Criminal Minds Season 9 Review “Blood Relations”

We’re only four episodes from the season finale of the ninth season of Criminal Minds, so I was hoping for tonight’s episode “Blood Relations” to start leading up to the series finale. I’m not sure if we got much of that, but what we did get was yet another dark and macabre installment directed by Doctor Reid himself: Matthew Gray Gubler!

An incredibly brutal first kill involving barbed wire and a head being turned around 180 degrees takes our team to rural West Virginia to investigate a case, where a mysterious “Mountain Man” seems to be getting between two feuding families. The actual case was pretty good, with Jigsaw himself playing the patriarch of one of these warring clans. Yes, Tobin Bell, the guy who’s played Jigsaw in all seven (!) Saw films, played the creepy Malachi Lee in this backwater West Virginia town. While I was OK with his character, and the episode was pretty fun overall, I was pretty irritated with the location and the depiction of the citizens.

It seemed like all of the West Virginians that we met tonight were blatant stereotypes of what people think about West Virginians in the rest of the country. You had your paranoid farmers blaming their missing barbed wire on “The Mountain Man”, families that used to make moonshine, self-righteous Bible thumpers who misquoted the good book and asked God to smite their enemy, and everybody had a healthy dislike of the federal government. Oh, and the aforementioned Malachi Lee was a grumpy homophobe who was prone to spitting his tobacco into a cup. I was starting to think how surprised I was that they hadn’t trotted out a Confederate flag flying white supremacist, but then they introduced one about half way through! Sure, that guy ended up changing his ways, but it was too little too late. It’s like the Criminal Minds writers were going down a list of every single stereotype of the deep south residents and just checking them all off. Look, I’ve never been to West Virginia, but I’d like to imagine that not everybody there falls neatly into a stereotype. I understand that they were dealing with a very specific area of West Virginia that might not be very pleasant, but it was still a little disappointing to me.

That’s enough of that rant, though. The episode itself was entertaining enough. Gubler really does have a knack for these more artistic episodes, and he got to do a lot of that tonight. I liked that all of the flashbacks to the sixties were black and white and very grainy, as it added a layer of seediness to everything we were watching.

The case actually ended in somewhat of a cliffhanger, as we find out that The Mountain Man survived his encounter with Blake. I didn’t see him in the scenes for next week’s episode, so it’s possible that he’s the big villain that they’re setting up for the season finale. I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of him, just hopefully out of the stereotypical south that was depicted in this episode.

What did you guys think of the episode? Sound off in the comments section below!

Random Thoughts:

– Matthew Gray Gubler certainly has a knack for the macabre. All of the dark and depraved imagery from tonight’s installment reminded me of another episode he directed, season eight’s “The Lesson”. In case you don’t remember it by name, that’s the one where some guy was stringing up people like marionettes and making them dance around.

– Was anybody else a little disappointed when they finally showed The Mountain Man? They kept hiding him like he was going to look so scary and hideous, but then he was just a regular looking dude with funny ears.

– You’d think that somebody on the SWAT team would have better reflexes. It seemed like the dude was watching that booby trap for like five seconds before that hammer came down.