****WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*** Criminal Minds 10×21 – MR. SCRATCH

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WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED!?

For 40 minutes, this was what was going through my head.

As a Criminal Minds fan since season 2, there have been times when it has surpassed my expectations and times when my heart really wasn’t in it. For two years – after season 7 (I didn’t watch season 8 and 9 until this year) – I didn’t watch any new episodes because I had some bad feelings after season 7 (which have since been rectified when I watched all 9 seasons back to back.) When there’s a show where the cast, characters and crew have such strong chemistry and when the main aim of the show is to scare, there are many expectations to live up to. Some notable mentions of episodes and scenes that have been worth waiting 10 years for:

      • Karaoke Scene
    • Season 9 Finale
    • Season 8 Finale
    • Hotch and Reid’s Fist bump
    • Beginning of Boxed In

    and…

      • … Mr. Scratch.

Yes ‘Mr. Scratch’ is the episode I have been waiting 10 years for. It has everything: horror, profiling and peril (not to mention a major mind fuck!) If you haven’t watched the episode, go do so now, before reading on!

SYNOPSIS

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Three similar crimes are committed by three separate people with but with two major similarities: the smell of burning sage and a creepy monster called ‘Mr. Scratch’ attacking them. Three minutes into the episode, I, being the wuss (and horror lover) that I am, had to hold my hand up to my face for the rest of the episode – this guy looked and sounded terrifying (thanks, MGG).

Cut to the team in the bullpen as Reid announces that they were drugged with 2 substances: one drug ‘to put you into a waking dream’ and the other ”in high doses, makes you completely suggestable. (Which leads to the team sharing their earliest fears – Forget about it)

Hotch comes up with the bright idea to burn sage around the catatonic victim: IT WORKS! But then shit really starts to get weird. I seriously expected some sort of exorcism-esque, demonic possession scene.

We get a profile and Hotch decides to that he’ll go to a potential victims house. Alone. Which is always a smart idea for our Knights. It’s a set up, and Hotch gets drugged, taunted– Oh, and did I mention Hotch gets gassed? In the eyes? And throws water on himself? He puts up a valiant fight, but alas it’s not enough.

So the team shows up; we get put through EMOTIONAL HELL!

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SAY IT AIN’T SO!

It ain’t so! It was all just an hallucination to find out Hotch’s fear. As the team get ready to enter the house, he tells Hotch the it will be him who will enter the house and to shoot. But Hotch fights through and turns the gun on the unsub, who later surrenders himself, saying that he won, which super bothers Hotch and leaves us wondering what else did he do and what else did Hotch see??

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Not only was this episode a classic horror but it also got down to what Criminal Minds is really all about – getting inside the Criminal Mind – and completely turned it around on itself i.e the UnSub getting into Hotch’s head.

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Prior to the episode airing, Matthew Gray Gubler, the episode’s director (bringing with him his distinct aesthetic) and Breen Fraiser, the episode writer delivered a video describing the 5 types of people who should not watch this episode

1. If you have a heart condition – agreed. From the go, my heart was pounding with anticipation, fear and excitement.

2. If you’re pregnant – just get some mufflers and put them on your belly, JJ-style.

3. If you need to pee and can’t hold it in – literally, the second I sat down I needed to go, but I needed to hold it in more.

4. If you don’t have a blanket – I had a blanket but I opted to use my hand instead because I can control what I could and couldn’t see.

5. If you love the team. Bit of a catch-22, eh?

FUCK YOU, GUBLER! If I had gone into this episode without seeing a promo, I would have been a) crying or b) hyperventilating. Luckily, I had and I wasn’t but my reaction was one of ‘What The Fuck?’*

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I LOVED the character of Mr. Scratch himself. He was so well done. The monster aspect was totally Gubler style (check out his art work). We never get a clear definitive idea of what the monster actually looks like – sightings are conflicting. but that added to the horror. And then we get Peter at the end. As he torments Hotch, he is either partially or completely in shadows until he seems to have finally defeated Hotch*.

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And then there’s Hotch. Oh, Hotch! (Be still my beating heart.) Thomas Gibson delivered flawlessly on so many levels. We get the defeated, broken man who hallucinated his team – his surrogate family – being killed and him helplessly watching (Son of a bitch) and when Hotch cries, we cry! The final scenes with Hotch and Rossi were excellent – I just hope that we get to see some Hotch fallout before the end of the season.
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And then – OH! and then – we FINALLY saw a semi-evil side/dark side to Hotch. How wonderful would it be to see this side of him again, unjustifiably, almost jeopardising a case? Thomas Gibson is one of THE BEST – if not THE BEST, and I know it’s clichéd but, um, 100 and Route 99, anyone? – and COMPLETELY underrated actors, and always gives his all in a performance and would carry the fallout so far, so effortlessly, given the chance.

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Dark; gothic; German expressionism. While I was watching Mr. Scratch, the best way I could describe it was being the love child of Edgar Allen Poe and German expressionist films, such as Nosferatu (Which Gubler reference in an interview). The two scenes that struck me most in terms of edition, style and haunting were:

1. In the interrogation room when Hotch and Rossi are burning Sage and the catatonic victim starts clawing at her face and the lights start flickering and eventually cut out as the scene cuts from interrogation room to Garcia’s lair to the bullpen, and then the BAU is romantically lit.

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2. Hands down the best scene in the episode, when Hotch and the UnSub are having the back and forth before the team arrive. I love how the UnSub is initially completely shadowed out, leaving viewers wondering what he looks like (I was imagining something like the red faced demon from Insidious.) And then we get to see the Darker Side of Hotch. And both men are partially shown in the dark. Maybe I’m picking up on something that isn’t there, but that to me symbolised how anyone is capable of doing atrocities, even under the influence, even keepers of the peace and order.

I so, so hope that the rest of the season delivers goodies as this episode did and I hope we can see some repercussions for Hotch and find out more about what he saw and what happened.

*Additional Note: Why was Hotch able to overpower the suggestion? One theory could be that there was an element missing from the gassing.  Another one could be that it corelates to the fourth victim, the father who killed himself instead of killing his child.  Hotch sees himself as a father to his team and couldn’t bring himself to kill them and, thus, turned the gun on the UnSub

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