CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Series 3 Part 1 Review
Over four seasons of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - the latest series is being broadcast at the moment on Five in the UK - it has carefully avoided showing anything of the lives of the CSI agents outside of their place of work. Occasionally, a strand of plot is written into the series - there are infrequent episodes showing the relationship between Catherine Willows, her ex-husband and their daughter, whom she has custody of - but on the whole, such things are avoided.
The final few minutes of season two looked set to break from the tradition that CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had set for itself. During what had otherwise been considered a routine trip to his doctor - and nothing in season two had indicated that it would be anything more - Gil Grissom was told that, as with his mother before him, his hearing was slowly failing and without intervention, he would eventually lose it completely. Regular viewers might have expected, therefore, that season three would open in the days after Grissom stood on a pavement outside his doctor's consulting room, straining to hear the sound of the traffic around him but, as Revenge Is Best Served Cold passed with little more than a mention during the opening minutes, it was clear that any subplots involving Grissom's hearing would only appear sporadically throughout the series.
And why should we ever have expected anything else? CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has only ever offered a thrilling, pared-to-the-bone forty-five minutes with hardly a minute wasted on matters outside of the central investigations and with stories ranging from straightforward murder to snuff filmmaking and cannibalism, season three was more than a match for the two seasons that had preceded it.
Listed below are short descriptions of the twelve episodes included on this release of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Season 3, Part 1:
Revenge Is Best Served Cold (40m21s): Following the death of a poker player during a high-stakes game, Grissom, Warrick and Sara investigate the motives and means of the other players whilst Catherine and Nick take up street racing after a driver is found dead at an abandoned airstrip in the desert.
The Accused Is Entitled (42m06s): In the best episode of this set - the best episode of season three, Lady Heather's Box will be included in Momentum's Season Three, Part Two boxset - Grissom's team is called in to investigate the death of a woman in the hotel room of a famous Hollywood actor. As the CSI team bring the case to trial, the defence team calls in Grissom's mentor as an advisor to proceeds to break the reputation of the CSI lab in court. Most damaging of all, he knows of Grissom's failing hearing and, in a bid to get his guilty client to walk, looks to make this knowledge public, something Grissom has avoided in a bid to uphold the reputation both of his department and his own position within it.
Let the Seller Beware (42m06s): Grissom asks Sara, Nick and Warrick to investigate the murder of a high-school cheerleader whose body is not only found on the school playing field but has also been partially eaten. Meanwhile, Grissom and Catherine investigate the murder of a couple whose home had recently been put up for sale.
A Little Murder (41m57s): When one of the attendees at a dwarf convention at a hotel in Las Vegas is found hanging from the rafters above the stage in the conference room, Grissom is called in by Brass to investigate whether it was a suicide or if there was sufficient motive for the murder of this one dwarf. Meanwhile, Catherine is attacked when carrying out an investigation into a murder that occurred during a burglary.
Abra Cadaver (47m04s): In a casting that's sure to appeal to fans of Michael Mann's Manhunter, which starred William Petersen years before his casting as Gil Grissom, Tom Noonan makes a guest appearance as a magician listed as prime suspect in the police investigation of the disappearance of a woman during his act. Elsewhere in Las Vegas, Catherine is assigned to look into whether the death of a rock star by an overdose was an accident, suicide or murder.
The Execution of Catherine Willows (40m11s): During one of her earliest investigations as part of the CSI team into a serial rapist and murderer, Catherine's evidence had put the prime suspect on death row. Fifteen years later, however, when a number of young women are raped and murdered in exactly the same manner, he is granted a stay of execution leaving Catherine and Grissom to reopen the investigation.
Fight Night (42m06s): When a boxer dies during a prize fight in Las Vegas, the police call in the CSI team to investigate whether it was as a result of the violence that is typical in a boxing match or if the evidence points to murder. Meanwhile, when it appears as though a gang member was shot dead by a rival gang in a car park outside the boxing venue, Grissom assigns Catherine to investigate. Elsewhere in town, Nick looks into a robbery at a jewellery store.
Snuff (39m42s): In season three's bleakest episode, Grissom assigns Catherine to an investigation that opens when a company that develops pornographic films contacts the police with what they believe to be snuff footage. In examining the footage, Catherine and Warrick locate the hotel room in which the footage was shot and, from that, a suspect but, as he doesn't appear on film, their work requires some means of proving his guilt. Elsewhere, Grissom - whom regular viewers will know is an expert on bugs - investigates the discovery of a body covered in ants. Beginning with identifying the victim, Grissom dates the death, working back to name the murderer and their motive.
