Criminal Minds

Season 1 Episode 14

Riding the Lightning

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Jan 25, 2006 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (47)

Write A Review
out of 10
712 votes
  • lol Cognitive dissonance

    This episode was well done -until the conclusion. . .you know when the BAU and the boy's adopted parents allowed an innocent women to be unjustly killed by the state.

    Sooner or later -Reilly will find out that he is 'adopted', I'd love to hear how his parents justify letting his mother be executed for his murder.

    Depending on how you look at it -Sarah Jane's unjust execution -could be looked at as murder or at least assisted suicide, which makes Gideon and the BAU; accomplices.

    I especially love how people here are praising that the BAU were 'judge and jury' and that they sentenced an innocent person to death but would lose their collective shit -if cops planted or held back evidence so that a 'bad guy' would get sentenced.
  • My favorite CM episode ever!

    I've seen this several times and personally, I think this is the best Criminal Minds ever written and that Arnette (Sarah Jean) should have gotten a BIG credit for her performance. The beauty of her face, the peace she portrayed was just phenomenal... Also, I agree the best parting shot was "you lost Jacob" but one could add to had also been told that Sarah Jean had gotten a stay of execution so he believes he has lost TWICE. Ha ! Got a little sense of justice out of that.
  • The tale of a Mothers' love

    In this episode, love is depicted in a maternal light. One of the most endearing episodes as it focuses on Sarah Jean and Jacob Dawes, a supposed murderous couple that killed many young girls and their son, Riley. However Sarah Jean, a wonderfully complicated yet compassionate mother wanted her son to live without burden. I will not reveal too much but this episode had my heart fluttering in a bitter sweet fashion. Tears welled in my eyes as her last image was of what she wanted. She had everything she could have ever wanted. Riley's happiness, is her happiness. Not too many fans can understand the concept of maternal love as a mothers' love is strength.

    The one flaw is Gideon's acceptance in Sarah Jean's execution. I can easily overlook it because Sarah Jean found her peace regardless.
  • Fred and rose?!

    I don't know how anyone could think this episode was based on the West's. Rosemary was an active part of that partnership, equal in her disdain for human life, and she actually killed one of her children and did not protect the others in any way.. Sarah Jean went all out to protect her child and give him a good and happy life. She was not complicit in her husbands crimes. The only similarities in the 2 cases is they are a couple!

    This is one of my all time favourite episodes. I must have seen it at least 6 times and always she'd a tear at the end.
  • Inspired by...

    This is based on Rosemary and Fred West. The series Appropriate Adult gives a more in depth and true telling of the story.

    I do absoloutly love this episode. But watching it again today something I realised was very obvios about it, was that it is PLAINLY based off the murderers, 'Rosemary and Fred West'. Although not completely following their storyline, the similarity was uncannny. I loved that I picked that up, although i'm not sure how many other people actually know who these people are.
  • Why do I feel so satisfied when the BAU is ultimately unsuccessful with both Jacob and Sarah Jean Dawes?

    The BAU is trying to determine if the Dawes killed more young women than bodies have been found in order to give closure to Florida families. Certainly the concept of “death-bed interviews” is sound – much of the information our guys have about serial killers comes from the mouths of the killers themselves after they are convicted. Although these interviews have got to be stressful and extremely difficult (as is shown in Hotch’s interviews with Jacob), there is that slim possibility that the FBI might get some answers. So Hotch takes on the very, very evil Jacob, and comes away empty. One more body, one more identification, but no real answers.

    Gideon’s interviews with Sarah Jean end up going down a whole ‘nother road. Once we learn that Sarah Jean is innocent and Riley is alive, Gideon's goal becomes finding enough evidence to keep Sarah Jean from the electric chair. Even though she doesn’t cooperate, he manages to get the information he needs. But Sarah Jean isn’t saved.

    So why is this episode so satisfying? Maybe it’s the contentment that Sarah Jean expresses as she sacrifices her life so her son can grow up without the taint of serial killer parents. Maybe it’s the knowledge that Riley has become a talented and, above all, normal young man in his adoptive home. Or, maybe it’s that final moment when Jacob is in the electric chair and Hotch shows him that his son is alive. Yeah, I think that’s it. You lost, Jacob.
  • It is very compelling to find an episode that talks about a mother's love - how she's willing to sacrifice her life just to give her son a good future.

    one of the most moving episodes of the season...

