'Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior' premiere review: Forest Whitaker kept 'body, mind, and spirit in balance.' Will you keep watching this show?
In the spin-off series Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, we are spared the trademark Criminal Minds voice-over recitation from some Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations-level philosopher. But we’re not spared the reason viewers by the millions tune in to the original Minds: To watch the suffering of the helpless, rescued by the earnest, the brave, and the eccentric.
In Wednesday night’s premiere, the helpless were little girls kidnapped and kept captive by a guy who’d set the girls up in pretty pink bedrooms; he had a motive, and a psychological problem, for doing this, but what comes pouring through the TV screen are the images of children terrorized — they overwhelm, block out, any of the real research or pseudo jargon the show ladles into the dialogue to have the viewer understand a senseless crime. Make no mistake about it: The Criminal Minds franchise is out to scare you, pure and simple.
Into this has walked Forest Whitaker heading up a new batch of FBI Behavioral Analysts. He brings with him a placid calmness combined, as we saw in the opening scenes, an interest in martial arts — kick-boxing, stick-fighting — which his character, Sam Cooper, says keeps “mind and body and spirit in balance.” It reminded me of Whitaker in the 1999 Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, only without the delicate, poetic imagery. Cooper does that Criminal Minds thing of talking as though he’s the criminal, working through the evil one’s psyche and motives until he chats himself into a brilliant insight into the criminal mind.
Suspect Behavior introduced us to a new bunch of people who are going to use the phrase “UNSUB” a lot, including Janeane Garofalo, transitioning smoothly from her dramatic role in 24 to this crew. I’ve seen the second episode of Suspect Behavior, and Garofalo’s Beth Griffith has the easiest, most believable working relationship with Whitaker’s Cooper; I wouldn’t go so far as to call it chemistry, because Criminal Minds is all about intelligent isolators brought together solely by work.
A bridge between the two Minds shows is Kirsten Vangsness’ Penelope Garcia, the tech wiz who’ll toggle back and forth between the two shows, pulling up data absurdly fast while uttering chatty banalities like, “The Divine Miss G — out!“
Five seasons from now, when CM:SB is in syndication and a well-oiled machine, many viewers will have long forgotten one of the debut hour’s chief bits of business. Michael Kelly’s “Prophet” Sims once killed a child molester and so at the start of the show was a “special agent pending,” under close scrutiny as a guy whose temper might not permit him to make it onto the show’s team. By the end, however, he had his redemption scene — cornering the bad guy and saying, “I killed a guy like you before… [it] wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be” — and opting not to kill this man.
Sold! Prophet’s a keeper: He was upgraded to “full agent” status with the support of Whitaker’s Cooper and Richard Schiff as the group’s boss, Jack Fickler. Schiff seemed to hold himself back a little from his dialogue, much as Joe Mantegna does on CM, as though neither of them wants their images to bond too closely to these shows.
So: will you be adding CM:SB to your viewing list?