Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

[This post contains details from the Criminal Minds season 11 premiere, which aired Sept. 30]

Criminal Minds has always been that one show that continues to terrify me, yet I have never stopped watching. (The show even let me live out my nightmare fantasy and play a dead body.) I’ve seen cast members come and go (and come again), with each member of the BAU bringing their own unique flavor — some better than others. But there was something about the latest addition — the introduction of Aisha Tyler — that was both refreshing and felt as though she had already been a seasoned member of the team.

The 11th season kicks off with a case of a serial killer who leaves paint on victims’ faces. While Rossi leads the investigation, Hotch, back at the BAU, makes the requisite call to J.J., which serves to remind viewers that she’s had another baby and will be taking time off. (Star A.J. Cook will remain on maternity leave until episode 7.) Hotch then immediately begins the interview process with Dr. Tara Lewis (Tyler) as the first to walk through his door. She comes with a rave review, but Hotch worries that her clinical evaluative experience might not translate to profiling out in the field to catch the bad guys. Fortunately for her, she’ll get the opportunity to prove her worth when she inserts herself into the present investigation.

As the case unfolds, we learn that the Unsub, a hitman, is essentially going back and murdering past clients. It comes to a head when the BAU figures out that he’s trying to find the person who double-crossed him, but there’s also a mole in the local law enforcement that made him alter his plan. Soon our favorite geniuses figure out there’s a husband-and-wife duo involved, but that the SWAT-team husband is likely the final target. At the BAU, Dr. Lewis takes charge and talks our soon-to-be last victim through not getting killed, thoroughly impressing Hotch & Co. in the process. It not only leads to the hitman’s capture, but to a job for Tara!

As far as cases go, this wasn’t the most gruesome or the most compelling we’ve seen; it was fine, but not quite premiere-worthy. However, it did set up a potential season-long mystery involving “The Dirty Dozen.” And the hour also gave us a great Garcia-Morgan kiss-on-the-cheek moment and a badass Morgan moment — both okay with me.

As a show, Criminal Minds knows what it is and I appreciate that it isn’t trying to change the game for procedurals or spice things up for the sake of an 11th-season stretch. It sticks to what works and manages to effortlessly balance a case of the week with nods to longtime fans, while still servicing the chemistry of the BAU’s close-knit team — one that just scored a pretty great addition.

Watch a teaser for the season below.

Criminal Minds

  • TV Show
  • 14
  • CBS