Criminal Minds Season 8 Review “Brothers Hotchner; The Replicator”

(Note: I wrote my review last night and tried to publish it as soon as the episode had aired, but there was something wrong on the server side and the entire article was lost. Apologies for being about ten hours too late.)

Well, here we are folks! Another Criminal Minds two-hour finale event, and another team member being written off the show! After previous finales have seen the likes of Mandy Patinkin’s Jason Gideon and Paget Brewster’s Emily Prentiss being written out (although not permanently in Prentiss’ case), tonight sees yet another recurring character bite the dust.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself! There was a whole episode that we had to sit through before we got to the episode that we were really interested in. I’m definitely not convinced that tonight’s finale justified being two hours, as I would have much rather had a cliffhanger at the end of “Brothers Hotchner”, and pick it up a week later with the great finale episode “The Replicator”. Unfortunately CBS insists on giving Criminal Minds a bloated 24 episode season, so we need to shove the last two installments into the same night. This isn’t to say that “Brothers Hotchner” was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it did end up feeling like a bloated introduction to the story line that we really wanted to see.

Anyway, there were a few parts of the first installment that I did like. First of all, I always get really excited when we get to see Aaron Hotchner happy. It’s very rare that we see him emote in any form, let alone being happy. While I still feel like we know so little about Beth, it is great seeing how in love the two of them are. It was for these reasons that I was totally crushed when Hotchner’s little brother gets involved in a dirty drug trafficking ring and completely ruined Hotchner’s vacation! He really wanted to take his kid to the Statue of Liberty, Sean!

Yes, as the episode title would suggest, we meet back up with the other Hotchner brother Sean, whom we haven’t seen since the season one episode “The Tribe”. Sean is a little older now and bar tending in NYC, where Hotchner conveniently happens to be meeting up with his girlfriend. This whole thing just felt like an excuse to get the team to New York City for the penultimate episode, but whatever. I’ll take it.

At first I was really liking that Strauss tagged along with the rest of the BAU team. I’ve said before how much Strauss bothers me, but what’s always bugged me about her is the fact that she’s always reprimanding and criticizing the BAU squad from the safety of her office. We’ve seen before that she can be downright incompetent in the field, so it’s hard to take her too seriously when she just pokes her head in every few episodes to say “Hey, you guys are doing it wrong!”

The beginning of the next episode brings us the “big reveal” of who would be playing the titular Replicator, Mark Hammill! Yes, Mr. Luke Skywalker himself made his Criminal Minds debut to play this season’s big bad, and he makes a big impression by quickly killing Strauss in a very poignant and humiliating manner. He could have just killed her while she sleeps, but he instead decides to force her to break her sobriety and stumble around the streets of New York City before dying in Hotchner’s arms. This all would have been well and good if CBS hadn’t already gone and ruined these surprises completely! First they announce weeks in advance that Mark Hammill will be in the finale episode, so you kinda assume that he’ll be playing The Replicator. Then you tease in the promos for the episode that one of the team members will pay “The ultimate price”, so we knew somebody was gonna die, and it’s not the six team members that have already signed contracts for a ninth season. The only other person who could have died was Blake, but as soon as Strauss decided to tag along in the field (a real rarity for her character), I knew she was done for.

I also would have been a lot more affected by her death if we’d seen her and Rossi together more than we have. I’d frankly forgotten that they were even an item until Rossi mentioned it, so maybe if we’d seen them enjoying their blissful relationship then Rossi’s loss would have hit us even harder. It was still very sad to see him react so poorly, made even worse by The Replicator’s meddling, but I was glad he seemed to come to some sort of closure by the end.

Mark Hammill did a great job here, playing a jilted company man who was jealous of others’ success a la Dennis Hopper’s villain from Speed. I loved Rossi’s “Zugzwang” payback at the end, but they certainly left it pretty open-ended as to whether or not Hammill actually died. Rossi locked him in there and then had time to run upstairs, out the door, and about 30 yards from the house before it blew up. In that time The Replicator could have easily found his way out or sequestered himself in some kind of fallout shelter. It was his trap, after all. He seemed like the kind of villain who would be prepared for everything, so it’s possible that he just opened the door up after Rossi left and got away. I guess we’ll find out!

What did you think of the season eight finale, and what about season eight in general? Sound off in the comments section below.

Random Thoughts:

– Did anybody else think it was a little odd how bluntly Hotchner told Blake who Foyet was? “He’s the man who killed my wife”. Alrighty then, I guess we’re not pussyfootin’ around that anymore…

– I loved hearing Joker’s voice poke through in Hammill’s performance tonight. If any readers are unfamiliar with Hammill voicing The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and the recent Arkham video games, please make yourself familiar ASAP. Truly some of the best voice work by anybody, ever.

– Was it ever fully explained why Rossi didn’t remember the medical examiner showing him the figure eight on Strauss’ wrist? She said that she’d already showed him, but he seemed to have forgotten. Was it because he was drugged? Was he still in shock from his loss? You’d think he’d remember something like that.