My last encounter with Criminal Minds was an enjoyable one. Season Three had enough action, drama, and fun to keep me entertained. It was also the season that bade farewell to the series’ original star, Mandy Patinkin, and introduced Joe Mantegna to the mix as the lead actor. Criminal Minds: The Complete Fourth Season, on the other hand, didn’t strike me as being as good. At first, that is. Granted, my pessimism towards Season Four could very well be attributed to the fact that an entire year had gone by since I had seen Season Three. And, during that time, I watched dozens of other television shows that focus on a similar subject.
But, as I journeyed through each episode, Criminal Minds once again grew on me — so much so, that I was feeling a bit sad when the season came to a close. In essence, Criminal Minds and all of the various other CSI-inspired series out there are all just “cop” shows. Some concentrate on forensics: e.g. how did the body get into this room?). Other series rely on good ol’ fashioned police work into play — such as “Hey, how many donuts do you think it would take to fill this room, guys?” Criminal Minds, on the other hand, sets its course by analyzing criminal behavior: i.e. why did the murderer pick this particular room to leave the body in?
While the fact that most of the antagonists are serial killers may tend to annoy viewers very quickly (there are a few kidnappers, a terrorist cell, etc. to keep it fresh), the writers and actors of Criminal Minds manage to work well with their material. Season Four’s premiere starts out with a brief recap of the Season Three finale, in which one or more of our characters were the victims of a terrorist car bombing — an explosion that is merely the tip of the chemical-laced iceberg and nearly plunges New York into a state of chaos. Other moments include a host of dazzling serial killers (played by some of the last actors you’d expect to play such, including Wil Wheaton, Jason Alexander, Mitch Pileggi, and C. Thomas Howell to name a few), and a memorable trip to a religious sect’s commune (inspired in no way by that whole YFZ Ranch thing).
Back for another round of paychecks this season are series leads Joe Mantegna, Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, A.J. Cook, Paget Brewster, and Kirsten Vangsness. Guest stars include Luke Perry (as the religious cult leader), Currie Graham, Michael Biehn, Cybill Shepherd, Lolita Davidovich, Bruce Davison, Carmen Argenziano, James Remar, Nora Dunn, Michael Rooker, and recurring regular Nicholas Brendon as Vangsness’ computer-geek love interest.
CBS/Paramount presents all 25 episodes from Season Four on 7 discs. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video transfers here are very nice, with only a little grain (mostly in the darker scenes) to distract viewers. Sound-wise, the set boasts an English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that comes through admirably. My only qualm was that there were no subtitles included with this release (just Closed Captioning). Special features for this release include a few deleted scenes, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, character profiles (for die-hard fans only), and a brief gag reel. Rounding out the extras are some promos for other CBS/Paramount titles.
Occasionally, Criminal Minds hits a sour note in the writing and/or believability department. Thankfully, the charms of the lead actors usually make up for such errors. If you haven’t checked this series out yet, you should give it a try — especially if you love “cop” shows.