Season 10 centered on the Jekyll serial killer storyline, and concluded with the reintroduction of the cartoon-sinister Nate Haskell (played by skilled clown Bill Irwin), who suddenly stabs Ray in the season finale. CSI used to excel at serial killers, using them quite sparingly as occasional master criminals meant to raise the challenge to Grissom’s authority (e.g., the Blue Paint Killer). Unfortunately, ever since Season 7, dominated by the pursuit of the Miniature Killer (a storyline I did enjoy), the series has returned more frequently to this type of adversary, but with diminishing returns. Nothing quite says “running out of steam” in a long-running series like faded retreads of once-captivating ideas. Or worse, in this case: repeating the “regular in life-or-death crisis” season-ending cliffhanger for at least the third time.
Spoiler: Ray lives. Haskell still a nut, sent back to Arkham prison to menace another day. The plot thus quickly moves onto a new case, which involves a bombing at the funeral of Francis Clark (the cop killed by Jekyll in the standoff in the season 10 finale). Unfortunately, this was a trundling, unimpressive season opener on the whole. Surprisingly so, actually, as CSI used to hit these out of the park (see especially 4.1, 5.1 and 7.1). I guess when you’ve been on the air for a decade and 229 episodes you’re expected to bunt. I’ll spare the details, as this was hardly compelling material, and sadly confirmed the worst stereotype about aging procedurals: no surprises.
— The funeral bombing in the open was an intriguing variation on the “shock” opener, but suffered from being shown after Ray’s fate was known. None of our guys was that badly beat up by the bombs. The investigation itself throughout the episode was a textbook example of pedagogical CSI, with lots of expository dialogue on the physics of explosions and the strategy of bombers.
— The early scene with Nick weeping was a nice reminder of his survivor guilt and continued emotional vulnerability (still extraordinarily rare among male action heroes). After all he’s been through, he’s allowed to break down now and then. That said, he resists seeing the shrink like any standard tough guy Texan, and it takes Catherine (as usual) and a “What Would Grissom Do?” moment to get him to make the call.
– With Liz Vassey’s departure, there’s an apparent opening in the “hot female lab tech” role. Enter Sienna Guillory as forensics expert Kacey Monahan. Based on the evidence of the now-standard season plot teaser that closes episode 1, we’ll probably be seeing a lot more of her this season. That said, one Katee Sackhoff is coming down the pike as well this season…
– A little quasi Tea Party/anti-government rally (more narrative exposition) conveniently sets up our guys as the good guys vs. the “dingbats” (as Brass refers to them). Sara and Brass fight ’em off. Official authority is almost always benevolent and rational on CSI.
— Thanks to (unnamed Skype stand-in), Ray in the hospital bed is apparently just like Ray in the field. Doc Robbins’ gift to Ray (of a cane) was a nice touch, however.
– And then there’s Justin Bieber. Well. Hmm. Classic celebrity (read: non-actor) guest spot performance: painfully stiff delivery (all seemingly after several takes) of frankly miserable lines. The episode’s closing shot (him sneering in a jail cell, after the last bomb blast) does not bode well for the rest of the season. On the plus side, there was certainly enough face time for the tweens to screenshot, and drop the episode’s median demo a few years.
by Derek Kompare
available now from Wiley-Blackwell