Gotta hand it to CSI: The show went big for its 12th-season finale on Wednesday night. One big resignation (“I out!”), a triple homicide, a double kidnapping, a wife revealed — the linchpin of the CSI franchise proved it’s still the best of ‘em.
The current season had been a strong one anyway. The combination of Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue has proven a complete success. (I suppose what follows requires a SPOILER ALERT.) By not going for the obvious back-story — rather than have Danson’s D.B. Russell and Shue’s newly arrived Julie “Finn” Finlay be ex-lovers, they’re old colleagues; he fired her from her last job in Seattle for possibly-illegal over-zealousness — it’s given both characters more texture.
Peri Gilpin emerged as D.B.’s wife in a relatively perfunctory appearance — Gilpin was fine with the skimpy material she was given, but it’s difficult to tell whether she has much chemistry with Danson based on this hour.
By contrast, Shue continues to make every scene she has with Danson — and for that matter, every scene she has with anyone else — crisp with tart toughness. In addition to the Finn back-story details revealed this night, she was excellent in her scenes with the so-wrong-for-her Det. Moreno, played by Enrique Murciano. Shue knows how to convey something that used to be more commonly and well-portrayed in 1940s and ’50s B-movies and hard-boiled novels: the woman who uses a man as a lust-object, pure and simple.
(May I also make a romantic-subplot suggestion to the producers? Drop the time-wasting flirtation between Wallace Langham’s Hodges and Elisabeth Harnois’ Morgan, the latter an intensely dull character. Yes, I know it enabled CSI to work in Jaclyn Smith as Hodges’ mother, flirting with Marc Vann’s Ecklie, but still… )
CSI is often lumped in with CBS’ self-contained, scant-mythology procedurals, but this finale reached back to the past for its biggest surprises. Conor O’Farrell returned as the now-jailed law officer McKeen who killed Gary Dourdan’s Warrick Brown in 2008. This fine creep’s presence set off a couple of plot points. The first was that McKeen made George Eads’ Nick Stokes turn reflective, and decide — invoking Marg Helgenberger’s departed Catherine — that it was time to quit, and with a curt, “I’m out!,” he took off. Do we think Nick’s gone for good? Naw. But it was a good twist.
In general, CSI has become a richer series. It’s minimized the crazy-Vegas murder scenarios that were beginning to undermine minimal believability, and I’d say that even if you wish that, say, Jorja Fox’s Sara had more of a role in the show these days, that reflects the way things happen in any given workplace — some veterans tend to recede into the background, content to do their jobs well, while new faces (Shue’s Finn, in this case) come on like gangbusters, eager (or neurotic, or insecure, or all of the above) to prove themselves. This is where the realism of CSI now resides.
The other major plot development provided the season’s cliffhanger: The abduction of D.B.’s daughter and granddaughter by people doing McKeen’s bidding. At the least, this will compel D.B., who’s been portrayed as a laid-back, Zen-serene character, to rev up his emotions and his deductive powers and jump into action, something I look forward to seeing Danson do. It’s just going to make this good, veteran TV series all the better.
What did you think of the CSI finale?