Friday, November 21, 2008

CSI: "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" Didn’t Work

Last night’s episode of CSI, "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" just didn’t work for me. Maybe I was still on overload from the colorful and enjoyable CSI NY from the night before (”My Name is Mac Taylor” ) , but the original recipe CSI seems to have become so dark and dreary. In fact, it reminded me a lot of how CSI NY was when that show first started.

In this episode, a mother and daughter are murdered, and the husband is the primary suspect. But, after some generic CSI work and some dogged questioning by Captain Jim Brass (played by the underrated Paul Guilfoyle), they get their man. Well, they really get their woman when the murderer turns out to be the daughter of someone who was killed by the mother and daughter’s husband when he was living under another name. (!) But she gets HER man when she kills him while she has him digging up her father's grave.

Meanwhile, Nick (George Eads) and Hodges (Wallace Langham) work on an average case of a car accident that they discover was caused by two guys horsing around and knocking mailboxes off their posts with a baseball bat. In hitting one mailbox where they owner has filled with concrete, they lose control of the car and crash. The man who filled his mailbox with concrete is arrested for their deaths. Can someone explain to me why? He didn’t force these guys to vandalize his mailbox. Is it because he created the conditions that ultimately lead to their deaths? The only redeeming part of that dull case was Nick and Hodges horsing around like two kids.

The cornerstone of the story was Gil Grissom’s (William Petersen) attendance at a transfer hearing for Natalie Davis (Jessica Collins), the miniature killer. Since Sarah was nearly killed by the miniature killer, Gil has an interest in the hearing. Her original verdict was she was guilty, but ruled mentally ill and sent in for treatment. Now that her treatment has seemed to make her well, ADA Valerie Nichols (Amy Aquino) is working to have her sent to prison to serve her sentence. She is being opposed by Natalie’s attorney (Joshua Malina). Gil gets sucked in when Nichols asks for Gil's testimony on his original interrogation of Natalie and how she went a little nutty at that time, and her apparent state of mind now.

Natalie’s attorney questions Gil’s motives, but he denies having any. The court rules Natalie should go to prison. While she is being led from her room to prison, Gil apologies that he couldn’t help more, and she says she has changed, but that people who do bad things should be punished. When she leaves, Gil scans the room and notices that she scooped out her soap. This causes him to look at a floor tile, which he pries away from the floor. Connected to the underside of the tile, he finds a small female figure dressed in a prison uniform, hanging with a rope around its neck. I presume she made the figure of herself using the soap.

I hope that the whole miniature killer story is now over. I think it ran its course long ago, but maybe they needed this one last reference for some sort of closure, so when Gil fades off into the sunset that the whole storyline is wrapped up nice and tidy. What I realized after this episode is that while I have some concerns about Laurence Fishburne replacing William Petersen, that I think I am ready for him to move on. It seems of late many of the episodes he’s been in just seem so dark and depressing to me that it sucks all the enjoyment out of the show. In fact, while I think that Paul Guilfoyle does a fantastic job in his role as Capt. Brass, I also get the same feeling from every scene he’s in. I don’t mind the occasional downer scenes – after all, this is a crime show we’re talking about – but I wish they would at least lighten up the scenes, literally, a bit. The lighting is dark, the colors drab, it just isn’t very pleasing to watch for a long period of time. It could be that I am still on color overload from this week's episodes of CSI Miami and CSI NY.

The other thing I noticed is that CSI seems to be downplaying the traditional Las Vegas scene a lot. Sure, we see many shots of the city skyline, but it seems they actually spend very little time in the most active parts of the city. My perception may be wrong, though. It still seems odd that the show is set in such a colorful place, yet they don’t seem to play that up. It’s always the seedier side of the city that is portrayed. Maybe no crime happens in the casinos, or it’s just too expensive for them to either film there or recreate various casino scenes in their studios. Maybe the casinos don’t want the insides of their casinos filmed for security reasons, or they just don’t want people to think of the area a crime-ridden. Either way, I hope they get themselves out of the dark and drab sets, because it really drags me down.

Still, CSI is one of the best crime dramas on television, but it’s slipping a little in my book. I hope Petersen’s eventual absence from the show and Fishburne’s arrival doesn’t push the show down further.

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