I don’t know about other Criminal Minds fans, but when I first heard about the potential new spin-off, my mind immediately went to Suspect Behavior. That was the franchise’s attempt at a spin-off starring Forest Whitaker, Janeane Garofalo and Matt Ryan, and it only lasted one season of 13 episodes and ended with a cliffhanger. I didn’t even care about what could have happened next.
Since I’ve been burned before by Criminal Minds and a spin-off, I went into the “Beyond Borders” episode with a whole lot of trepidation, but also kept the fact that this is a new team and a different situation in mind. And you know what? Overall, it worked in more ways than it didn’t.
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It Has a Good Title
Right off the bat, the title works. It’s straightforward, it says what it’s about and it’s makes sense. Part of me still wishes Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior had a different title.
It Has a Strong (Initial) Cast
You’ve got Gary Sinise, Anna Gunn, Daniel Henney and Tyler James Williams. Enough said. You can build off that group easily enough for a series.
It’s Still the Same Criminal Minds Formula
Like I stated in my recap, “Beyond Borders” has the same feel to it as (nearly) every other episode of the CBS drama. It shows how the UnSub takes his victims and what he does to them and how the FBI teams (in this case) look over the case and the abduction site, present a profile and identify the UnSub and solve the case. The only difference is that it’s set on an international stage. Yes, it’s likely that some of that could change if Beyond Borders goes to series since it won’t always be a serial killer the team is dealing with, but as a way to introduce this team, it works.
It Still Has That “Team” Feel
There was something about the Suspect Behavior team that just didn’t feel like a team in the way that the BAU does (despite several cast changes over the years), but that’s not the case with the International Unit. While not much time is spent on developing these characters, I do get the feeling that they at least like working with each other and are still a team in a way it never did with Suspect Behavior.
Along those lines, it’s also clear that these two teams, at the very least, have met before and know one another enough to ask about one another’s families and exchange warm greetings outside the jet. It doesn’t seem forced to have Rossi and Jack, two obvious veterans of the job, working together, nor to have Hotch and Lily in the field together, taking a moment to discuss her own family’s case. On the other hand, it did when “The Fight” (which introduced the Red Cell team) paired up Prentiss and Mick.
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The International Aspect Adds New Elements
Because Jack’s team handles cases involving Americans abroad, they have to deal with things that aren’t even on the BAU’s radar. While the BAU does have to sometimes smooth things over with local law enforcement, the International Unit has to talk to ambassadors and coordinate with embassy officers, as well as know what to expect from the local (and not so local, as seen by Jack knowing a Dutch gesture) culture. It’s also not necessarily so easy for them to identify their UnSub, as Rossi learns when Jack shoots down his idea about going through Visas because Americans don’t need Visas in Barbados and the team finds out that some countries may still issue passports to certain kinds of people.
That’s also where Lily’s law expertise comes in handy, and right off the bat, when she’s introduced, she’s talking international law and asking for thoughts on an anti-kidnapping initiative. When she learns they have a case, she asks for the legal statutes and then gets on the phone with the ambassador.
The Tech Expert Doesn’t Just Sit Behind Computers
With the rest of the team overseas, it falls on Monty to talk to family members that are still stateside, something that surprises Garcia. She thought that he just did what she does, only to find out that he has to be the one to sometimes offer false hope. In this case, that means telling Greg’s parents that their son being a fighter is a good thing, rather than admitting that it could very well get him killed.
Also, as much as I love Garcia, it hurt Suspect Behavior to have her be their tech expert because it seemed like they were trying to recreate the relationship she has with Hotch’s team with this new team in a way that just wasn’t there. Having the International Unit have its own tech guru is a big plus in my book.
It Introduced Future Storylines
As obvious as it is that Lily’s brother’s case is one that will undoubtedly come up in the future, should this go to series, at least it’s not done in a way that feels like it’s being shoved in the audience’s face, just like having JJ, Morgan and Matt catch up quickly on their personal lives outside the jet makes sense. Pairing up Hotch and Lily allows them the opportunity to quickly run through Lily’s brother’s problem — he went to Thailand and ended up a patsy — and have Hotch offer his help for what could be a future crossover should he find something by looking at it with fresh eyes.
The same can maybe be said for Jack’s son, as he reveals to Rossi when they’re catching up back in Rossi’s office that his son is in the academy. While Jack has only ever wanted to protect his children from what he sees every day, his son is now going to be in the line of fire. Should this go to series and should it last long enough, I expect this to factor into at least one episode.
Show More about Matt Professionally
Matt is clearly the Morgan of the team. He’s the Special Ops agent with contacts just a phone call away to get him information, but beyond that, we only really see him at work with JJ and Morgan at the airport and we don’t really see him as the muscle of the team. Instead, Matt being a family man seems to be more established; he has four kids under the age of 3 at home, and he’s not in the office when the teams get the case because he’s still on his way in. (I also suspect that, given Criminal Minds‘ history with the team’s families, Matt’s family could end up in danger at some point.)
Cases Can’t Be Wrapped up in a Bow so Neatly All the Time
I know that this one has to be a success — why would you want to watch a team after seeing them fail (though they did fail, like the BAU did, in the past to catch this UnSub) the first time you see them in action? — but in the future, not all cases can end like this one. It’s a bit too easy for them to not only stop the UnSub but also to find the boy he threw overboard.
The Team Should Be Expanded
While at least for now, the team is small and has clearly been able to get the job done, watching the three in the field work with Hotch, Rossi, Morgan and JJ in Barbados just seems to show that they could use more manpower in the field. I would expect at least one new team member should Beyond Borders go to series.
Should CBS Pick up Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders?
For now, I’m going to say yes, but perhaps for a 13-episode season rather than a 22-24 episode one. The cast is strong enough to maintain its own show, the material is there for multiple episodes and cases week after week and the previous attempt at a spin-off at least showed that there is a desire to see the world of Criminal Minds expanded. The best bet might be to give it a try with a first season of 13 episodes (with the potential for more, should it be successful) to see how this team works without the BAU joining them on a case. And while the potential for crossovers is so easily there, steering clear of doing so early on is a good idea.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
(Images courtesy of CBS)