, so it’s not like his feelings on the subject of religion are obvious or well known.

    Yeah, I couldn’t get that to work in my head, either. It’s hard to even imagine a cut scene in which Morgan tells this guy what happened to him, knowing Morgan would need a whole lotta reason to open up like that.

  30. sbg says

    I was WTFing all over the place with last week’s episode, and at the end was left wondering if we were supposed to believe the victims all had been possessed by something that would enable the guy to know about Morgan’s past. That Prentiss, too, was somehow afflicted with this dark spirit (the bloody nose as she stood outside a church).

    As I said, W.T.F.?

    What’s supernatural should stay in Supernatural, kthanxbye.

  31. says

    “That Prentiss, too, was somehow afflicted with this dark spirit (the bloody nose as she stood outside a church).”

    That annoyed and confused me too. Someone on another site suggested that it was meant to indicate that she had done drugs as well. Which would fit with what we know of her past – both from this episode and from others. But that’s still really weird. And annoying.

    They “maybe supernatural stuff exists, maybe it doesn’t” bit was annoying enough when they did it in the psychic episode. But at least that was a coherent episode, so I could seperate my personal pet peeves from the execution. This episode, not so much.

    And at the same time, it was a Prentiss episode! With great Prentiss scenes in it! Which means I won’t be able to keep myself from watching it, and getting annoyed all over again, when it comes out on dvd.

  32. KMDS says

    I love CM, but I do definitely find it ridiculously feminist at times (and the channel I watch it on is female-orientated).
    Basically my main complaint (other than the culprits seemingly never being anything other than a ‘white male, most likely a loner’) is that every episode where a female character is either the main culprit or just involved in the crime, it always goes back to men; the woman was pushed into it against her will and/or was ‘tipped over the edge’ by a man, or men in general, giving her the right to go on a killing spree.
    For instance, the episode that took place in Mexico (if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I’m talking about) even had my dog throwing her eyes to heaven.

  33. says

    What does “ridiculously feminist” mean? Feminism is the idea that women and men deserve equal opportunities and responsibilities. I’m not sure how that can be taken to a “ridiculous” extreme…?

    I think several of us are in agreement that we’d like to see an ep in which a woman just plain enjoys killing people, same as most of the male unsubs, and it’s nothing to do with sex or men.

    As for most of the unsubs being white men, according to the FBI the vast majority of serial killers ARE white men, and since the show is trying to be accurate in its portrayal of FBI criminal profiling, this seems appropriate.

    • says

      I’ve used the term ‘ridiculously feminist’ in the past to describe the phenomenon that occurs when a misogynist views himself (or herself) as a feminist. Like spelling it ‘wombyn’ instead of ‘woman’. Or the ones who write ‘strong’ female characters who act completely irrationally and fall for guys who are jerks or losers, or who learn valuable lessons after being saddled with a deceased relative’s kids, so on so forth.

      Or people who write comedies about just how incompetent men are when saddled with the task of parenting their own children for a day and self-righteously proclaim it a feminist work because it teaches men to respect what women do.

      Works that when the creator claims to be feminist you assume MUST be satire in some form and are then horrified to realize that no, he’s actually sincere and thinks he’s being complimentary.

  34. says

    What Jennifer said.

    Also, while I think I understand what you mean, KMDS, about the show seeming to cater a bit too much towards political correctness at all times (although I, too, wouldn’t term that “ridiculously feminist,” since, as far as I’m concerned, one can’t be too feminist), I would really rather that than the alternatives.

    And, in response to the previous few comments: I don’t know what the heck was going on with “Demonology.” Weird and disjointed and not at all of a caliber befitting one of my favorite characters on the show. I think they were trying to do too much in too little time…

  35. MaggieCat says

    every episode where a female character is either the main culprit or just involved in the crime, it always goes back to men; the woman was pushed into it against her will and/or was ‘tipped over the edge’ by a man, or men in general, giving her the right to go on a killing spree.

    And in almost every episode where a male character is the main culprit, he was pushed into it against his will by someone with a dominant personality (usually male), or was ‘tipped over the edge’ as you put it by a man or a woman or by people in general. The number of cases where there isn’t a reason someone’s begun committing crimes like these without an external instigator of some kind, e.g. from mental illness, is very small.

