Sometimes, you can’t help but feel bad for the UnSub, especially when there’s a child involved. But more often than not, that feeling is outweighed by the horror of the crimes, the choice of victims and the loved ones potentially waiting for news on a missing family member. Such is the case in Criminal Minds‘ “The Night Watch.”
The BAU travels to Detroit following a disturbing piece of street art featuring a man caught in a mousetrap, with a well-known street artist’s signature next to it. Meanwhile, Tara’s job comes between her and her fiance — and she’s forced to make a choice.
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You’ll Never Look at the Mundane the Same Way Again
The man caught in the mousetrap is Russell Pearson, a community activist who spoke out against a controversial development project but was then found to have been taking bribes from the developers, just the kind of guy Morpheus, the street artist, would oppose. However, Morpheus had never committed an act of violence before.
Morpheus first popped up in Detroit six weeks ago, and his first work of art in the city involved the car in which a homeless mother and daughter died in after locking themselves in to sleep during a heat wave. Morpheus had done two other pieces in the city, but one was taken down by a rival artist before anyone could see it. Morpheus hasn’t taken credit for Russell, but is it because he didn’t do it or because it involves murder?
On their way to Detroit, the team learns that the UnSub struck again, this time kidnapping a baby from her crib while her parents were in the house and once again, Morpheus’ signature was left at the scene. The father, Stuart, thinks that he should have seen it coming since Morpheus had vandalized a storage facility he owned downtown, and the mother, Katharine, realizes that her daughter’s favorite toy is missing. The UnSub took it.
While there’s no real pattern to the locations of Morpheus’ street art over the last eight years, the artist did seems to spend time along the coast of Florida and his work shows signs that he had some sort of formal art education. But more importantly, murder and kidnapping the baby, moves that the UnSub had to know would bring in law enforcement, shows signs that it’s personal and that it has to be part of his endgame.
Morgan does track down the rival artist who dismantled Morpheus’ work, Markus Ivy, who calls the other artist predictable, claiming that he could easily figure out where he would put his next piece of art. He even suggests that the murder and kidnapping are part of a publicity stunt, a way for Morpheus to stay relevant. Unsurprisingly, he ends up dead, part of a mobile hanging over a crib. Fortunately, the baby is not inside the crib, but her favorite toy is. However, that baby isn’t out of danger; the UnSub has a small coffin in his work space.
Is Morpheus Guilty?
It’s at this latest crime scene that Reid figures out that Morpheus isn’t responsible because the signatures at the crime scenes aren’t an exact match to the ones from his art. Someone is trying to frame the artist. One suspect is his partner; in order to stay underground as long as he has, Morpheus has to have someone helping him.
That’s where Garcia comes in, identifying the associate as Cory, who has a history of violence and fell off the face of the Earth when Morpheus showed up. He also wired money to locations that match the artist’s movements. Furthermore, Reid finds another clue: the blanket at the latest crime scene matches the blanket from Morpheus’ first piece of art in Detroit. Comparing the two shows that they’re two halves of the same blanket. How is that possible? Could Cory be the UnSub and have had access to Morpheus’ materials?
That’s when an anonymous call comes in, directing them to an address if they want to find the child. There, Hotch and Tara find a laptop set up and video chat with Morpheus, whose identity remains cloaked. The artist wants to help them find the baby and is insistent that Cory can’t be responsible. When he finds out about the blanket, it hits a nerve and that’s when the chat ends — and that conversation is also how they figure out that Morpheus is actually a woman.
As the clock hits the 30-hour mark since the baby has been taken, Cory is found, tortured and dead. They realize that the UnSub was looking for Morpheus’ whereabouts. But they still need to identify both the UnSub and Morpheus, and it turns out that those two halves of the blanket hold just the clue they need. One half of the blanket is slightly more faded and more worn out than the other, and it would have taken years to degrade like that. It was cut a long time ago. Why did Morpheus come to Detroit? She was triggered by the mother and daughter who died in the car. With that, they have Garcia look for women who lost a child between 2005-2008 on her list, and she narrows it down to Ellen Clark, who lost her three-year-old son eight years ago. He drowned in a lake, and with that, Morpheus was born. Her son’s father, William Cochran, was a teacher at the school of art and design where she audited classes, and he was fired after an altercation with another faculty member. He just so happens to be in Detroit. Yes, he’s the UnSub.
What’s the UnSub’s Plan for His Final Masterpiece?
William and Ellen each took half of the blanket as a memento for the child they lost, and he must have flipped out when he saw that she used it as part of an art piece. He set out to destroy Morpheus’ legacy, to taint it with murder, and taking the baby could be his way of reminding her of the loss of their child. Just as they worry that Ellen could be in trouble if Cory gave up her location, William finds her.
When William asks why she put their son’s blanket in her art like junk in a thrift store, Ellen tries to explain that she was honoring the homeless child who died, honoring their son. When she tells him he has to give the baby back, William suggests that their son would still be alive if she had cared as much about him, blaming her for his death and telling her that she chose to stare at her sketchpad instead of watching their child at the edge of the water, and that choice resulted in his death. Now, he’s going to give her another choice: either she dies or the baby dies.
Though Ellen refuses to make that choice, when William says he’ll kill them both, starting with the baby, she tells him to kill her, and he takes her up to the roof. She knows what he’s feeling, she insists. She couldn’t handle what happened either, so she became someone else, someone who didn’t let her little boy drown. But as much as they miss their son, they can’t bring him back. When Hotch arrives on the roof, William takes Ellen hostage and then pulls her over the ledge with him. Their bodies land right in the middle of his last piece of art: “RIP Morpheus.” It’s a sad ending for them, but it’s a happy one for Stuart and Katharine, who get their baby back safe.
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Something I had been wishing Criminal Minds would do with Tara is to show her talking to serial killers who have been locked up, and this episode delivers just that. However, it’s the time she’s spending with such inmates and the time she’s spending listening to her recordings from those sessions that’s weighing on her marriage to such an extent that when she comes home and her fiance, Doug, is waiting up for her, their home is about as tense as it can get. To him, she’s more interested in the killers who are locked up than him, and he’s had enough. He’s flying back to San Francisco the next day, and that’s pretty much it. Considering this is the first time we’ve even seen Doug, it’s hard to really care that he’s out of the picture.
In fact, the next day at work, Tara tells Rossi and Reid that she went on a diet the night before and lost 185 pounds. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a breakup described quite like that, but it’s effective. When Rossi checks in with her at the end of the case to see how she’s doing, he offers her some words of wisdom from someone who knows: he’s been there more than once, and he’s still standing. She admits that she tends to be “all in, damn the consequences,” but as he points out, that’s why she’s good at her job. She should embrace it.
When she visits the inmate from the beginning of the episode again, earlier than scheduled, he comments that he’s really the one interviewing her and asks about Doug, smiling upon learning that he left and the chance that he’s the reason, that she chose him. No, she didn’t, Tara informs him. “I chose me.”
Criminal Minds season 11 airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)