After 15 years CSI is finally calling it a day. CSI is one of the longest-running shows on television. Most of the original cast members have moved on, and the series managed to bring in some pretty solid talents to replace them. It appeared as though the long-running show still had legs. It outlasted two spinoffs both which ran 10 and 5 years themselves. CSI: Cyber has just finished its first season and will remain, for now, the only surviving member of the franchise. We’ll be offering up our look at that show next week. Until then, join us in a farewell review of the series that launched it all. CBS is treating us to CSI: The Final Season.
For the two or three people on the planet who don’t know, the idea is actually quite a simple one. The CSI night shift crime scene investigators utilize all of the latest science to solve often brutal crimes. Instead of guns, these detectives come packing microscopes and test tubes. If you want to know more about the previous seasons and spinoff shows, bang it here to catch up: CSI Reviews
Grissom’s wife, still on the team, is feisty Sarah Sidle (Fox). Promoted from the DNA lab years ago is Greg Sanders (Szmanda). Sanders is often the comic relief, and while a solid team member, often gets into a spot of trouble. He’s also become the most-matured member of the team. When we met him he was the loud-music-listening wild kid. Now he’s a seasoned CSI investigator. Nick Stokes (Eads) is the macho man in the group and pretty much the senior CSI. He’s had to take on much more of a leadership role now. This was going to be his final season even if the show had continued. He gets hired to run his own lab in San Diego. Hodges (Langham) looked up to Grissom and has had to step up his game in the lab since his mentor left. He’s the guy who takes some getting used to and not the most respected in the lab. He’s slowly becoming my favorite character. The team often works with Lt. Brass (Guilfoyle) and medical examiner Robbins (Hall). Together they follow the evidence wherever it might take them. They are wonderful hold-overs from the very first season. Of course, the most recent leader is Ted Danson’s DB Russell. This is the best new character to enter the franchise in a very long time. Unlike previous CSI folks, he has a wife and kids. We see him interact with a family. He’s a bit of an oddball, much as Grissom was. Instead of bugs, he grows mushrooms in his office. He gets down and dirty, often lying with a victim to get their perspective. He’s a new kind of investigator, and he can rub Brass the wrong way. He has an almost counterculture mellow feel that is a blast of fresh air for the show.
Morgan (Harnois) is Ecklie’s estranged daughter. She’s followed in Dad’s footsteps and came looking for a job with the team. She ends up falling for Hodges, whose own mother has fallen for Ecklie. How’s that for a double date? Jaclyn Smith stars as Hodges’ mom. Now we know why a grown man still lives with his mother. Fin has history with Russell. He fired her at his last job in Seattle. She can be a pain in the behind and is a female Quincy-type character. Elisabeth Shue plays Julie Finlay. She’s Catherine’s replacement.
It’s that history and relationship which will lead us to the story arc that dominates the season. A killer they tried to catch from their days in Seattle is now in Vegas and taunting them with new crimes. He not only kills but processes his own crime scene. When our CSI team arrive they find string set up to show the angles and crime scene markers. But his “tools” are made up from the body and blood of his victims. It’s a pretty creepy deal, and it isn’t going to get solved in a single episode. It reminds me a lot of the years they chased the diorama killer.
Each of the characters gets some great moments, to be sure. Sarah gets to relive one of her first cases which puts her at odds with Doc Robbins when she questions his work from back then. Robbins has always been the laid-back character, but this is one of the first times we see him defensive and hurt. The episode also shows some darkness in Sarah’s past that I always suspected might be there. By the end of these last two seasons, I think we learn more about Sarah than pretty much any character from the show’s 15-year history.
There is a Patricia Arquette crossover episode from CSI: Cyber. She manages to convince Russell to use his own daughter as bait for the crime scene killer. I have to say that Ted Danson surprised the heck out of me in his four years doing this dramatic role. As if that wasn’t enough, he builds such an emotional performance here that we could be looking at his best work ever. New respect each season for a guy I thought was a simple comedy actor. That’s why I’m writing reviews and not running a successful casting agency in Hollywood.
Greg and Sarah also get some wonderful character-building time when they might be infected with a deadly disease. They spend time in quarantine together. Look, I know that staple’s been done a hundred times to create character moments, but there’s a reason it shows up so often. It works, and the actors take full advantage of the opportunity here, for sure.
It’s clear to me that these guys did not know they were ending the series until the very end. The last episode is fine but certainly not a classic series finale for such a long-lived series. The extras on the disc make it clear they planned to return for a sixth season. The George Eads character has his goodbyes, and everyone’s talking about how it won’t be the same without him. No way these guys knew it was the end. Now thanks to fellow writer John who dug up the research, the answer is finally made clear. In just a few days the cast reunites for a final 2-hour film to give the series the finale it deserves. Let’s just hope it’s memorable and doesn’t let the fans or the cast and crew down.
You get only 18 episodes this final season. There are a few extras that give the usual season recap and a tribute/goodbye to George Eads. There are deleted scenes, and a few extras are listed on the box that don’t appear to have been included. Unfortunately, everything about this Final Season appears to have been rushed. I suspect a release of the September 27th goodbye will follow shortly.
Critics don’t always know what the heck they’re talking about. I include myself in that statement. When I first saw CSI 15 years ago, I predicted a short stay for the series. I thought it was too cerebral and not enough action to keep the short attention spans of the MTV generation. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I couldn’t be happier about being so wrong. CSI has not only outlasted those expectations but has given this reviewer hope that audiences are smarter than I thought, Real Life Housewives and Survivor to the contrary. Goodbye CSI, “I’m going to miss you”.