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CSI season 8 - part 2

March 2009 SITE MAP   SEARCH

CSI - Crime Scene Investigation: season eight
cast: William Peterson, Marg Helgenberger, Gary Dourdan, George Eads, and Paul Guilfoyle

creator:: Anthony E. Zuiker

690 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Momentum / CBS DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Cut short by the recent WGA strike, this season of - probably - the world's premier TV franchise is limited to just 17 episodes. Of the current long-running US dramas, C.S.I. maintains a consistently high quality for both standalone stories and season-arc narratives that's unmatched by any of its main genre rivals for the attention of discerning viewers. In short, among 21st century shows, CSI is the best programme on.

After recap, we catch up with Grissom's team in Dead Doll, as they search for Sara (Jorja Fox) left for dead under a wrecked car in last season's cliff-hanger finale. Of course, there's a happy ending to this kidnap crisis, but Sara's days at the crime lab are numbered, anyway... A fairly routine, well established practice for this show, its elsewhere spin-offs and imitators (like Bones), is the mixing of two diverse crime-stories in a single episode. A La Cart also manages to reference its whodunit pair in a titular pun, as there's a dead go-kart champ, plus murder in a novelty restaurant.

This usual formula of two plot-threads per episode continues with Go To Hell, and the next couple of intriguing episodes, until Who And What (as directed by Danny Cannon), concerning a child-kidnapping case that involves FBI agent Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia) in part one of a crossover storyline concluded in episode Where And Why from generically similar TV series Without A Trace. Although the original CSI nightshift crew have already met their counterparts from both CSI: Miami and CSI: New York in crossover storylines, this intersection of previously unconnected television franchises is not a great success, and it seems just as awkwardly setup as those utterly contrived superhero team-ups whose flimsy plots are shared between different comic books in hopes of encouraging readers to buy extra issues. Such commercial scheming never worked very well in the comics' world, beyond having a curiosity and novelty value, and the same trick enacted here for the purposes of drawing channel- surfers into watching other shows doesn't work, either. It's no help at all that the lead characters (CSI Gil, FBI Jack... that's Jack and Gil, geddit?) lack any measure of male-bonding chemistry, even in the chalk 'n' cheese manner of buddy-movie partnerships.

Thankfully, CSI returns to normal service, providing top value TV entertainment, with Goodbye And Good Luck, a particularly sombre and downbeat episode which sees the widely-reported departure of a suddenly world-weary Sara, quitting her investigation work on yet another in a seemingly endless run of senseless murders. Now, she's leaving Las Vegas, abandoning her secret lover Grissom (just after he's proposed marriage!) in the process. You Kill Me lightens the mood, considerably, with a string of 'Cluedo' style murder-mystery games devised by Hodges (Wallace Langham) for some of the other lab techs to solve.

After the emotional-wringer endured by Sara, now it's the turn of Warrick (Gary Dourdan), whose divorce problems and drug-abuse threaten to wreck CSI and police inquires into the dealings of a decidedly old-school mobster, also derailing Warrick's career when such mounting troubles affect his work. This excellent mid-season episode, titled Cockroaches, directed by William Friedkin, changes tack and pace, sharpening up the affecting tone of the series as its usual 'science lessons' and clever info-dumps, which give way to solid performances from the varied character actors while the show's primary focus shifts, from the clarity of discovered evidence stacking up against suspects to prove who's guilty, to a murkier view of Las Vegas as a moral sewer, where police corruption is tolerated and tied to gangster lifestyles that are considered the socially acceptable norm. It's a very unsettling world that CSI rarely visits closely, as our exposure to 'sin city' sleaze is generally limited and buffered by examination of sordid details under conditions of clinical abstraction. Here, though, with Friedkin at the helm, Warrick (viewers, too, if only vicariously) is plunged headlong into a downward spiral of misfortune that will eventually seal his fate. In the wake of this bravura episode's induction into the head-trip torment of an obsessed junkie's private hell, even all the gross images and fatalities of dog-fighting and bull-riding stories that are up next seem rather mild by comparison.

Grissom's Divine Comedy guest-stars Bonnie Bedelia as a deputy DA who demands more of the LVPD crime lab than its scientists are usually comfortable with giving. If the heartbreak of a case of infant mortality is not enough for the CSI team to cope with in A Thousand Days On Earth, the tragedy is compounded when a registered sex offender is wrongly accused, and his only chance at re-building a normal life is subsequently, and quite unfairly, destroyed. Drops' Out concerns a black convict who escapes custody while helping police with homicide investigations, but it lacks the streetwise appeal of its obvious inspiration, Walter Hill's 48 Hrs (1982). Chaos theory, unavoidable if unlikely coincidences, and the apparent interconnectedness of everything dominate the last three episodes of this season and the observed results are sometimes wryly humorous.

Two And A Half Deaths is chock full of archly postmodernist witticisms and dryly satirical asides, in a wacky spree that's centred on the murder of a fading sitcom actress and her stand-in double. Between scenes of deadpan neurotic scriptwriters, ambitious TV show co-stars, and eccentric comediennes with overly medicated and pampered pet dogs, there is just sufficient time amidst scandalous antics and crude quips for some proper crime solving by the regular CSI team. Finally, season closer For Gedda has Warrick framed for murdering the vile mobster that he offended in Cockroaches, and the plotline is terminated with an obligatory shock, which opens the door for CSI personnel changes, next season.

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