One of my top 10 television shows in all of last year was Criminal Minds. The program in my opinion surpassed CSI and there was no doubt that eventually a spin-off series would occur. Sure enough in February, 2011 it did. What came about was Criminal Minds, Suspect Behavior and with a cast including one of my favorite actors, Forest Whitaker it was enough to have me watching, even with one of my least favorite actors in the cast, Janeane Garofalo. With some of the same cast as the original Criminal Minds, notably Kirsten Vangsness who reprises her role of Penelope Garcia, I found the show different enough to warrant its own viewing and found myself watching each episode of the season. With the new release of the boxed DVD set I found myself able to refresh the experience, comment on the quality of the product, and offer my thoughts.
As is the case with Criminal Minds, Suspect Behavior does a good job at putting together a good story with interesting plot twists and entertaining and thought provoking characters. We first saw this in the spin off episode from Season 5 of Criminal Minds. The series has a flashy theatrical look resembling the old Miami Vice. There is a look of a well put together, postmodern program. The quality of editing which is sometimes lost due to the television commercials is nicely presented in the DVD format. While I normally use the DVR to skip over the commercial interruptions, the transfer without the commercials is much nicer and the stories lose nothing in translation, if anything, as is the case with many programs, it is improved on the DVD versions.
While there is a story continuance from the first episode until the last, as is the norm in many programs now a days, it isn’t disruptive or prevent each episode from working as a stand alone. While I enjoy the style of programs like 24, I also get kind of tired of them. There is character development we see continue through out the series, this is especially true with the characters portrayed by Forest Whitaker, Janeane Garofalo, Matt Ryan and Michael Kelly. We see characters that are holding back information and keeping secrets. In their own idiosyncrasies we see progression and openness develop as they learn to trust and get to know those around them. Much of this comes about not just through the commitment to each other, but the reality of the horrors around them as they investigate serious crimes against individuals by sick people. The group seems to have an ability to understand those committing crimes around them but it takes some time for those skills to develop with each other. While the crimes from week to week drive the series, it is the understanding of each other that takes place over the course of the season that drives the ongoing development of character and ultimately, the overall story.
There is a concept of community and team that comes across. The closeness that develops is more than just a team building concept; it is one that resembles a family committed to each other in a sacrificial, loving way, even towards those where differences exist. Throughout the series we see the concept of family played out, whether in an episode that has young girls disappearing, or in episodes where we see young mothers abducted in the presence of their babies. There is another concept presented; the reality of evil, even to good people who appear innocent. There is a reality where many seem to think they can escape the horrors of life, yet just as we are reminded in the Bible, it rains on the just and unjust. We see that sometimes, good people do have bad things happen to them. While many want to place blame on others or on God, it is as people come together to solve the crimes, to solve the problems that we see that while bad things happen to good people, sometimes the coming together of a society of strangers out of the good for their neighbor can be overlooked. Yes bad happens, but sometimes, out of that bad, it is as if God can use that which was meant for evil to turn it around for good.
There is also the spiritual conflict Forest Whitaker's character goes through throughout the season. He is a man who values God and the spiritual concepts of the church. While there are at times conflict in his beliefs and his vocation, he recognizes how to balance those roles and often uses his faith to keep his strength on the job, as well as to help others who are having issues related to their own circumstance.
While I liked Suspect Behavior, Season 1, I think there is some time before it develops into the quality series of its predecessor. There are some first season struggles, specifically in some of the stories and some of the unlikable characters and situations. I was pleased though with the reality that the season got better from episode to episode and by the end of the season it was a pretty good. The better understanding of characters enabled better scripts and plots likely added to that reality.
I was pleased with the variety of special features on the DVD’s which ranged from various commentaries, to gag reels, deleted scenes, and a variety of documentaries and studies on CSI researchers using behavioral studies to find criminals. The benefit of watching each episode commercial free, along with the special features makes this worth owning. I am looking forward to the continuation of the series and suspect it will get better just as Criminal Minds got better. While it isn’t quite there yet, it has the cast, direction and writing to make it possible.
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