I wrote in 11.1 how CSI used to do serial killers quite well, so I won’t rehash much of that here. Suffice it to say there’s been a considerable drop-off since the days of Paul Millander and the Blue Paint Killer. Where once the signs of depravity were buried in layers of psychological projection and plausible misdirection, now our writers are seemingly inspired by some D-list 1990s Batman villains. And by writers I specifically mean Anthony Zuiker, the series creator, who has returned to the wheelhouse this season, but unfortunately has brought along his newest concept: Level 26, a literary/interactive mystery series where the bad are apparently really really really really bad. You know how Spinal Tap’s amps go to 11? That’s pretty much the rationale for Level 26, only in eeeeevil rather than decibels.
Which brings us to one of Level 26’s resident psychopaths, Sqweegel (I’d rather not get into the name; you don’t want to know). Leaping from the pages onto the small screen, Sqweegel is basically a mashup of Zzasz, The Riddler and an upscale fetish shop. Oh, and every misogynistic slasher movie villain ever. He sneaks around homes and cars in a slippery latex suit, stealing people’s secrets to blackmail them, and then slices them up with a straight razor. On top of that he leaves orange peels in attics.
I’ll admit the Batman comparisons are really unfair to Batman, but there were moments (especially the closing scene) that felt like a justifiably deleted cutscene from Arkham Asylum. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Commissioner Gordon check in on the crime scene at some point.
Our guys go at this gamely and professionally, as always, although again the action and dialogue seem even more contrived than usual. Brass does the clichéd “let me ask your doll” bit when questioning the little girl (who, in fairness, should have been traumatized into years of catatonia by what she witnessed). Nick makes an uncharacteristic logical leap (which was later validated) in assuming the EMT Brian Grant to be dead, based only on his car and traces of blood.
Frankly, I’m starting to wonder where my show has gone. So far in Season 11, CSI isn’t bearing much fruit in its advanced age, and is clearly coasting into retirement. Notes and characters that would have been intriguing in earlier seasons are rendered here in flat, obvious scenes devoid of subtext and real menace (worst offense this week: the ridiculously on-the-nose spy tape of the murdered mom’s illicit affair). While the series is basically still doing what it says on the box, it’s currently offering only a stale version of its past. I’m hoping the imminent arrival of Katee Sackhoff will shake things up.
Obligatory Grissom Reference: Nick sniffs a stain in the carpet. Hodges says “You know Grissom would’ve tasted that.”
Obligatory “Celebrity” Cameo: In addition to poor Ann-Margret as Margot Wilton, we got another visit from the Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman. The way he threatened Brass (“I’ll kill ya”)–as himself, mind–was arguably the best moment of the episode.
Going Off Shift: Catherine and Nick visit a sex shop to trace the latex suit. The clerk suggests that Catherine’s “special order” has come in, and then admits he’s kidding. Ha ha. Apparently, even Catherine isn’t that cool with sex. Sigh. How chaste this show has become.
Morbid moment: For a banal and silly episode, there certainly was a lot of blood. Both the open (a rare crime actually shown as it happens) and the brutal car-wash slaying were excessively cruel and bloody, with slashing blades and spattering blood. That said, the flashback sequence of Margot dumping her suicidal wheelchair-bound son into a swimming pool was a new low in gratuitous filicide.
I remember this one time…: Catherine reminds Nick about his stalker (in 2.19, “Stalker”). Gee thanks, Catherine; I’m sure Nick totally forgot about it.
by Derek Kompare
available now from Wiley-Blackwell