The first season of Criminal Minds, CBS television’s popular FBI criminal profiling series, turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. The show opened with a stellar debut episode and closed with a heart-stopping cliffhanger, but the meat in the middle of those two particular slices of brilliance weighed a bit on the fatty side. Too much expository dialogue – as well as the series’ somewhat overused gimmick of its profilers visually entering the “mind” of their prey - weighed down what were oftentimes potentially great episodes. Season Two, however, saw a lot of changes in the show, from the addition of a new cast-member (the somewhat enigmatic Emily Prentiss, played by Paget Brewster), a surprisingly brutal gallery of killers, and a welcome show of restraint on behalf of the writers that’s cut the irritating “smarty-pants” dialogue down to a tolerable level.
The second season opens with the resolution to season one’s finale, “The Fisher King”, in which our heroes matched wits with a brilliant killer whose gift for puzzles and traps would have made Rube Goldberg blush. The team races against time to rescue a girl held by the killer, but, until this point, they’ve played by his set of twisted rules. When Gideon (Patinkin) and his team fall back on their own methods, they, of course, save the day.
This episode neatly wraps up the events set forth in season one, and helps to set up the eventual dismissal of one of the B.A.U. (Behavioral Analysis Unit) team members, but pales in comparison to what’s ahead. Episodes like “The Perfect Storm”, in which two killers record the murders of young girls and then send the DVDs of their crimes to the victim’s families, or “Ashes and Dust”, in which a man posing as a firefighter locks an entire family in their house and watches them burn, hint at the hardcore new direction of the series.
My personal favorite episode of the set is “Open Season”, in which two brothers kidnap people to hunt and kill and an Idaho state park. There’s a scene here reminiscent of Predator, in which the hunters hang their kill upside down from trees. The discovery is a particularly gruesome one in an even more gruesome episode.
Overall, Criminal Minds – The Second Season, offers up more good than bad, with only a scant few clunkers out of its 23 episodes. Paramount also shores up the extras on this set, with four featurettes, deleted scenes, and a really funny gag reel (made all the more humorous by the show’s generally dour tone).
In its sophomore season, Criminal Minds has managed to address the issues a lot of critics pointed out in its first year while still staying true to the formula that made it a success in the first place. C.S.I. may still be the most graphic show on network television (thanks in no small part to the “medical” nature of its autopsy scenes), but Criminal Minds has emerged as one of the nastiest, and, for serial killer/horror buffs, most entertaining.