    I find it very fascinating that this episode is able to portray that not all convicts are guilty. Strange enough, Sarah Jean, the unfortunate wife who was said to take part in assaulting and mutilating teenage girls, willingly let herself be convicted of the crime she didn't commit. She admitted to killing her son in order to protect him. I initially thought that she was protecting her son against her serial killer huband, only to find out near the end that her motivation is deeper; she wants to give her son a new life, away from the complications of being known as the son of a serial killer couple. Jason Gideon showed tears as he was watching the son perform. Touching, his demeanor almost looked maternal. Nice to see him personally affected by the case...
  • Possibly one of the best episodes of any TV show.

    I will readily admit, the fact that Gideon lets Sarah Jean die is probably incredibly unrealistic. Other concerns raised about inaccuracy, however, seem to be based as much on guesswork as to how things "should" be as anything else. The BAU are interviewing the husband and wife because that is one of their side projects, as is mentioned in many episodes both prior and after this one. Sarah Jean was charged with "Accessory to Murder" for at least some of her husband's victims as well as with the murder of her son. And as for whether a mother would actually sacrifice herself for her child... well, I actually feel sorry for the reviewers who felt that it was completely unrealistic.

    As I mentioned, Gideon letting Sarah Jean die seemed to me to be the biggest flaw in accuracy for this episode. That being said, it was absolutely necessary for the story to have its full emotional impact. The scene where they lower the hood on Sarah Jean has made me cry every time I watch this episode. It made my boyfriend cry. I don't actually know anyone who didn't cry. And that scene is just the climax, not the only effective scene. The entire story is well-woven throughout the episode and I think you'd have to actively be trying to resist it to not be pulled in by it. The acting is beautifully done both by the guest stars and the regular cast. Overall, a fantastic episode.
  • One of the best episodes of the first season of the show as we see the team travel to the Florida State Penitentiary to interview a serial killer couple for VICAP who are about to be executed in the electric chair for the murder of thirteen girls.

    Jacob and Sarah Jean Dawes are just thirty-six hours away from execution for the murder of thirteen young, blonde women. Gideon and the team have been invited by the killer couple to interview them and it will be the first time that a husband and wife serial killing team have been evaluated for VICAP.

    Jacob Dawes is cocky, self-assured and clearly enjoying all the attention but Sarah Jean is gentle, quiet and withdrawn. Gideon believes that there are several more victims whose bodies have not been located and the BAU not only want information about that but also they want to know why the girls were abducted, tortured and murdered in Jacob's workshop at the back of their house.

    When talking with Sarah Jean, (who confessed only to the murder of her two-year-old son, Riley) Gideon is convinced that she is innocent of involvement in the killing of the young women, particularly after a letter recently written to her mother suggests exactly that. As the conversation continues, and after viewing Sarah Jean's paintings, Gideon is certain that Riley Dawes is alive and, if that is indeed the case, then Sarah Jean really is innocent of murder and the BAU race desperately ahead to try and halt her execution. But will they find the evidence in time to save her from Old Sparky?

    If you want to see a superbly acted and extreme well written episode of television crime drama then you can't go past this so check it out and enjoy.
  • Wow!... Just wow!

    This was probably the best, yet most depressing, episode of any television show I have ever watched. It was so amazing from beginning to end. The mother is a true mommy. She is giving up her life so her son can have a good future. I almost cried. The only reason I didn't is because I was watching with my mom and I don't like to cry in front of others. At the end of the episode both my mom and I were so stunned that we just sat there silently for a moment. Then I said, "Oh my gosh. That was so depressing." Neither of us could believe the ending. Amazing!
  • Without doubt, this is the best episode of Criminal Minds that I have seen. I was so touched and on the verge of tears at the end. Phenomenal episode!

    I am very much speechless and stunned by this episode, which was something so special and unique. The episode was very sad, and the end was really what you call the ultimate sacrifice. What a mother will do for her child - it is just incredible, and very touching.

    I am awestruck by this episode. It ywas so sad and the nd was quite upsetting, but at the same time, it was ridiculously high quality television. Simply marvellous!

