Crazy things can happen during full moons, as this episode of Criminal Minds shows, when the BAU heads to New York to investigate gruesome murders in Central Park. But figuring out what’s going on (because despite looking like wounds inflicted by a large animal, they can’t be looking for a furry UnSub) means uncovering a tragic moment from a family’s past.
“Bad Moon on the Rise” also sees Luke hit it off with a blind date, or so he thinks. However, there’s a bit of miscommunication when he tells her he doesn’t have kids but Garcia, upon finding him to alert him about a case, comments that he needs a sitter for his girl and Lisa thinks he was lying to her. Once he explains that Garcia meant for his dog, the two are on track for another date and that one seems to go well.
There’s No Such Thing as a Werewolf … Right?
The NYPD asks for help after two men are found, disemboweled, throats torn out. One was a jogger with a squeaky-clean life (but jogging at night is a high-risk behavior for anyone) while the other was a member of a violent gang. Both men (and the third victim, a mugger whose body is discovered while the team’s en route) were killed during a full moon, and Reid cites informal studies that show an increase in erratic behavior those nights.
Because of the jogger’s clean life, they rule out the UnSub being a moral enforcer. He could be some sort of territorial vigilante, feeling like the park is his home and he’s protecting it. He may view park-goers as trespassers who need to be punished.
The ME reports that the fatal bite marks on the victims appear to have been made by teeth belonging to a dog. And she’s right to say “appear” because it turns out that the saliva she sends out to be tested from the bite wounds is human. Not only that, but drugs are also found in the saliva. Could the UnSub be suffering from a drug-induced psychosis?
Tara suggests that he thinks he’s a werewolf, suffering from clinical lycanthropy, a rare but recognized psychiatric syndrome. He could have made his own mouth piece to mimic a dog. That would suggest he’s organized since a psychotic killer wouldn’t. Could inducing the delusion provide some sort of escape for the UnSub?
Cops find a teenager digging through a trashcan in the park, wearing a bloody jacket belonging to the mugger, but while Chad says he killed him, it’s a false confession. He’s trying to get off the streets and away from his group home thinking that prison is a better option for him.
Another victim (a hot dog vendor) is found, and the UnSub’s brutality is escalating; he’s nearly decapitated. He’s showing no mercy to his victims, but why didn’t he kill the teen sleeping on a bench?
Once Chad’s sober, J.J. and Luke help him remember what happened the night before. He was sleeping on the park bench when a man walked over and put the coat on him and said, “You need to stay warm.” That act of kindness was more than Chad seems to have ever received from a foster family, and rather than even think about getting into a safer living situation, the teen’s just looking forward to turning 18 and getting out of there.
With that, it’s time to deliver the profile. The UnSub is suffering from clinical lycanthropy, which has mental preconditions, like schizophrenia, drug-induced psychosis and severe depression. He could be facing a major stressor in his life and coping with drugs. His human side is struggling to keep the violent animal in him in check, but he will likely suffer a violent break and keep killing.
Can They Get Through to the UnSub’s Human Side Before It’s Too Late?
They’re right about the major stressor; the UnSub meets with his ex in the park, trying to reconcile, insisting he can be the man she needs him to be, but she tells him they both need to move on. Unsurprisingly, he strikes again.
This time, he kills a woman a few blocks from the park. She is found with her pinky and ring finger bitten off her left hand. This should be expected after seeing him with his ex, that’s because he took her engagement ring.
Putting his coat over Chad was an act of a protector, not a predator. Wolves are very social, live in packs, mate for life, and they fiercely protect their families. Could the UnSub have failed to protect a family member in the park and that has transformed him from protector to vigilante? Could he have thought the jogger was fleeing a crime scene? Seen the vendor fighting with an unlicensed vendor earlier in the day?
It looks like they’re right. Garcia discovers that two years ago, that month, the McCord family was walking through the park when a mugger confronted them. The 15-year-old-son intervened, was shot and died in his mother’s arms. The father, Mitchell, is the UnSub, and he appears to be self-medicating with the drugs. He also works in a dental lab, explaining where he got the mouthpiece he uses on his victims.
When Prentiss and Rossi head to his home address, however, they only find his ex. Mitchell moved out. She reveals that she filed for divorce last month, and he kept putting off signing the papers. The night their son died, Mitchell froze, and she admits she said terrible things to him, that a real man would’ve protected his family, that he should’ve died instead. She wanted him to hurt as much as she did, but she knows it wasn’t fair because he loved Bryce too.
Mitchell comes across Chad in the park, but he sees his own son and grabs him when the teen tries to run upon realizing who he is.
He feels guilty for not fighting back when his son was killed, which led to him spiraling into a deep depression. Adele asking for a divorce was his trigger. Upon finding out that he was spotted dragging Chad, they realize he’s transferred his need to protect his son to the teen. He’ll take him somewhere safe where he can defend, like a wolf’s den.
Prentiss comes up with an idea, and they bring Adele with them when they find Mitchell. Luke coaches her through talking to her ex, through telling him that she was wrong to say what she did, that he’s brave and he was a great father. Bryce wouldn’t want him to do this, she tells him, and Mitchell remembers walking in the park with his family and realizes what he’s done. He lets Chad go and surrenders.
What did you think of the case? Did you feel at all for Mitchell?
Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of CBS)