By MARK TURNER
I find it difficult to believe that there are so many quality television shows on the air these days. For so long it felt like there was nothing to watch. Now I find myself torn between shows appearing on opposing channels at the same time or find the DVR overloaded with shows I've missed. This is one of the reasons that shows being released on DVD at somewhat affordable prices are doing so well right now. And one show that continues to remain a quality series is CRIMINAL MINDS.
For those who have never seen the series (or who missed when I've spoken of previous seasons), the show revolves around a group of FBI profilers who are sent around the country to help law enforcement agencies apprehend serial criminals. Some cases involve rape, others arson, but for the most part they seek out serial killers. The statistic that at any one time there are up to 80 serial killers walking around at one time is scary. The thought that there is actually a group like this seeking them out should help you sleep at night.
There isn't one single character that stands out among this ensemble piece but while the focus may change from one to another with each episode Thomas Gibson as Agent Aaron Hotchner is the focal point. The leader of the team has gone through some serious problems in the past (one serial killer murdered his wife for revenge) and this year we witness him adapting to being a single parent. But while Hotchner's life is seen so are the lives of the other cast members. And the series opens with the effects of what happened at the end of season 6 when the group thought agent Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) was killed.
Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) has been using his own time to seek out the killer responsible for Prentiss' death unofficially. When the group is called before a hearing concerning their activities only one person can clear them: Agent Prentiss. As we saw (though the group didn't know) she was still alive. Now as the season progresses we watch as each member of the team must deal with the return of someone they held dear who was unable to let them know she was fine. While they still work together and are closer than most working groups, a certain amount of distrust is the residue left over from this secret and something that must be roughed out as the season progresses.
In the meantime there are plenty of criminals still out there that the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) must help catch. Kidnapping with ties to the 80s, a copycat killer imitating a case Hotchner and Rossi (Joe Mantegna) worked on years ago, a 9 year olds abduction, murder at a military boy's school and more form the cases the group works on. Each one calls for various members of the group to put their personal skills to the test and find the guilty party before more damage can be done.
While the search for criminals continues the personal lives of the group come into play as well. Not only do they have to deal with the return of Prentiss, they are also still dealing with the return of JJ (A.J. Cook) who left the team in season 6. Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) continues to deal with the mental problems he fears he inherited from his mother. Morgan finds himself involved in a case where the missing cousin discussed in another season may have re-appeared. And Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) finds herself in a romantic situation.
Watching this series from the beginning you begin to identify with the characters involved. They begin to feel like family. You find yourself caring for each and every one of them. It doesn't seem like these are merely characters on the screen but friends you've grown comfortable with while watching. That's the secret of a great ensemble cast and CRIMINAL MINDS has developed one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled. The talent of each actor pours from the screen and not one is left to the side and not given some personal chance to prove their mettle here.
If you're a fan of the series you'll want to make sure you add this season to your collection. If you're not a fan, then by all means start collecting from the beginning and work your way to this one. I've picked them all up and have found that they are never boring to go back and watch again. This series is one that gets better was it moves forward and should satisfy the most jaded mystery fan.
Past Digital Views reviews, other current reviews and more can be found online at http://dvddigitalviews.blogspot.com