13 September 2016 | TheLittleSongbird
Really not one of the show's best episodes, not a complete train-wreck either
"Derailed" has proved to be a very divisive episode of 'Criminal Minds'. Some really enjoy it, others dislike it intensely. Personally am somewhere in the middle.
It is not one of the best episodes of the show, and there are far stronger ones in Season 1. "The Fox", "Riding the Lightning" and "The Fisher King Part 1" are notable examples. But the worst episode of Season 1? No. One of the weaker ones, but by far the worst episode of the season is "Machismo", which also ranks down there towards the bottom.
Where "Derailed" mainly falls down is in the very flawed story execution. There are good things about the story here. There is tension and suspense, the episode showcases Reid's character wonderfully, the ending is poignant, Morgan and Garcia do shine when her initially chirpy demeanour changes drastically after hearing what has happened, Gideon is also interesting, the unsub is developed well and Morgan's developing chemistry with Reid is hard to resist.
On the other hand, "Derailed" is also slow and predictable, and also contrived in places. It can be lazy when it comes to logic, it is not easy to feel sympathy for Elle because she is pretty cold and egotistical here (considering that the episode centres mainly around her that is a big problem) and the other hostages are nowhere near as interesting as they should be with too many of their subplots unresolved and pretty wasted actually (in a way they were necessary but they were executed in a cheesy and underdeveloped fashion).
Supporting cast are very much inconsistent. Chris Bauer does an excellent job with a very old-hat kind of role, the paranoid schizophrenic is hardly original territory for 'Criminal Minds' or any crime-mystery show in general, but Bauer does bring tension and complexity to the role. Jeff Kober is indeed brilliant as Leo as well. Of the hostages, Susan Gibney comes off best and Kevin Cristaldi tries his best with an incompletely written and pretty nonsensical character if a little bland. However, Anil Raman is awful and incredibly irritating as a character that adds very little.
When it comes to the BAU, too many of the BAU are underused especially Morgan, Garcia and JJ (who barely does anything, at least Morgan and Garcia have that scene), and again Lola Glaudini does fail to inject much personality or warmth as Elle. However, Reid plays the most interesting character in the whole episode and Matthew Gray Gubler is truly exceptional. Mandy Patinkin also performs with authority and intensity. It can be admitted though that it is very clear how much the team care for one another, which is truly adorable and affecting.
The episode is also very well made and atmospherically scored. There is evidence of taut and suspenseful writing, though also instances of it being disjointed and incomplete.
All in all, not a train-wreck but there are definitely much better episodes in Season 1, let alone in 'Criminal Minds' history. 6/10 Bethany Cox