10 December 2009
Scars and Destiny
Criminal Minds impressed me yet again last night. Last season ended with a serial killer who had escaped from prison finding Hotch (the team had put him into prison in the first place) and stabbing him multiple times, but deliberately not killing him, even taking him to the hospital emergency room to be treated in time to live. When they found that he had Hayley's address, his intent became clear: his goal was to destroy Hotch by destroying all that he loved. (Hayley was Hotch's estranged wife, whom he still loved deeply, and who had custody of their young son, Jack.) So Hayley and Jack were sent into protective custody, unable to have any contact with Hotch.
So this season they've been hunting the killer while dealing with other cases, and finally the killer, in the last episode, found Hayley's FBI protection agent, tortured him, got Hayley's phone number from his phone, and left him to die after calling her and telling her that her agent and Hotch were dead, he was her new agent, and she needed to meet him at her old home so he could take her to a new safe house.
Hotch is talking to her on the phone (the killer, to further his mental torture of both of them, calls him after getting control of Hayley and Jack), and tells her to be strong, not to let the killer make her beg, and so on, then tells Jack that he needs to "help Daddy with the case," code for hiding in a trunk near Hotch's desk. Hayley holds up her courage to avoid distressing Jack into giving away or leaving his hiding place, and Hotch (along with the rest of the team, patched into his phone) hears the two gunshots that kill her. He arrives in time to save Jack, and Morgan, arriving with the team shortly after him, has to pull him off the killer as he continues to pound his face in fury and in terror -- if he stops, and the killer is not dead, he could still harm Jack.
In this week's episode, the team was called away after Hayley's funeral to a case in Nashville. Before they go, Rossi talks with Hotch about his future: will he continue with the BAU, resign, what? It seems clear that he needs to continue using his gift by "catching the bad guys," as Rossi says, but he is broken and scarred, both literally and figuratively. Rossi, without pressuring him in either direction, says to him, "Scars remind us where we've been; they don't have to dictate where we're going." Later, when Hotch indicates his feeling of helplessness before single fatherhood, Rossi says, "You need to decide what kind of father you want to be, then you'll know what to do."
The episode takes us back and forth between the team's work and Hotch as he moves into a new home, comforts his son, and tries to understand his next step. One especially poignant scene: Jack is lying on the couch watching a video taken on his recent third birthday, a time Hotch couldn't share with them because they were under protection. Hotch enters the room, watches until the video is coming to a close, then says, "Time for pjs." Jack, staring at his mother and himself blowing kisses to his daddy, says sadly, "I want to wait a little longer for Mommy."
Hotch's big decision now is whether to remain in the BAU. Jack needs him, and he needs his work. Hayley's sister has been helping with Jack and the household work, and she tells Hotch that if he chooses to stay with the Bureau, she will care for Jack when he has to be gone. "Please let me do this," she says, ". . . for Hayley." Finally, the Chief -- who has been trying to get rid of Hotch forever because his skill and ambition pose a threat to her own ambitions -- brings him an offer for retirement with full pension and benefits. She is startled when Hotch asks for time to consider instead of accepting it immediately.
When the team returns to D.C., Rossi finds Hotch at Hayley's grave. He asks, nodding to the grave, "Have you told her yet?" "Told her what?" Hotch replies. "That you aren't leaving the BAU?" "Oh, I don't need to tell her that," Hotch says; "she already knows."
The voice-over at the end is from Emerson: "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." Scarred and broken people still have the opportunity and the responsibility to live well, to use their gifts in service.