The takeaway from this episode of Criminal Minds is that having an eidetic memory can be gruesome.
Especially when, as in Reid's case, there is little ability to wipe away the pain of remembering every single word shared between him and Maeve.
This week's case served more as an addendum to the story of Reid's gradual descent into depression and Rossi's compassionate friendship and advice to help him out of it.
In "Alchemy," the BAU (Reid, really) identified two murders that shared similar characteristics: both involving men with similar features, whose bodies had been dismembered and scattered in native American territory. The only reason the local authorities hadn't connected the pair was because of friction between the native police force and the FBI.
The team eventually figured out that the murdered men were surrogates for a man whose wife - Tess - suffered from "Black Widow Maternal Desire," a mental condition involving her need to have a child to replace one of her own who had died.
She blamed her then-husband and so then searched for other men who looked similar to him, bedded them and then killed them in revenge for the death of her son. It took even longer for the team to figure out that she had a dominant accomplice (husband Raoul) who manipulated her emotions and wanted to watch as she killed her victims. Her methodology involved meeting them at bars, convincing them to stay at the hotel she was running, having sex with them in order to conceive a child, lacing their food with solanine and then offing them.
After discovering the identify of the husband and wife Unsubs, the unit moved in and prevented them from killing yet another man.
I found the case to be only mildly interesting. It kept my attention only in that I wasn't able to immediately identify Raoul as the true sociopath who was pulling Tess' strings. Until the team figured it out, there was no clue that he was anything other than a mild-mannered helper who wanted to keep his head down, do his work and pick up a paycheck every week. But then, that's what sociopaths do, isn't it? They study emotions and provide an appearance designed to fool almost everyone into thinking they're normal.
Tess' sudden realization that Raoul had manipulated her and had turned her into a monster rang only partially believable. Her epiphany happened when she discovered that he had killed Amber, the hotel's young cleaning woman. I suppose anything's possible, given the fact that the mind has not yet been entirely mapped out and there is still much discussion about triggers and the like. (Which is my way of saying "here's a way to suspend disbelief")
Still, that sudden 180-degree turn by her took me out of the story at least for a few minutes.
The more compelling story involved poor Reid who was afraid to sleep at night because of a recurring dream in which he saw Maeve and she asked him to dance with her. As soon as she asked, he would wake himself up. He's lucky to have such an observant and compassionate friend in Rossi, who saw what was going on, realized he wasn't getting any sleep and took steps to help him out. I thought the show's writer gave him some wise advice to give to Reid:
Rossi: Spencer, if you want to feel better, you can't control the process. You have to let yourself grieve | permalink
Or as someone else pointed out: "sometimes the only way out is through."
Rossi's later advice in the episode was just as wise, referencing the title of the episode:
Rossi: Alchemy turns common metals into precious ones. Dreams work the same way, turning something awful into something better. | permalink
And that set us up with the beautiful ending, where Reid got to see Maeve once more in his dreams and this time when she asked him to dance with her, he did. That was such a bittersweet scene:
Maeve: Dance with me.
Maeve: I want to hold you once before I'm a ghost of a memory. | permalink
Some final notes:
- This episode was directed by Matthew Gray Gubler. Thanks to some of our TVFanatic.com commenters for pointing it out. (Don't know how I missed that)
- There was no mention of The Replicator in this episode. Don't worry, though: he is going to show up soon.
- Kudos to Sharon Lee Watson who wrote this episode, especially for including the reference to Leonard Peltier, the native American who was convicted of killing two FBI agents back in 1975. The long-simmering discord between the FBI and the native band over that action (a controversy which continues today as Peltier remains in prison) was used to show why two police agencies hadn't connected the two murders in this episode.
- The weird dude who was sitting outside of the hotel with Chad provided a nice bit of misdirection. "Creepy" doesn't begin to cover it.
- The name of the song to which Reid and Maeve danced is "Sleepwalk" by Santo & Johnny
- Rossi had a bit of fun in this episode, which included a reference to acid and "the fourth Mrs. Rossi". (Check our Criminal Minds quotes for the references on those.) Oh, and a hint to Rossi here: it's 2013, dude - you don't really have to marry every woman you date.
What did you think of the episode? Did you have any problems with it? Do you think Reid will be able to come out of his funk now that he's let himself feel the pain of dancing with Maeve, even if only in his dreams?
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.