Blood Lust (40m50s): When a cab driver of middle-eastern origin is beaten to death by a crowd in Las Vegas, they report that it was as a result of seeing the cabbie knock down and kill a local kid. When Brass calls Grissom and the rest of his CSI team to the scene they find no evidence that car had struck the teen, finding only stab wounds instead. With two bodies, Grissom and Brass open two investigations - one to find who killed the teenager and another to break apart the vigilante mob to uncover the racists who led the attack on the cab driver.
High and Low (41m37s): At the same time as Catherine is called out to investigate the apparently straightforward murder of a man outside a bar, shot at close range as he walked to his car, Grissom, Warrick and Nick look into the death of a man who was pushed from the roof of a building. As Nick and Warrick check out the body on the ground, Grissom finds evidence of a fight on the rooftop convincing the crime lab that it's now a murder investigation.
Recipe for Murder (40m59s): Warrick and Sara investigate the possible suicide of a young girl at home, whose body shows little evidence of having taken her own life. Elsewhere, Grissom and Catherine pair up to look into the finding of a hand inside a meat grinder at an abattoir, identifying it as a missing chef employed at an expensive restaurant in town.
Got Murder (42m16s): When a number of bird-spotters see a raven holding an eyeball in its beak, they call in the police who, in turn, ask Grissom and Catherine to investigate. Catherine brings Nick and Sara into the investigation to search for the missing body, which, when found, is quickly identified due to the victim having an implant in her spine. Meanwhile, during an autopsy, a car salesman who was thought to be dead is discovered to be still alive. Despite the best efforts of Robbins, the victim dies soon after, leading to Grissom and Warrick paying a visit to the car showroom where he worked only to find a ruthless sales environment in place.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Series 3, Part 1 has been transferred in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, as Five broadcast it in the UK, and as with previous releases of this series on DVD from Momentum, the transfer is superb - the colours are rich, the picture is clean and the contrast between the bright sunlight of the desert and the dark of the CSI labs are all handled without any problems.
Given that this season dates from the last two years or so, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on each episode is not entirely unexpected but instead of being noticeable throughout, the surround speakers tend to be used to add presence to the soundtrack.
The bonus features included on this release of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation are as follows:
CSI Moves Into Season 3 Feature (13m15s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): Featuring interviews with the cast and the creator of the show, Anthony Zuiker, this bonus feature looks at how season three opens and what each of the characters go through over the twenty-two episodes that will follow.
The CSI Tour: Police Station (9m23s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): The production designer of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Richard Berg, hosts a short tour of the set used as the police station in the series including the reception, the interview room and on into the dispatch room.
Commentary on Revenge Is Best Served Cold: Creator of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and executive producers, Anthony Zuiker and Danny Cannon, provide a commentary for this episode that covers the debt to Martin Scorcese, the impact that Grissom's loss of hearing had over the season and how CSI moved from season two to season three.
Commentary on The Accused Is Entitled: Writer and director, Ann Donahue and Ken Fink, respectively, provide a commentary on the episode that does most to portray the difficulty Grissom will have should he continue in his role as senior CSI as his hearing continues to fail. As Donahue and Fink talk us through a number of great confrontations between Grissom and his mentor, they build up to the moment in the courtroom where Grissom's future is put on trial at the same time as he gives evidence in a preliminary hearing into a murder trial.
Commentary On Fight Night: Director Richard Lewis and writer Naren Shankar contribute a commentary to this episode and without any members of the cast lightening the discussion, this is a great audio track, full of information, trivia and details about the working process on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Shankar is honest about the origins of the writing, talking about how his scripts recall the three stories commonly used in Hill Street Blues - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation typically only has an A- and a B-story - and how this episode, which only looks at one night in Las Vegas, was based on the night that Tupac Shakur was shot following his attendance at a fight in the city with the owner of Death Row Records, Suge Knight.
Commentary on Snuff: As one of this boxset's better episodes, a commentary by the writer and director is welcome, giving Ann Donahue a chance to talk about the development of the story, particularly with her acknowledgement of the FBI's official line on snuff movies not existing as well as her attempts to add humour to what is otherwise a bleak story. The director, Ken Fink, offers a technical appraisal of the episode but given her knowledge of the subject, this is Donahue's commentary.
As with previous releases of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on Region 2, whether decide to buy locally or import via an online retailer will depend on whether the breaking of the season into two parts matters or not. The Region 1 release has, to date, released an entire season in one boxset whereas Momentum have opted for a split release, with the combined boxsets having the same list of extras as the complete Region 1 release.
With nods to horror, hip-hop and fans of Manhunter, the third season was CSI's best to date so whatever selection you make, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is still a worthy purchase as, alongside, The Shield, the Law & Order series of television shows and the now-cancelled Boomtown, it represents the best of current American television.