The Criminal Minds two-part finale, "Brothers Hotchner; The Replicator," left me on the edge of my seat, earning a perfect rating and leaving my jaw hanging open in shock.
The writing was provocative and almost a little cruel in its constant shifting focus. As we learned from an interview with the Criminal Minds showrunner this week, there was going to be a death among the characters. What we didn't know was who would walk the last mile.
This finale came to us in two parts. The first had to do with Hotch and his estranged brother Sean, along with a series of deaths that made Sean a tad nervous. I suppose any of us would be jittery if the girl with whom our boss was making out started bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth.
Rattled, he called his brother and after realizing there was more than one such odd death, the BAU began their investigation. It turned out that a baggage handler at an airport was angry over the death of his daughter. So he insinuated himself into a delivery system for wine, which he spiked with a drug called PMMA (paramethoxymethamphetamin).
This drug was a combination of Ecstasy and meth, the latter of which inhibited the drug's interaction. The delayed reaction prompted several users to increase the dosage so that when it kicked in, it resulted in the internal boiling of their systems.
I did some reading up on this drug and didn't see any symptoms remotely similar to what was presented in the episode. However, artistic license means we get to ignore that tiny detail and carry on. And even if there might not be such bizarre bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth, it does result in a lot of death.
The baggage handler was rounded up and the team went back to their lives. Sean and Hotchner seemed to have mended their fences with each other, even though Sean was on his way to jail. And it was great to see Jack and Beth back in orbit around Hotch - both of whom seem to bring a smile to his face. Beth in particular seems like such a natural for the father and son, fitting into both of their lives as if she'd always been there.
The second part began with the Replicator slapping on a pair of gloves before invading Strauss' hotel room. Finally, after only seeing shadows and hints of the Replicator, the camera panned over to his face - and I thought "oh look - there's Mark Hamill."
At this point we understood the reason for the first part of the episode: the PMMA poisoner methodology was mimicked by the Replicator when he used the same drug on Strauss... who eventually died in Hotch's arms.
Rossi has been such a quietly supportive friend for a number of people, including Reid. I didn't realize the depth of his commitment to Strauss, nor was I aware that he was pretty much cheering in her corner as she obtained her medallion for one year of sobriety. The writing around the relationship of these two was compelling and real - and so his agony over her death, and especially about how it would affect her kids, was compelling.
After Rossi helped her family process her passing, did you notice the look on his face when he came back into the BAU? Reid held JJ back as she went to go support him, understanding that he wasn't in a place where sympathy would be desired or tolerated. As soon as I saw him, I thought "there goes a man who will cheerfully shoot the Replicator in his face." And as it turns out, I was only wrong about the methodology.
Blake's question found the thread which unraveled the ball of criminal yarn leading to the name of the Replicator: Do you think it's a coincidence he started this when I joined the team?
The answer of course was yes.
I guess I wasn't all that surprised when the Replicator turned out to be a member of the FBI. He had access to all of the relevant crime scenes and knew way too much about the team itself. Reid called him a genius, and he should know - being one himself. Not only that, the man was an expert in biochemistry, and an absolute wizard in computers and computer networking.
Finally, of course, the man was a narcissist of the highest caliber. Honestly I've never seen so many whiny criminals, all complaining about being misunderstood, misrepresented and so very unappreciated. That consistency does not detract from the enjoyment I had with this episode however.
The final few scenes put me on the edge of my seat: the helicopter ride that almost proved fatal: the capture of Blake; the rescue of Blake... which turned out to be another example of Zugzwang (where the only safe move is to not move at all). As soon as Blake rose from her chair, she freed the pressure plate to do its thing, which was to seal the team in the room, while the walls (lined with C4 explosives) proved to be their intended death trap.
In a normal world, the explosion would be immediate. But this is not the normal world - this is the world of make-believe. The requisite bomb countdown began. Conveniently, the timer was set to be wireless - thereby allowing Garcia and Kevin to intercept the signal and hold it back for only so long, since such signals have a magical strength that would force them to let go.
By the time their hold lessened, the team had escaped and now Rossi was in the room with the Replicator (or Luke 2.0 as I would call him). Here we heard the final whiny speech, all about how he was rejected after giving up his life for Bureau (you can read the quotes including that one in this episode's Criminal Minds quotes).
Rossi's response, especially after the Replicator tried to trap them both in the same room, was cathartic. I did not want the Replicator to do prison time. Rossi could have saved him, but, after Strauss being killed and Rossi being drugged so that he almost killed Morgan, I kind of think his last nerve had snapped. And so:
Replicator: We'll go out as heroes.
Rossi: I'm not so sure about that. [Holds up Strauss' medallion] Zugzwang. | permalink
Rossi escapes, the door closes and the building lights up with an explosion. Luke is gone, foiled ironically by his own term. Zugzwang.
All in all, an exciting and cathartic episode.
What are your thoughts? Were you sorry to see Strauss go? What did you think about Sean and Hotch? Did the episode meet your expectations?
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.