    The acting was spectacular on all fronts, both by the guest cast and the main cast. Simply phenomenal!

    Keep it up, Criminal Minds! If this is the type of episode we will see every week, then this show cannot be beaten! I am thoroughly impressed!
  • I love this show........

    I love this show......not only is this a perfect example of a well written criminal investigation show, the story lines are never lacking that dramatic, humanizing touch. The story line tonight will go down in television history as a classic. What an ending, not a dry eye in my house....
  • In my opinion, this episode is worth watching over and over again.

    Wow. I've viewed other episodes of this series but I must say, this episode brought me to tears. What a sacrifice that a mother's love could run so deep that you would do anything to protect your child. She gave the ultimate sacrifice so that her son could live a life that she could never, ever give him. I can understand her reasoning. Truly touching.
  • Edge of my seat...very emotional ending.

    I was so emotionally overcome by this episode. I have always had mixed feelings on the death penalty and this show just surfaced all of that. I majored in Criminal Justice/Corrections, so this is my area and I am fascinated by every aspect of the field. This episode just makes me realize how precious life is or should be.
  • It was a great episode. What was the quote at the end? I've been wracking my brain all morning to remember it. Anyone?

    As usual, this episode kept you tuning in to see what turn was going to happen next. What a moral dilemma to be in. She knew what she was doing and had made peace with herself. What love a mother has for her child. I was happy to see they granted her last request. Now what was the quote he said at the end? I should have written it down. Ugh!
  • something like "the things we do during our lives for ourselves, die with us; the things we do for others will live on forever." If anyone can find more on this, please expound. In fact, I would like to have the quotes from

    I was extremely moved during this episode. I am a prison volunteer, and have protested execution; a very unpopular position in today's society. There is a bloodthirstiness that really impacts some of the "have nots" in society.

    Gideon's involvement and witness of the execution was a very spiritual act. He certainly humanized this prisoner.
  • Suspense drama taken to a level of intensity seldom approached in a TV series. An Emmy episode.

    It took me a few minutes after this show was off before I leveled out. I have seldom seen an episode of any series that grabbed me like this one. Not only high drama but real art was going on here. Jacob Dawes, the serial killer, evil and controlling, was skillfully balanced by the well developed character of his wife, played hynotically by Jeannetta Arnette. Gideon, true to his nature, has to save her life once he's convinced she's innocent of her husband's killings. But he has to accept her execution when he sees the reasons for her sacrifice. Beautiful!
  • Very well done show. The writers made their point about the ultimate complete love of a mother for her child and sold it through the characters and acting. Much more than a crime show, this episode.

    Nothing to add to the summary

    Very well done show. The writers made their point about the ultimate complete love of a mother for her child and sold it through the characters and acting. Much more than a crime show, this episode. The relation to Moses was quite good. This is a solid program.
  • I love this episode! It's very sad and very touching and just full of love. I love the quote stated at the very end. "What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal." -- Albert Pine

    I love this episode! I couldn't believe I was sobbing out loud by the end of the show. It's very sad and very touching and just full of love. This mixture of feelings can overwhelm you. The sacrifice of the mother reveals the ultimate love of her child. Knowing that she could protect her child from the legacy her husband had caused, she was able to find peace from this ordeal. This is most admirable. I love the quote stated at the very end; it took me a while to find the actual quote on the web. "What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal." -- Albert Pine
  • Loved it!!

    This episode was great because it showed that the show can do much more than the usual \"save the victim in time\" premise. It also showed Gideon as a \"do the right thing\" type of guy. Hopefully, the added range will keep this good series going. A good example of finding warmth in a cold, cold case.
  • A touching episode!

    I\'ve always loved this new show, but this episode really brings it to another level. A very touching ending, not your typical Hollywood happy ending.

    \"Sarah Jean\" (not sure what\'s her real name) gives an outstanding performance. She really brings the character to life.

    Definitely an award worthy episode!

