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Criminal Minds: Angels in the Architecture 
6th-Mar-2007 02:53 pm
writing: glass cat

truepenny: In the recent Criminal Minds two-parter, "The Big Game" (2.14) and "Revelations" (2.15), the BAU comes up against an unsub with three distinct personalities: Tobias, Charles (his dead father), and the angel Raphael. Two of these three personalities are homicidal; one, at least, is insane. All three are steeped in the Bible, and the language of the Bible. It's not an accident that the website on which the unsub(s) post videos of their victims is tobit.net--pointing us to the Book of Tobit, in which the archangel Raphael helps Tobias save Tobias's father, the eponymous Tobit.

Tobias the unsub is trying to map the book of Tobit onto his life (that's where he gets the thing about burning fish hearts and livers to ward off evil), but he can't, because Tobias the unsub has already FAILED to save his father. He killed him instead, apparently at his father's demand. And so the archangel Raphael, who is the angel of healing, has become an angel of death.

At one point in the ensuing conflict between the BAU and Tobias/Charles/Raphael, Raphael quotes Revelation concerning the seven angels and then demands that Reid, his prisoner, choose which of the BAU is going to die.

matociquala: Even more specifically, the narrative tells us that the seven FBI agents correspond either to the Seven Archangels of Revelation or to seven Angels of Death. The false Raphael, of course, believes they are fallen angels.

truepenny: And this led me to wonder about the seven archangels and the seven members of the BAU.

I would argue that Tobias's Raphael is a false angel, a fallen angel, and that one way to read the complicated interaction between Reid and Tobias's three personalities is the struggle of the false angel to join the ranks of those he recognizes as real angels, i.e., the BAU. My first thought was that, since Raphael forces Reid to choose which of the BAU will die, he intends to insert himself in the hierarchy of angels in the place of the real Raphael. In this reading, Hotch would be Raphael.

However, that doesn't entirely work, since Raphael clearly has no intention of going after Hotch until after he's finished with Reid, and since the ultimate point of his torture of Reid is to make Reid confess to a sin. Any sin. (Partly, this is because Tobias/Charles/Raphael kills only in retaliation for sin, but that rationalization becomes more and more transparent as his attack on Reid is prolonged.) It isn't Hotch that Raphael wants both to cause to fall and to supplant. It's Reid. The episode goes to a lot of trouble to draw the parallels between Reid and Tobias: both had a parent leave when they were 10, both were subsequently warped by spending their adolescence with an insane parent (Reid's mother the paranoid schizophrenic, Tobias's father who if nothing else is a religious monomaniac and a child abuser). They recognize each other in a strange way; Tobias succeeds, perhaps for the only time in his life, in defying his father to give Reid CPR. The false Raphael is both drawn to and repulsed by his captive/victim/killer/savior. Raphael, the archangel of science and healing, is Spencer Reid.

matociquala: I was the one who initially argued Raphael for Reid.

truepenny: A correspondence which I found I could not disagree with.

matociquala: And I don't see anybody else who could fill those flaming shoes, as it were. Raphael is the healer, the scientist, and the intellectual of the bunch.

So, yes, I think this one's the same on either list.

The false Raphael repeatedly tells us that the bullet with which he is playing Russian Roulette with Reid is the Will of God. This round never discharges when the false angel (Raphael/Charles) has the gun pointed at the true angel (Reid); it only discharges when the gun finally falls into Reid's hands.

truepenny: Or into the wall.

matociquala: In other words, the bullet is the will of God. (One of the many interesting meta aspects of this narrative universe is that God does listen. And he is an iron, to use Spider Robinson's phrase.* If you say something--specifically, God help you, if you ask for something--it will come back to haunt you bitterly. And all of the characters know this.)

truepenny: Naturally, this led me to poke around** in the mythology of angels, to see what other correspondences I could find. Of course, the problem is that there is no agreement on who the seven archangels are. Angels are actually latecomers to the party in Judaic/Christian/Islamic tradition, and their naming tends to vary wildly from one authority to the next.

The most agreed on three are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. (Michael, in fact, is the only entity specifically called an archangel in the canonical books of the Bible.) The fourth shows up as Uriel the majority of the time, and a fifth with reasonable consensus is Raguel. After that, all bets are off.

The Islamic tradition, which I found provocative, especially given the arguments in "Lessons Learned" about the Islamic faith, says the seven angels are Mikail (Michael); Jibril (Gabriel); Israfil (Raphael); Azrael or Ezrail, the angel of death; Malik, the keeper of Hell; Radwan, the keeper of Heaven; and Munkar and Nakir, the Angels of Interrogation.

matociquala: N.B: Azrael and Samael are linked by some writers.

truepenny: JJ is Gabriel the messenger, the angel of the annunciation. His Islamic name, Jibrail, and Garcia's nickname for JJ--Jaje--make a kind of complicated three-way homophonic pun.

Raguel is the angel of justice, fairness, and harmony; he punishes angels who have transgressed. This fits Hotch to a T (see, for example, "The Boogeyman"). And I can see a strong parallel between that and Radwan, the keeper of Heaven.

Uriel, whose name means flame of God, and who is also called Auriel, light of God, is the angel of repentence, the angel who wrestled Jacob, the angel who stands at the Gate of Eden with a fiery sword. He is merciless. My preference is to align Uriel with Elle (fierce, ruthless, the team member with the highest body count) . . . until "Aftermath," when she falls and becomes Lucifer (whose name, of course, means lightbringer).

