Criminal Minds kicked off this season with the introduction of Kate Callaghan to the team... only to end with her leaving again so she could spend time with her soon-to-be-born baby.
Additionally, we saw JJ dealing with her demons from the time when she was tortured, along with the BAU handling a case involving the death of Jason Gideon.
There's a lot to say about Criminal Minds Season 10, so let's get to it!
Scroll down for my assessment and my overall grade and then react with your own...
Best episode: Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 9, “Fate."
Rossi got to meet his daughter after she stalked him for a while. The pure joy on his face – after he had spent so much time spent in the depths of cynicism and belief that she just wanted a piece of him because of his written works – was unexpected and thrilling. His hesitant first steps into her world butted up against her willing and fully embracing acceptance.
Frankly, I can’t remember being so moved by any of the characters. Though we briefly saw them together (though only over a phone line) again in Criminal Minds Episode 12, I hope we get to see them together again. Maybe this time we can get a glimpse of his now extended family.
Worst episode: Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 5, “Boxed In"
With the caveat that “worst” in this case refers to the effect on the viewer, it needs to be stated that a negative impact merely means the writing was effective. All in all, Criminal Minds Season 10 has been outstanding in terms of compelling writing, imagination, a move away from past season ruts and into largely unchartered territory.
This story, about the real problems that can arise from childhood abuse was relentless in its true to life oppressive spirit. It’s hard to find any humor or light when dealing with the consequences of such horrible history, and so it’s for that reason this episode obtained a 3.9 rating out of 5.
Most chilling episode: Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 18,“Rock Creek Park"
This one featured an upwardly mobile Congressman whose wife had been abducted. We only learned near the end that Congressman Troy was about as psychopathic as his jailed mother, and that the two had been conspiring to work events with the intent of drumming up voter support for him on his gnarled and corrupted path to the White House. The ending took this reviewer by surprise when at the end Troy asked his mother in reference to her evil scheme “but it worked…now what do I do?”
Most repulsive story - Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 4, "The Itch"
I hate bugs. Hate them with a passion. They drive me to distraction, and have done so since I was a child dreaming of waking up with an army of bugs crawling up my legs from the bottom of my bed.
This episode had them in spades, as the unsub deliberately poured pails of cockroaches on his captive victims. I don’t recall an episode of any program making me squirm quite so much as this one. It gets an A+ for effective story-telling. The grading of an episode is entirely dependent upon the way in which it produces a reaction in the viewer, which is why it got 4.7 out of 5 stars.
Most unusual episode - Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 3, "A Thousand Suns"
So many Criminal Minds involve the discover of one or a few bodies, with nothing to initially connect the murders together. This episode gave us the story of a an airplane that had crashed 13 minutes after the pilots had lost all communications. There were no counting clocks as the BAU raced to find the identity of the unsub so the team could arrive in time to effect the rescue of a single victim.
In this case, they had to find out who was targeting airplanes. During the process we got to learn a lot from Reid’s extensive knowledge of pretty much everything. He usually provides valuable input but in this case he painted an information picture so vivid that some folk may never fly again. The fragility of aircraft technology provoked a lot of mental angst, at least for this writer.
Ugliest story: the season arc which began in Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 1, when we were introduced to the world of the online perverts who appeared to be buying women on the black market after they were abducted. We only found out in Criminal Minds Episode 23 they weren’t being captured for just for sex, but for torture and eventual death as well.
Just to make things interesting and ramp up viewer anxiety the writers had the unsub target Kate’s young niece Meg.
Best writing trend: the positive emphasis on mental health issues.
There were several episodes that highlighted the effects of mental illness on hapless unsubs. This was done in a manner that evoked sympathy rather than just revulsion. In an age where society struggles to come to terms with mental illness as just another illness like any other – only where the diseased part is the brain, instead of a limb or other internal organ – this writing trend is worthy of gentle praise.
Episodes that highlighted this welcome trend include Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 11 “The Forever People", when JJ had to re-visit the trauma of ordeal a year prior to the episode when she was tortured. As AJ Cook mentioned in her TV Fanatic interview “I love it when we see our characters put down their capes…for a minute and just act like a normal human being.” A human being who in this case hadn’t been able to let go of her internal demons.
Another episode that drove home the fragility of the mind was Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 21 “Mr. Scratch”. This time, Hotch was fed a cocktail of mind control drugs, and then given some information and instructions to which we never privy. Though Aaron does his best to recount to Rossi what had happened, we were left with the chilling and confident assertion by the Unsub: “You have no idea what I did to him. I win.”.
Yeah, we’re still waiting on the results of that little game of his.
My Grade for Season 10: A -
It's the same grade I gave Season 9. The show is well-written, precisely because it provokes such strong reactions in reviewers. The subject matter can be off-putting for some, but that's the nature of the beast when it comes to crime procedural shows.
We aren't dealing with Pollyanna characters, full of light and blessing. These are gritty stories, built upon the bedrock of some of the darkest human psyches that can be found in real life. The fact that this series attempts to portray the nuance that comes with the fragility of the human expression only speaks to its veracity as a vehicle for compelling entertainment.
Now you get to weigh in. What grade would you give Criminal Minds Season 10?
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.