On Criminal Minds Season 14 Episode 6, “Luke,” another episode titled after a character gives us exactly the level of drama we’ve come to expect.
Criminal Minds has done a handful of episodes with titles that share the names of characters. It’s only taken about one or two for a sense of dread to sink in every time we see one.
Nobody has yet died during their “very special episode” (the show actually kills off far fewer characters than many of its counterparts,) but they’ve been shot at, arrested, and removed from the team and show.
Luke Alvez is still a relatively new character and so hasn’t gotten too much storyline yet. We have seen his initial tension with Garcia (often played for laughs), and hints of the work he did before changing FBI departments and coming to the BAU.
We’ve also seen him form a relationship with a woman named Lisa and reach out to a former partner and current best friend named Phil, paralyzed in the line of duty. They come to the forefront again in this episode.
The first few minutes are spent tugging on our heartstrings and potentially leading us into a false sense of security. Luke and Lisa are moving in together, and they and Phil are getting along great.
Even more significantly, Phil has regained the ability to walk, thanks to intense physical therapy and the support of his young dog, Lou, given to him by Luke and Penelope. Surely this should make us dread what is to come.
Still, we are given a thread of hope, too. Garcia is interested in Phil and he is interested in her. Yet Luke actively interferes with this. We’ll never get a reason why, and in addition to everything else, I can’t help being annoyed by that.
The reason, of course, is that Phil is killed by the unsub halfway through the episode. And Luke (of course) abandons all regulations to pursue him, very nearly shooting the man to death himself.
In the process, he also risks ruining his relationship with Lisa by running off against her pleas and in the face of safety for them both.
All this justifies Emily’s anger with him and the disciplinary actions she takes. Yet it doesn’t necessarily line up with past incidents of problematic behavior. We know well of Reid’s time in prison. It was an injustice against him, but one that started with rash action.
Looking further back, we see even more similarity when Hotch beat the man who’d just murdered his wife to death. It’s hard to argue his motives, but his actions still weren’t treated quite like Luke not actually killing a man.
There are other incidents as well, but my point is not that Luke shouldn’t be punished, as much as we might empathize with him. It’s that the show rarely takes the full disciplinary measures it probably should, and now they feel out of place.
Regardless, this is a solid episode. Adam Rodriguez is intense and powerful, as so many of these actors are in their featured episodes. His breakdown in the end is real and painful.
I’m not happy about Phil’s death, especially when there could be so much potential in seeing his character more, but it does serve as a reminder of how close loss can be in the BAU’s line of work.
Overall, some elements of backstory are explored very well, but the questions of continuity linger as they so often do. Focus instead on the acting—and the action—to really enjoy this episode, even as it breaks your heart.
What did you think of this episode of Criminal Minds? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS.
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