Michael, the foremost of the archangels, the patron of warriors, I'm assigning to Gideon, whose names--as both the Hotchners (in "Extreme Aggressor") and Frank (in "No Way Out") remark--are those of heroes, of warriors. And Gideon is the foremost of the profilers.

matociquala: Well, I'm not sure you can claim that Gideon is necessarily the foremost of the profilers. He's the oldest, and he's the one with the psych degree. But Hotch is his equal in rank, and it's Hotch who decides that Gideon is fit to serve when there are doubts about his stability.

truepenny: Well, we think he has a psych degree. The show has not come out and told us so directly.

I actually meant "foremost" kind of literally: Gideon is the one in front, literally the leader. (With Hotch trailing behind him apologizing for his atrocious manners.) Gideon is also the first to charge into battle (see especially "What Fresh Hell"), and the first to try to take the battle to the unsub (throughout, though especially notable when it backfires: "The Fisher King," "Revelations"). I don't mean Gideon has more authority than Hotch, just that he's always the first greyhound out of the starting gate.

matociquala: Also, Hotch is the ambitious one, the one we're repeatedly told could run this show (the FBI) someday.

truepenny: Actually, what we see is Hotch being told he's the ambitious one ("Sex, Birth, Death")--and again when Reid is falsely calling him a narcissist in "Revelations," claiming he puts himself ahead of the team. Which is exactly the characteristic Hotch emphatically and correctly denies.

But I totally agree that Hotch has at least as much authority as Gideon, if not more so.

This leaves Morgan, Prentiss, and Garcia. It's quite easy to map them into the Islamic tradition. Garcia is Malik, the keeper of Hell (this correspondence works very nicely in "The Big Game" and "Revelations," since Tobias's hell is that bank of monitors), and Morgan and Prentiss are the angels of interrogation, as demonstrated with their good cop/bad cop routine in "Fear and Loathing" and with their effectiveness talking to the prostitutes in "Sex, Birth, Death."

This obviously isn't an entirely satisfactory schema (just because I can create a pattern, doesn't mean the pattern is there by rights). And one way to look at Season 2 is to emphasize the failure of the pattern. Uriel falls. Elle leaves the BAU. Her replacement is Prentiss, and whichever angel Prentiss may be, she isn't Uriel. So the roles are shifting, and the question is: who is going to become Uriel? Hotch? Morgan? . . . Reid?

And this is where a second interpretation of the pattern because useful and necessary.

matociquala: Of course, it's probably not shocking that I'm the one who slipped Sarah the Criminal Minds crack pipe. (And the show is crack. Because this whole archangel-mapping rises out of a single episode: the show's also got an ongoing Arthurian riff, and... well, if you started lining up thematic elements, you would be there for a while.

truepenny: And the names! Don't forget the names!

matociquala: I think Sarah's interpretation makes a good deal of sense. But then I was thinking, and realized that you can get a pretty good mapping with a more Judaic set of archangels, too. (If you start messing around with archangels... well, let's just say that in a half dozen millennia, a lot of conflicting stories pile up.)

So my list looks a little different:

Hotch makes a damned fine Raguel.

JJ just about has to be Gabriel. If only by simple symbolic correspondence: she's the one who blows the horn (or, er, cellphone) to summon the host.

But I would say the Gideon corresponds to Uriel, the keeper of the flame, the interpreter of prophecies, discloser of mysteries. And the angel of Repentance. Because there ain't nobody who repents more than Gideon. Even Reid hasn't quite caught him up.

Elle, on the other hand, makes a fine counterpart to Samael, the angel of death.
According to some traditions, this is Lucifer's given name. [More commonly, it's given as Sataniel.] And of course, Elle is the fallen knight--or, perhaps, the fallen angel.

Sarah also argued me around to Hotch as Raguel. It's really hard to beat.

But I think Morgan corresponds to Michael. Michael the warrior, Michael the messenger who walks among the common people and can seem as one of them.

truepenny: Morgan is Action Hero Guy, it is true.

matociquala: Prentiss I am not yet sure of. Although an Islamic angel of interrogation makes a great deal of sense, as one of the first things we see her doing as a member of the team is interrograting an Arabic-speaking prisoner. (She's fluent in Arabic and appears to have been raised muchly in the Middle East.) Also, she's an outsider.

But my pick for Garcia is Metatron: The Voice of God. Where God is the F.B.I.

truepenny: And I think Metatron is a lovely correspondence for Garcia, who is most often linked to the team via cellphone.

It also makes sense that the Messenger (JJ) and the Voice of God would be friends.

And I like the dual nature of God you've proposed: God the Iron (Old Testament) and God the FBI (New Testament). The FBI--which is also very carefully and explicitly demonstrated to be fallible ("Charm and Harm," "No Way Out")--is a compassionate god, in fact working as hard as it can against the more structural, pitiless, oftentimes cruel God whose will is in Tobias's bullet.



*if a burglar commits burglary, then God is an iron.
**on Wikipedia. I'm not pretending to any kind of expertise, exhaustivity, or really much of anything here.
Comments 
6th-Mar-2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
And it's so funny, because he can totally lay down his dignity--he's perfectly capable of groveling, if that's what it takes to manipulate somebody--but when he's in a certain kind of confrontation, he doesn't back down.

He pushes the edge very, very hard.
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