Review: Criminal Minds – Into The Woods (US, 2011)

“Into The Woods” is an episode from Season 6, released on DVD in the UK at the end of last year. In this story a child’s body is found, first by a bear and then by a family camping along the Appalachian trail. The victim’s father is re-interviewed when the FBI team arrives.

Naturally for this show it isn’t long before a new kidnap occurs whilst the father is interviewed and the race against time takes many twists and turns before the end. Sadly the episode suffered from having one character switch roles and another leave the series nearer to the start of the season than expected.

Some viewers did question the glossing over of the reality of the abuse endured by kidnapped children with the upbeat resolution to “Mosley Lane” last season. “Into The Woods” addresses this concern by giving the audience the lowest proportion of sugar coating to date, you are left in no doubt as to the fate of the victims. The guest actors are again cast to a high standard, especially the kids once again although the aftermath at the end of the episode is again minimised, almost recycled from the last season but with fewer children and only two sets of parents. As such it only equals “Mosley Lane” with the addition of some thriller elements to increase the pace and a tweak to the ending.

It was a sharp social observation of the writers to note that the father of the first victim in this season was barred from being a liaison to the parents of the new victims even after being cleared as a suspect. This was the opposite reaction to the mother in season 5,. Hotchner’s interaction with the cold case Dad clearly reminds the audience of last season’s 10-episode buildup to episode 100 and his relationship with his own son. Whilst this isn’t scripted, that was another subtle gift to fans.

Since the storyline is allowed to fade without a complete resolution, so we will have to see if this kidnapper returns in a future episode. It’s well done and the episode divided fans as to the content at the time, but then Penn State and other real-life male child abuse cases helped to wake people up about boys being victims last year. If it took a fictional show to take sleepwalkers out of their comfort zone over the issue then the shock approach worked. Criminal Minds hardly gives you an excess of giftwrapped happy endings. In fact those are the endings that stick out as fake when compared to the many FBI Files real-life reconstruction shows and as remarked by a character, the positive outcomes are rare.

So “Into The Woods” joins “Mosley Lane” and “P911” as a quality episode with a child abuse theme, despite its faster pacing, and more than makes up for the lesser episodes of series 6.


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