The credits rolled. His usual, impassive expression betrayed by the hint of distaste turning down the corners of his mouth, Hotch switched off the television and turned to the rest of the team. "Thoughts?"
Morgan spoke first, his voice thick with disapproval. "What was with that negotiation at the end? Sending an agent into the convenience store without any kind of cover? Ignoring the dynamics of the unsub couple in relation to their child hostage?" He shook his head. "That kind of reckless disregard for reality suggests laziness in the writers' room."
"Not for the first time, either," Hotch said. "For example, the flagrant contempt for legal procedure evidenced in 6.11, when the team crashed their suspect's party without just cause and bullied him into a confession that wouldn't be admissible in court."
Prentiss nodded, rolling her eyes at the reminder. "It's like they're more concerned with increasing the melodrama than with figuring out how to unfold events in an even vaguely rational manner. Like they're assuming stupidity of their audience--or at least taking for granted their willingness to suspend huge amounts of disbelief."
Reid's fingers tapped absently on the tabletop, his gaze still fixed on the now-dark TV screen. "While the depiction of the couple throughout this episode was reminiscent of the central duo in the film Natural Born Killers, the overkill of the shooting at the end was clearly designed to evoke the deaths of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow."
Garcia, scribbling notes with a pen topped with pale purple fluff that twitched with each letter, muttered, "Derivative much?"
"They most likely considered it an homage," Reid said.
Morgan shrugged. "A copycat's a copycat."
Reid tilted his head, conceding the point.
Flicking through the still images archived on her iPad, Prentiss observed, "The camera's gratuitous--even lurid--fixation on the unsub's body speaks to pure objectification."
"Only the female unsub's body," Hotch pointed out. "Despite the emphasis placed on the couple's conflation of sex and violence, and the characters' similar psychologies and formative backstories, the male unsub's body was never presented as a sex object."
"Because in popular entertainment, violence is codified as appropriately male behaviour," Morgan said, "whereas women behaving violently is viewed as transgressive, and therefore titillating. Violence against women even moreso." He glanced around the table. "We all saw the scene outside the AA meeting. That was classic sexuality-as-threat, both to Sydney and the guy who 'got fresh' with her."
Rossi nodded. "The depiction of the female unsub as a violently depraved sex kitten was designed to get somebody off."
"What's interesting about her omnipresent eroticisation is the fact that the character's formative childhood experience was one of sexual victimisation." Reid leaned forward, warming to his subject even as his tone remained clinical. "She may be an adult now, but nevertheless, such overt sexualisation of her character--while repeatedly framing both her violent and sex-kittenish behaviours as the result of her molestation--makes that kind of objectification extremely problematic."
"The show is decompensating," Morgan said. "They need the validation of a bigger audience, so they're going to greater and greater extremes--regardless of logic or propriety--in an attempt to increase their ratings."
"They don't realise that every line they cross in that attempt only takes them farther away from their initial success." Prentiss frowned. "As they resort more and more to the cliched and misogynistic tropes of common proceduralism, the people who once championed the show as realistic, thoughtful, and respectful of women can't help but be turned off."
"Chatter from the blogosphere suggests that no one's very happy with this season," Garcia agreed, tapping at her screen to send supporting documentation from her iPad to the rest of the team's. "Most fans cite increased sensationalism and decreased focus on the central characters as reasons for the show's deterioration."
"Makes sense." Rossi gestured at the TV. "This show is supposed to be about an elite team of FBI profilers who analyze the country's most twisted criminal minds. 'Elite' indicates the involvement of high degrees of intelligence and skill; that the characters work for the FBI leads you to expect consummate professionalism; and that their job involves psychological analysis suggests a commitment to narratives based in a certain amount of thought and reason. And yet this week, anyone tuning in got little more than tits and ass and a double-digit body count."
"Which is a shame," Reid said, "because the actors playing the unsubs are both highly skilled, and could've done wonders with more nuanced material."
"Not just the guest cast," Prentiss added. "Everybody on that screen could work with more than what they're getting."
Hotch leaned back in his chair, skimming his notes. "Lacklustre writing, unsubtle presentation, disorganisation, pandering, derivation, exploitation, and grievous talent wastage. Add in the loss of the show's main characters--both physical absences and in the sense that, in recent episodes, the characterisation of the central cast has suffered neglect..." He looked up, the seriousness of his conclusion etched in every angle of his face. "We're looking at the devolution of this programme."
Garcia raised a sardonic eyebrow. "And judging by the ratings, we're some of the only ones who are."