Criminal Minds Season 8 Review “Zugzwang”

Criminal Minds returned tonight with their first episode of 2013; The peculiarly titled “Zugzwang”. Not only was this one of the best episodes of the season, but a powerful and gut-wrenching episode for everybody’s favorite character: Reid.

We kick off tonight’s episode with a very strange dream sequence involving Reid marrying his mystery woman, with the whole BAU team in attendance no less! It’s very rare for this show to have such different scenes visually, so it’s always nice when we have something that feels new. Well Spencer quickly wakes up and takes a nice walk to a nearby pay phone to talk to his mystery lady, and he finds out that she’s been kidnapped!

What follows is a riveting race against time as Reid tries to save Maeve from her deadly stalker. I didn’t really care that much about the wellbeing of Maeve at first, just because we didn’t know her too well from only seeing her once before, but I really did care after seeing how much it was tearing up Reid. We so rarely see Reid emotionally react to anything, so seeing him so invested in this case that he could barely think straight was very distressing.

The team quickly finds out that Maeve is being stalked by a woman, and it’s played by none other than Michelle Trachtenberg. Most people would recognize Trachtenberg from playing Dawn on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but now she’s playing a character that’s supposed to be hatable and frustrating! Maeve is again played by Beth Riesgraf from Leverage, and she did a great job, but it looks like we aren’t going to be enjoying her performances anymore. I was genuinely surprised that they made the choice to kill off Spencer’s love interest, and it was definitely a gut-wrenching shock to see it happen. I’m hoping that Reid can overcome this heartbreak quickly and that he finds happiness with some woman, as it seems like this guy always has had bad luck with the fairer sex.

It’s very daring for a show like Criminal Minds to dive so deeply into a serialized story line like this. The reason that Criminal Minds has done so well on CBS for the past eight years is that you don’t have to watch past episodes to enjoy a new one. It’s a great procedural, but it’s still just that: A procedural. So I give Criminal Minds a lot of credit for giving us a great resolution to an ongoing story from two previous episodes. I’m really hoping we see more of this as the show goes on, as it’s a great way to reward long-time viewers like us for keeping up with the show and their characters.

Random Thoughts:

– The director for tonight’s installment, Jesse Warn, also directed two other great Criminal Minds episodes: Season seven’s “Closing Time” and season six’s “Hanley Waters”.

– How is it that all of these criminal masterminds can afford these secondary dwellings to keep their victims? Somehow Michelle can afford a nice little apartment in DC and a loft to keep Maeve and Bobby?! I had the same complaint about Ray Speltzer in the last season of Dexter.