It isn't often that an episode of Criminal Minds is as compelling as this one turned out to be.
On "Restoration," the spotlight focused on Derek Morgan, who was the first to figure out the connection between two murdered middle-aged men, as a result of words that were written at each crime scene "look up to the sky."
That phrase had been uttered many times by Morgan's childhood abuser, Carl Buford, who was doing time in prison for a series of murders. The BAU finally identified the Unsub as another of Buford's victims - a man whose past came back to haunt him when he learned his son had been molested by a swimming coach.
In a fit of rage, he murdered him... and then when there was no catharsis from that act, he went on to murder other men who he thought were probably child abusers. Basically any man who was comfortable around kids. The BAU finally tracked him down at his ex-wife's home, where Morgan was able to talk him down by relating his own past to him, a dark past involving their common abuser.
This episode was well-researched, well-written and well-acted by all. Shemar Moore's portrayal of a man whose covered emotional wounds had not yet healed was equally matched by Julias Tennon's portrayal of Carl Buford, an unrepentant and manipulative child molester.
We first saw Buford back in Season 2 when Morgan was accused of murdering some boys. It was later discovered that Buford had killed them and had set Morgan up as the culprit. It was for these murders that Buford was serving time in prison, where Morgan confronted him in this episode in order to obtain a list of the kids he abused.
The tension between the two as they battled in darkness was terrific, as we saw Buford attempting to establish dominance while Morgan did his best to play him. I think many have encountered people like Buford, which is why I believe the character was so well-written: people who have an ability to manipulate others in a manner that is next to impossible to break.
I would almost believe Morgan strategically set himself up to be the slightly less powerful of the two, were it not for the fact that he excused himself afterward to go throw up. At any rate, we had this important exchange, which came back to bite Buford hard at the end:
Buford: You still like mint chocolate chip ice cream?
Morgan: The U.S. attorney has offered you immunity. They won't charge you with molesting any of the boys on this list, as long as this list is complete.
Buford: Or was it butter pecan?
Morgan: You leave even one name off that list, this deal is dead.
Buford: You threatening me D?
Morgan: With my hand on the Koran. See, right now you're in here for serial murder. And I bet that gives you a whole lot of cred out there in the yard, am I right? But what do you think would happen if the brothers in here learned what you were really guilty of? So let me be direct, Mohammed: start writing. | permalink
The writing was on the wall at that point, wasn't it? Yet for some reason, Buford still - and stupidly as it turns out - held back a few names, one of which turned out to be the abused Unsub.
The litter of broken souls in this episode was heart-breaking: the brittle druggie who provided the name of the Unsub; the Unsub who didn't consciously realize what was triggering his rage; and Morgan himself. He thought his past was behind him, but we saw so much pain in him. At the risk of repeating myself... that was some amazing acting by Moore.
The title of the episode was important too: the Unsub was unconsciously attempting to obtain catharsis through his murders and Morgan was finally able to obtain a sort of restoration, brought about by his confession to the TV cameras about his childhood abuse. He did so, knowing full well the prison televisions would pick it up and Buford's life would come to a painful end. Yet once he learned of his death, we didn't see the pain go away, did we?
And of course this subtext was all tied into the opening scene, which speaks of Morgan's character when he corrected Rossi by saying: wait a minute, now. You know I don't renovate. I restore. Morgan is never about trying to change anyone; he's all about making things right and bringing justice.
The writers picked the perfect closing line to all of this too:
Morgan: For darkness restores what light cannot repair - Joseph Brodsky. | permalink
- Reid's detailed explanation of Borderline Personality Disorder, and how it informed the Unsub's behaviour was brilliant Kudos to the writers for doing it so well.
- In the midst of the darkness of the subject material, the writers managed to get in a few laughs, one from Garcia and another from Reid, as are recapped in our Criminal Minds quotes section for this episode.
- Thankfully, there was no focus at all on The Replicator. I think that storyline would have diluted the intensity of this episode's subject matter.
What did you think of the episode? Do you think Morgan can start to heal, now that his abuser is dead? Do you think he would have honored his deal with Buford, had Buford given up the correct names? (Confession: I wouldn't have.)
What about Buford? Do you think his conversion to Islam was real or a sham?
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.