revolves around an elite team of FBI profilers who analyze the country's most twisted criminal minds, anticipating their next moves before they strike again. The Behavioral Analysis Unit's most prominent agent is David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), a founding member of the BAU, who returns to help the team solve new cases, while pursuing some unfinished business of his own. Each member brings his or her own area of expertise to the table as they pinpoint predators' motivations and identify their emotional triggers in the attempt to stop them.
"Find the fetish, find the fiend." This is the queasily compelling Criminal Minds
' version of "Save the cheerleader, save the world," and it drives each dark and disturbing episode. Before this pivotal season can really get down to cases, it must deal with some unfinished business. Mandy Patinkin, who announced he would be leaving the series, was given a graceful exit, but not before his character, ace FBI profiler Gideon begins to doubt his abilities and sanity in the aftermath of the murder of his girlfriend at the end of last season. Meanwhile, his protégé, Hotch (Thomas Gibson) is under pressure from Section Chief Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) to resign the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), and Prentiss (Paget Brewster) submits her resignation rather than get dirt on him for Erin. All it takes to keep the team intact is for Strauss to join them at work on a particularly disturbing case involving a man using his son to lure unsuspecting women ("He's going to kill you, you know"). And speaking of unfinished business, enter Gideon's replacement, David Rossi (Joe Mantegna, an inspired choice), a BAU legend who returns to the unit he helped found. He claims he just wants to help with the BAU "an agent down," but his true motivation will become clear as the season unfolds Suffice to say it involves an extremely cold case that continues to haunt him. Rossi's introduction is the accessible entry for viewers new to the series, as they, along with Rossi, get to meet the other team members, including hunky Derek (Shemar Moore), bookish genius Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), and colorful computer whiz Penelope Garcia (Kristen Vangsness). This season, the team is confronted with nightmarish cases, involving all manner of killers (including one cannibal). Working together to catch these "unsubs" before they can claim another victim offers further opportunities for what Rossi calls "personal growth." In a two-part episode, Shemar must confront his crisis of faith. In another episode, Reid attends a support group for his addiction (another development from last season). Two cases hit particularly close to home. In one, a team member is shot, and in the explosive season finale, another is targeted by terrorists. Considering Criminal Minds
's intensity level, even the bonus gag reel, comprised of pratfalls, tension-breaking clowning, and even a birthday cake break for Mantegna, can be unsettling! There is something to be said for having a week to unwind between new episodes. A Criminal Minds
marathon can seriously creep you out. And we mean that in a good way. --Donald Liebenson