This finale was aptly named "The Storm" for so many reasons...
And it had everything! Romance, a prison escape, an exploding helicopter....
Most importantly, Hotch was arrested by a SWAT team (in front of his son Jack, no less), and then interrogated by an agent from the Department of Justice.
Criminal Minds Season 11 Episode 22 started out with a romantic reunion between Rossi and his second ex-wife Hayden Montgomery.
Then we got right into the thick of things when Hotch was taken into custody on suspicion of conspiracy.
Turns out his arrest was a result of Antonia's autistic son Asher "swatting" Hotch. This came as a result of Asher being manipulated by an anarchist prisoner named Eric Rawdon, and ultimately, by Mr. Scratch himself, Peter Lewis.
For a moment, it really looked as if Hotch had stepped into the deep end of his psyche, once we heard that 911 recording.
Plus, as Mr. Scratch related to his interrogator, Hotch really did laugh weirdly after he had his slight psychotic break back on Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 21.
Still, it seems a little unfair (and not in keeping with the "thin blue line" police dynamic) that they didn't at least afford the benefit of the doubt to the unit chief of the BAU. Instead, they watched him for a few weeks before finally getting the "swatting call" that precipitated his arrest.
Hotch's reasoning was perfect: why would someone who was planning to kill his team bother to call 911 before doing so? I would imagine most of the audience would have had that thought from the beginning. Seems weird that the DoJ didn't figure that one for themselves too.
We've all met people like smarmy self-congratulatory DoJ Agent Ritchie before: overly pleased with his catch, yet ultimately self-serving. He didn't capitulate to Hotch until his livelihood was threatened.
That kind of guy is always looking out for number one.
As for the real motive for all this manipulation: Rossi made a giant leap interpreting the email subject line "The Storm Breaks Tonight" as referencing a prison break. The logic didn't flow there (except for the word "break"), so it didn't quite make sense. However, given the fast-paced exciting other parts of the episode, the writers can be forgiven.
Having interviewed Joe Mantegna before, I have an idea how he would have explained the way he made us believe he honestly made that leap, too. He'd have said it's called "acting."
Poor Jack. The little guy was so traumatized by seeing his hero (as JJ put it) being held at gunpoint, and then carted off to interrogation. Good on Reid for helping him get his mind off it, at the end.
The prison scene was intense and jarring, especially when we got to see some of the really weird prisoners having the run of the place.
I'll bet you figured out that they had dressed themselves as guards, as soon as the SWAT captain showed up to "rescue" them (and long before he saw the tattoo of the swastika on the "guard's" wrist).
The exploding helicopter scene was out of this world! (So to speak)
It's too bad every episode of Criminal Minds isn't like this! But then, maybe it wouldn't actually be Criminal Minds anymore; it'd be something else.
This one was all about the team, and more specifically, Hotch. So right there it had our complete attention. And the maze of machinations was on a much higher level than we're used to seeing. The Unsubs weren't really Unsubs at all; they were known entities. True bad guys who plotted and planned from the get-go.
Mouse (Hotch), meet trap.
There is yet an unanswered question, however. Why was it so important to get the DoJ and the BAU involved with each other in order to effect a prison break and a terrorist attack? Presumably the local police would have been on deck to handle much of that.
The one line that stands out as the most caustic and cynical observation, came from Antonia:
Have you always looked on the sappy side, or did that come out when you became a mother?Antonia
Her delivery was perfect.
And what a treat too, to see JJ's Mama Bear come out, with claws fully extended. You truly believed she would have allowed Antonia's son to be shot dead too.
I wondered for a moment if Antonia's son was Mr. Scratch. I'm glad he wasn't, as that would have been too great of a coincidence.
And now there's a cliffhanger to think about, until the start of Season 12: Mr. Scratch is on the loose, and there are twelve other serial killers out there too.
Some final thoughts:
- You may have recognized the SWAT captain. He was played by Matt Battaglia, who is best known for his role as Sheriff Thomas on Big Love, Agent Jennings on 24, and Commander Floyd Heschmeyer on 2015's True Detective series.
- It's a happy thing, seeing Rossi and Hayden together again, as they try to make it work. We haven't seen him light up quite like that since he met his daughter Joy.
- The dinner party scene was beautiful too, until it turned sour as their cell phones all began to ping with messages. This group just can't catch a break, can they?
- Bodhi Elfman was the perfect personification of evil in his reprised role as Mr. Scratch.
- The song at the end was "For Keeps" by Lily Kershaw.
- Watch for our upcoming Round Table for this episode. We're looking forward to reading your thoughts on some of the questions we raise, too.
- As always, you can catch up on missed episodes when you watch Criminal Minds online!
Now it's your turn! What are your thoughts on this high-action finale? What's your take on Rossi and Hayden? Does Hotch have anything to worry about, with respect to any drug-enhanced suggestions Mr. Scratch may have implanted in him a year ago? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.