  • Great but sad ending

    You knew when Gideon was interviewing Sarah Jean that the boy was still alive. You could feel her heart break when she learned about the 14 year old victim. You felt sorry for Sarah Jean's mother. Especially when you saw what was spray painted on her house. I'm glad they respected her last wishes in regards to her son. My favorite scene was when Hotch showed the father the picture of Riley right as he was about to die.
  • Amazing

    The way they turned the concept of deathrow interviews into a countdown mystery was amazing. The play between Gideon and Sara Jean was of course wonderful; But I was also rivited the Hotch interview, exspecially the way JJ jumped in. I like her better every episode. A can't look away episode from beginning to end.
  • here is a summary of my thoughts/comments on Ride the Lightning

    This episode was not my favorite to watch and did have holes left to fill, but the political and moral statement it made was refreshing. The plotline was innovative, and offered a beginning to empathy for people who have ended up down the wrong path in life. I appreciated it. The character development was well done, and really personified people who we have easily written off as demons.
  • Powerfull drama about strong characters.

    Best episode so far. Great casting for the \"killer couple\". Great performance on both their parts. Excellent story line with a haunting ending. Really set me back in my seat and gave me plenty of food for thought. What an ending! I didn\'t think Gideon had it in him, but he surprised me. Keep it up guys. You got a winner going for you.
  • Jeannetta Arnette deserves an Emmy for her guest appearance. Not many people can go toe to toe with Patinkin, but Arnette managed to with such grace!

    I did note one error: After the curtain opens, Sarah Jean is not given the chance to speak any final words. It could have ruined the moment with the music, I suppose, but I'm sure she could have said something at that time.

    I'm glad they didn't do a straight shot from Patinkin watching her to watching her son. It was nice to have the cello transition.

    This was the best episode. It will be hard to top. I do hope they get rid of Elle, though. She bugs me. I hated how she said to the lawyer, "I'm sorry, who are you exactly?" She said it like a challenge, even though Gideon and the others seemed comfy with his presence. I just don't like the character at all. She also dresses so inappropriately, doesn't have facial expressions. Blech! But at least I can fast forward through her scenes.
  • Psychotic serial murderer husband and submissive emotionally abused wife are both about to go to the electric chair for killing 13 young women. The wife (Sarah Jean) is accused of killing their 2 y/o son as well. At issue: How guilty is Sarah Jean?

    I watch a ridiculous amount of television and was completely spellbound by this episode of Criminal Minds.

    Jeannetta Arnette offers an amazingly powerful guest performance as Sarah Jean. The dynamic between her and Mandy Pantinkin (Gideon) is so emotional and entrancing, it moves one to tears. It was played with pathos and sensitivity as well as deep understanding that went beyond words.

    Hopefully, the appropriate parties will see this and submit Jeannetta\'s and Mandy\'s performance in this episode for an Emmy ... because it will win ... I\'m sure of it!

    In any case, the above actors are to be congratulated for extraordinary performances.
  • What a heart wrenching episode! FANTASTIC!

    All I can say is that this kind of episode is totally not what I expected from this show from the season so far. A real tear-terker from an unexpected storyline gave me one of the best TV episode experiences of the recent offerings across the board.

    Fantastic... Really good!
  • Making the ultimate sacrifice for someone you love is the modt loving thing you could ever do. Sarah Jean Dawes is the ultimate heroine.

    This had to have been the best episode of Criminal Minds they have produced. The way Sarah Jean was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep her son safe and happy was one the best and saddest things I have seen. She allowed her love for Riley to bring her peace with her decision when she first brought him to his adoptive parents, and while on death row awaiting execution.

    It was heartbreaking for the team to allow her to go through with it, instead of allowing them to get her a stay of execution. I think Gideon and Hotch may have had the hardest time with accepting Sarah Jean’s decision to be executed, because– being fathers themselves- they understand the love she feels and the need to protect her son from something that could disrupt his life when he’s safe and happy where he is. They did everything they could to keep her alive, but had no choice with her decision to keep the truth from her son so he could remain at peace with his life.

    At the end when Morgan finally just tells Riley’s (Byron Sheffield) father (Frank)that he and Elle have the wrong house, I think he realizes that this is about Sarah Jean. When they adopted Riley, at least Frank may have been asked by Sarah Jean that Riley could not ever know about her so that he would not be plagued with the knowledge that his mother allowed his father to kill young girls, even though she did not know what Jacob was actually doing.
< 1 2