Stars: Forest Whitaker, Janeane Garofalo, Matt Ryan, Michael Kelly, Beau Garrett, Kirsten Vangsness, Richard Schiff, Raphael Sbarge, Adina Porter
Writer:
Rob Fresco
Director:
John Terlesky
Network:
CBS, Wednesdays @ 9 PM
Airdate:
February 16, 2011

Anyone who tuned into the CRIMINAL MINDS crossover episode meant to introduce the spin-off, CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR, could be forgiven for some trepidation. The episode was frankly pretty bad and it wasn’t clear what, if anything, a new show and new characters would do that regular flavor CRIMINAL MINDS wasn’t doing.

Well, CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR has now launched its first independent episode, “Two of a Kind,” and the results are actually good. The original CRIMINAL MINDS somewhat resembles an hour-long slasher movie, except that we’re with the cops more than with the killer. SUSPECT BEHAVIOR, on the other hand, although it deals with child kidnapping, at least begins on a note of more suspense/drama than outright horror, with a little socio-political observation and some really fine acting to elevate the hour.

Sam Cooper (Forest Whitaker) heads up a San Francisco-based team of FBI profilers, who include the strong-spoken Beth Griffith (Janeane Garofalo), British Mick Rawson (Matt Ryan) and efficient Gina LaSalle (Beau Garrett), plus provisional agent John “Prophet” Sims (Michael Kelly), who has received a full pardon after doing time for killing a sexual abuser of children. (Whether it’s possible that someone with this background would in actuality be accepted into the FBI is a question that requires more research than there was time for in doing this review.) The group also has the services of CRIMINAL MINDS’ computer whiz Penelope Garcia (Kristen Vangsness), who liaises with the team long-distance from Washington, D.C.

Sam and Co. arrive in a suburb of Cleveland to investigate the probable abduction of a little girl within twenty-four hours of the child’s disappearance. A woman (Adina Turner) whose own little girl was kidnapped nine days ago approaches Beth for help, because she’s seen this case on the news and nobody seems to be doing anything to look for her daughter. The difference that both Beth and the distraught mother can see is that the more recently-taken child is white and well-off; the earlier kidnap victim is black and from a part of town where the police are really overwhelmed. It turns out the cases are linked for – kudos to the writers – a fairly original reason.

The tone is earnest, but that’s to be expected here. Whitaker, Garofalo and Kelly are all such powerful actors that they bring more intensity and credibility to the material than one usually finds on non-quirky TV procedurals. It’s really hard to make the team’s concerns about Preacher work fully – if there was a legitimate fear that he might kill a suspect, it’s hard to imagine he’d be sent into the field at all – but at least the scenes work dramatically and we get a sense that the characters all sincerely care about one another’s sanity and job security. The guest cast is pretty impressive also, with Richard Schiff likely to recur as the FBI regional director in charge and Porter (Tara’s mother on TRUE BLOOD) highly affecting as the anguished parent.

It’s hard to tell from one episode where CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR is going, but it’s off to a good start.

CLICK HERE for AX’s interview with CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR star MICHAEL KELLY

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