    In the majority of cases the unsub is responding to a situation that left them powerless, and since men are more likely to have power over other men and women than women are to have an excessive amount of power over anybody, if it can be traced to abuse from a single person it makes sense that the person is frequently male. Which is why it also makes sense that a significant number of the cases where that person is female, it’s the unsub’s mother/mother figure and stems from repeated childhood trauma, because that’s one of the few places where women do consistently have more power over another human being. (I wonder it they’ve ever ventured that that’s why there are more male serial killers than female — even healthy well adjusted women are trained from childhood to accept feeling powerless fairly regularly.)

    I also don’t think they’ve ever implied that anyone had the right to go on a killing spree. There’s a difference between understanding and condoning their actions, and understanding has never been limited to the show’s female killers. I can have sympathy for someone for what happened to them when they were innocent but once they’ve crossed the line and become the one hurting others, that sympathy shifts to others, and I think that’s what the show is going for.

    (I’d still like to see a female unsub on the show who’s not motivated by men though, even if I understand why statistically it’s not as prevelant.)

  36. says

    The one thing that keeps driving me nuts about Criminal Minds’ portrayal of female serial killers is that every time one comes up, a sexual motivation (as in a motivation based in a wish for sexual gratification, as opposed to a reaction to some sort of sexual trauma) is discounted, because, as has been said several times on the show, women don’t kill for sex. Um, actually, many female serial killers have killed for sexual gratification. Elizabeth Bathory (Who bathed in the blood of her virgin victims, you can’t tell me she wasn’t getting off), and Jane Toppin (who sexually molested her victims as they died) among them. Another common motive for female Angel of Death doctors and nurses is the thrill of playing god, a power trip, in several cases, explicitly linked to sexual gratification.

    And you’re right. It took all the way to season five for Criminal Minds to give us an unsympathetic female unsub, the woman in “Mosley Lane”. She had a male partner, but he was plainly submissive, and by remarkable coincidence, she was one of the the only not traditionally pretty female unsubs.

  37. says

    I remember reading a theory that some of the unsolved serial murder cases (and some other murder cases, I forget which) went unsolved precisely because the investigators assumed because of the violence/aggression involved, the crimes must have been committed by a man. Thus they overlooked the evidence that would have led them to the woman who committed the crimes and the cases remain unsolved.

    I’ve heard a few good arguments for Jack the Ripper being a woman all along, but in any case, I found it an interesting theory. A similar theory went to the Zodiac killer being a female.

    • says

      There were survivor accounts of the Zodiac killer that say he was a man, and some pretty specific descriptions and police sketches, while it’s possible Jack the Ripper was a woman (there’s no good evidence either way) I’d say the Zodiac killer probably wasn’t.

      • says

        I’ve known a couple women that at first glance, I would take to be male, and vice versa, and eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Or I could simply be misremembering the article.

        I was trying to find the source for the theory again to refresh my memory as to which killers may have been female and why, but I can’t even remember if it was a website or a magazine at this point.

    • says

      That theory about the FBI overlooking the possibility a serial killer was a woman was discussed on a Law & Order SVU ep, but damned if I can find a reference to it online, and I’d like to read more. There are, however, references to the databases of serial killer interviews lacking both female killers and killers of color. This may be partly from bad data gathering, but it’s also because there’s a limited number of known serial killers to interview. I could swear somewhere I’ve read about the FBI being aware of this shortfall and trying to work around it while they slowly collate some better data.

      • says

        As a Criminology minor, the lack of data about non-instrumental female offenders is, I got to say, amazingly glaring, and so many of the theories focus on inherent gender differences, that I just keep wondering if any of these criminology types ever stepped right across the hall to gender studies. I’ve been looking into working in law enforcement, and all I got to say is, here’s hoping they get more interviews done as soon as possible.

        Of course, a lot of criminology ignores non-instrumental compulsion crimes entirely.

        • says

          so many of the theories focus on inherent gender differences

          Ah, that’s far more troubling than any lack of good data. That’s what Hollywood does. Once you accept some (bias) theory about How Things Are, anything that might disprove it is dismissed as impossible, and you miss possibilities.

  38. Dorvell says

    I just thought of the perfect actress to play a female unsub who kills simply for the heck of it!

    Are there any fans of “24” on this page? If so, does anyone remember Mandi (played by Mia Kirshner), who appeared in seasons 1, 2 and 4 of that show?

    If you know who I’m talking about, then I’m sure you would agree that CM should cast Kirshner as that type of female unsub!

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