Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders has no interest in reinventing anything about the crime procedural drama or even about the Criminal Minds franchise it spun out from. It is literally as the title describes: Criminal Minds, beyond the borders of the United States. It's basically the same show, just with a new location and a mix of new personalities. That sounds like a negative, but really, it’s not.
For a procedural to work over a long period of time, it either needs to stay almost exactly the same in tone and direction or it needs to shake itself up in some fundamental way. Criminal Minds, through eleven seasons, has picked the first approach. Sure, characters have come and gone, but the crime drama hasn’t ever gotten away from providing case of the week whodunits about serial killers. Beyond Borders is an extension of that stability, and that’s why it works.
Beyond Borders likely pictures itself as a true ensemble, and it’ll probably get there long-term. For now, however, the focus is clearly on Gary Sinise. Here, he plays Jack Garrett, the leader in a serial killer-hunting team that specializes in capturing depraved sociopaths who mess with American citizens around the world. He’s got a reserved confidence about him. You can tell he’s seen a lot, but he tries to keep it together for the larger team, which is filled with personalities that are a bit more emotional.
Those characters include Clara (Alana De La Garza). She’s a clever and worldly profiler with impressive language skills and street smarts, but she’s been out of the game for awhile and is having trouble coping with how much destruction and loss there can be with the job. Beyond her, the team also features members with complicated medical knowledge (Mae), extreme athletic ability (Matthew) and computer science brilliance (Russ). Honestly, they all seem fine enough right now, but without at least a half season of character development, it’s impossible to know whether a team member will be added or removed in order to find the right chemistry, which is ultimately the single most important goal Beyond Borders needs to have.
Criminal Minds is quietly one of the most profitable and consistent shows on television. The audience and fan support is there to grow another series. Everyone involved knows another show can and should work, but its ultimate success or failure will depend on whether or not fans embrace the new team. It’s not any one character Beyond Borders needs to find. It’s that hard to quantify mix of personalities that just clicks.
I think Beyond Borders has the groundwork in place. I think this spinoff can and should work, but the first episode isn’t quite there. The personalities need a little more time to marinate, but considering it knows what it is and has brought along quality actors, there’s no reason to think it won’t get there.
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders premieres tonight on CBS at 10/9 CST. It will air on Wednesday nights moving forward.