The Internet is a dangerous place, as Criminal Minds reminds everyone with this week’s episode, “Hashtag.” Once something is out there, it’s out there forever, and the more risquÃ© the post, the more likes, retweets and followers it and a person can get. What better way to try to gain fame than to use that?
I can’t help but think of Supernatural‘s “Thinman” from last season while watching this episode. One person makes up a legend, and someone else takes that legend and twists it and uses it to kill. In this day and age, it’s so easy to put anything online and think that there won’t be any consequences. However, “Hashtag” goes to the extreme and shows that is not the case. As Kate puts it, “Don’t people understand the dangers of putting their lives out there like that for everyone to see?”
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Self-absorbed Tara puts a risquÃ© selfie online, even as her friend Riley argues that her father could see it. She doesn’t care because then he’d tell his coworkers and they’d follow her. All she cares about is getting more followers. (Apparently 200,000 followers aren’t enough for her.) “I can’t help my selfie,” she actually declares, and I can’t help but roll my eyes. On their way out of the mall, a mall worker, Charles, who was watching her on the security cameras in the dressing room, bumps into her and tells her he follows her on every single social networking site she’s on, and she just sees it as an opportunity for more followers, so she takes a selfie with him and tells him to tag her.
Later that night, she’s so focused on staring at herself in the mirror that the UnSub comes up behind her and smashes her head forward into the mirror before killing her and using her own hand to take her selfie. He posts it with “Fear me. #Selfie.” The media dubs him the “selfie killer.”
The BAU brings in Charles for questioning after he posted their selfie and photos of Tara from the security cameras online, but he insists they were friends (he obviously needs a lesson in online “friends” versus actual, real-life “friends”) and has an alibi. Just ask his dog, Trixie.
Her friend Riley tells them that “Tara was all about Tara,” but he’s also the one who clues them in on the “Mirror Man” legend, which is also why he took down all of his selfies. The UnSub is photoshopping the Mirror Man (a distorted Mark Twain) onto selfies, and legend is, if you get a photo like that, you’re on the killer’s hit list.
They suggest that the next victim could be connected to Tara, and he is. Alexander also has a big following and knew her. The UnSub nails him while he’s waiting to pick up his girlfriend from work at the mall and takes the selfie, posting this one with the message, “Fear me. #MirrorMan.” Once on scene, Morgan notices that the UnSub nailed him through the back of the car seat in the pattern of a hashtag. Why the new murder weapon? Kate suggests that he planned to use the nail gun on Tara, but couldn’t pass up the mirror.
With that, it’s time to deliver the profile. Their unsub is a narcissistic sadist, in his late 30s or early 40s, and he’s trying to make a name for himself by building up the Internet legend, Mirror Man. It’s a form of ostension — doing the acts described in a story to bring them to life — and they’ve seen it before, with the poisoning of Halloween candy and Slender Man. In one vision of Mirror Man, he shows you your reflection, and in another, he spears you with razor-sharp fingernails, hence the mirror and nail gun. He was likely abandoned in his early childhood.
The UnSub looks at what’s being said about him online, and he stumbles across one guy saying in a video, “Fear this, mirror bitch.” The UnSub gets angry, throws his computer and goes and kills him. This time, he mutilates his face, and when Garcia digs into the victim’s online presence, she finds the video. I don’t understand why he would taunt a killer who is posting photos of his victims online. I really don’t. It’s almost like saying, “come kill me.” This is why you should always think before posting something online. Because the UnSub killed Dan, however, they realize that they’re looking for a teenager, and this is his version of throwing a tantrum.
Garcia searches the mall employee records for a male teenager who wasn’t working the night of the murders and find Connor Holt, who posts a lot about Mirror Man, starting a year ago. He works at a hardware store, has a juvie record and went to the same high school as Dan. It seems almost too good to be true — and it is. Connor’s a writer, and he created Mirror Man because he wanted to make a new urban legend, a modern-day Boogeyman because no one unplugs these days. He doesn’t know how to use Photoshop and thinks his selfie wasn’t marked because the killer wants him to keep telling his story.
Connor may be innocent, but he’s their best chance at identifying their UnSub. They’re looking for someone younger who looks up to him and may have helped him develop the legend. He recently suffered abandonment or lost someone close. Connor tells them about William (Teen Wolf‘s young Derek is a serial killer!), whose parents died in a car accident last year, and he’s been messed up ever since. That was his trigger. Connor wonders if it’s his fault, but Morgan assures him it’s not. “He looked up to you when there was no one else to look up to,” the profiler explains. “Sometimes people’s wires just get crossed up, Connor. It’s tragic, but it happens.”
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When Morgan, JJ and Kate find William, he takes a woman hostage with his nail gun. He wants to see Connor, and he doesn’t believe them when they tell him that he’s back at the office. He doesn’t think he’s going to get out of it, and they’re at least on their way to trying to talk him down when a news van shows up and blows everything. They give William the attention he wants, and when he shoots his hostage, Morgan is forced to shoot him.
Morgan calls Savannah in the ambulance, and she’s waiting at the hospital when they get there. Hotch joins Morgan and JJ in the waiting room and assures Morgan that he did the right thing. Yes, he shot a kid on national television, but if he hadn’t, the hostage would be dead, not in surgery. It was a clean shot. Fortunately, both the hostage and William are going to make it.
However, William is clearly going to need a lot of help. When Connor goes in to see him, William tells him that the story will be famous. They’ll live forever. Sure, he’s going to jail, but he doesn’t think it’ll be for that long. “Kids do the craziest of things, right?” William then asks to see Connor’s phone. He needs to take a selfie. Connor and Morgan’s reactions say it all. Wow. That kid needs some serious help. And time away from technology.
It’s a good thing that Morgan’s girlfriend has a job that keeps her just as busy as his does, because when it comes to taking a vacation, she doesn’t get mad when they don’t go. Instead, she’s a “realist” and hasn’t even packed the day before because she knows how this goes. He promises that they’ll find their own little paradise, but she knows better. She’s only semi-right.
Garcia knocks some sense into him and tells her that he owes Savannah something spectacular, but instead of planning something big, commit to something he can make happen. A little gesture can go a long way. “Do something to delight her,” she advises, and he does just that when he brings her to a house he’s been restoring and calls it their “permanent vacation.” It’s their “fortress of solitude,” just for them, because living next door isn’t working for him anymore. It’s a really sweet gesture, one they don’t have time to celebrate because both of them get called into work.
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And again, there is nothing about that black market shown at the end of the premiere. In an episode about an UnSub using the Internet, a case with at least that small commonality of the Internet, I expected at least something. Alas, my hopes did not become a reality.
Criminal Minds season 10 airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)