During the last episode of Criminal Minds to air, Jennifer Jareau was kidnapped and tortured by a militant former associate who wanted her access codes as part of an anti-government conspiracy. During the last episode of The Mentalist to air, a recurring character and associate of the lead was kidnapped, tortured and murdered as part of an organized campaign against the CBI. During this season of Sherlock, John Watson was kidnapped and the ground around him was set on fire as part of a larger conspiracy against the lead character. Crazy coincidence, right? Wrong. Detectives being turned into victims is the new favored plotline of TV procedurals, and it’s starting to get really old.
In order to break up the monotony of a long season and to give the network something more interesting to advertise, procedurals like to intersperse special event episodes in between the more generic ones. Sometimes that means taking the characters to a a foreign country. Sometimes that means introducing random family members, but more often than not, that means putting a major character’s life in jeopardy.
Considering most procedurals involve police officers, FBI Agents or some kind of law enforcement personnel, it’s not overly strange that a character would get shot at or even die in the line of duty; so, as viewers, it’s pretty easy to emotionally invest when these things happen. Unfortunately, there’s a big difference between catching some fire during a spur of the moment shootout and being hunted and stalked by a sociopathic criminal who has grown infatuated. I mean honestly, how often in real life does a criminal develop enough of a fascination with a police officer or entire investigative unit to hatch and execute a complicated revenge scheme? But on procedurals, it happens all the time.
Did you watch last season of Bones? In short, a computer hacker named Christopher Pelant spent the entire season brainstorming ways to ruin the lives of the people working at the Jeffersonian. He stole Hodgins and Angela’s money. He prevented Booth from marrying Brennan by making all kinds of vague threats. Instead of being a menace to society, he became a menace to them.
Should I go on? Sure, why not? The entire goddamn point of The Following involves ruining one detective’s life. The Blacklist went there earlier this season during that epic two-parter in which Red was stuck in the box. I worked really hard to try and block Crossing Lines out of my mind, but I vaguely remember shady dudes seeking vengeance against the detective with the screwed up hand. Even Brooklyn Nine-Nine recently had an episode involving a man getting out of jail and seeking vengeance against The Chief.
I get it. It’s really exciting when a main character’s life is in danger. Procedurals have been throwing up revenge episodes for decades, but the sheer number of them recently is alarming. Something needs to change. The danger needs to start coming from a more genuine place. Why can’t it come from a hostage situation that spirals out of control or from an encounter with a fleeing suspect? I’ve had my fill of the detectives themselves becoming the cases and the victims. Something tells me a ton of other viewers agree with me.