Criminal Minds: Evolution Season 2 Is Wicked, Gruesome, and Plagued by Familiar Issues

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Criminal Minds: Evolution Season 2 Is Wicked, Gruesome, and Plagued by Familiar Issues

At long last, Criminal Minds: Evolution Season 2 (or Criminal Minds Season 17, depending who you ask) is upon us. After fighting hard to identify and put the world’s most notorious and elusive serial killer, Elias Voit (Zach Gilford), behind bars throughout the entire previous season, our beloved BAU team—Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster), Jennifer “JJ” Jareau (A.J. Cook), Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler), Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness), Luke Alvez (Adam Rodriguez), and David Rossi (Joe Mantegna)—has their work cut out for them as they dig into the mysterious “Gold Star” and why it elicited such a strong reaction from some of the bureau’s top brass. Having viewed the first two episodes of the season, this will be a wild ride, promising many unforeseen consequences for the team moving forward.

Picking up just two weeks after Voit was escorted into an empty floor and greeted by a mystery figure, the team is haunted by what they went through to capture Voit, especially Prentiss and Rossi. Prentiss is desperate to uncover the truth about what led to Deputy Director Bailey (Nicholas D’Agosto) being killed, uncovering a grand secret that the government is keeping. Meanwhile, after nearly dying at Voit’s hands himself, Rossi is rather literally haunted by visions of Voit that are disturbing his everyday life. And, for the whole team, things begin to come into play early on that heighten their already volatile emotions about the situation at hand.

It’s hard to judge the entire season based on two episodes alone, but quite a bit happens that tees up a season with the potential to be even more wicked and gruesome than the first season (which already saw things become substantially more twisted and dark than the series was on CBS). The case that starts the season off is horrific in the classic Criminal Minds way, while making full use of the freedoms that accompany moving from network television to a streaming service.

Plus, the season begins with some much-needed team bonding as they gather to celebrate Garcia’s birthday (minus one team member), which is always a delight to watch—and fingers crossed there will be more moments like this to provide some levity due to the extremely heavy story in play.

As difficult as many of their cases have been throughout the series’ 16-season run, this “Gold Star” story might even prove to be the team’s toughest challenge ever, particularly as they find themselves forced to work with Voit to uncover the truth and save lives. This path with Voit is testing our profilers in a slightly interesting way, showcasing their savvy and clever mental skills in a new light. But, it’s clear Voit has overstayed his welcome. 

As talented as Gilford is, keeping him around feels somewhat forced. Voit’s story fully played out and, let’s face it, became quite burdensome well before the end of last season. There’s nothing new to do with Voit—except allow him to continue taunting the team—nor is he a character interesting enough to be the serial killer that this show breaks all of the established rules for. This show was never intended to focus so heavily on a single serial killer, which has become painfully obvious. (As if we didn’t already know this fact from the season-long killers that popped up sporadically over the 22-episode seasons to torment and evade the team). 

It was interesting for maybe four episodes last season, as it allowed the show to go somewhere it never had before with a serial killer and explore his life as thoroughly as the team’s respective lives. But the realization quickly set in that it’s not as much fun to watch someone so utterly terrible escape their crimes, elude the team, and continue hurting people (when that’s happening quite enough in the real world) in every single episode. Ultimately, Voit’s continued presence and prominence prevents the show from fully exploring the “Gold Star” mystery and taking that to the next level.

However, the biggest question going into this season is: can the series successfully continue like this? Though just two episodes in, I don’t think it’s likely. Not only is Criminal Minds: Evolution dragging out Voit’s story unnecessarily, but the same is being done with Tyler (Ryan-James Hatanaka). Despite his wrongdoings and earnest missteps, plus his forbidden romance with Garcia, Tyler is appointed to a consultant role in the BAU to assist them in discovering the truth about Gold Star. As with Voit, though not nearly as bad, his presence isn’t adding anything and is only taking time away from the long-standing characters (like Luke and Tara) that aren’t getting enough focus as it is.

Additionally, this season continues to feel a bit messy and disjointed with too many ongoing stories constantly splitting the team up. While the premiere episode finally (and only temporarily) showcases the return of the entire team working together, the second quickly returns to the revival’s form. Two members are focused on solving a case, two more are working on another thing, and the others are left to explore yet another, disconnected task. There’s simply too much going on, and the team doesn’t really feel like a team.

Lastly, as we discussed during the previous season, the intense focus on bureaucracy is holding the show back. We’re 17 seasons in with these characters who have solved hundreds, if not thousands, of cases. Yet, their department is at risk of being shut down and their skills are constantly doubted and undervalued? For those who were hoping the series would shy away from this after the team proved themselves yet again by capturing Voit, it is even worse with the FBI Director himself now in the picture and threatening to disband this team in the blink of an eye. Considering similar stories came up repeatedly during the original run, can’t we move on and do something new? Isn’t that the whole point of the fancy new title?

As a longtime and devoted fan of the show, it’s hard to reckon with what the revival has become. It’s not nearly as strong as it could and should be. Given that the series ran successfully for 15 seasons on CBS with only slight changes to the formula over time, why is this revival trying to fix what wasn’t broken? Unfortunately, the glaring issues from the revival’s first season remain and don’t seem to have been improved in the slightest. 

While there’s potential for the Gold Star story—which is already much more interesting than Voit’s—it remains to be seen if that is enough to cover up the outstanding issues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying this season for what it is, but the first two episodes definitely tempered my expectations about what it might achieve.

Criminal Minds: Evolution Season 2 premieres Thursday, June 6th on Paramount+. 

Jay Snow is a freelance writer. He has published many places on the internet. For more of his thoughts on television and to see his other work (or to simply watch him gush again and again over his love for the original Charmed) follow him @snowyjay.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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