And so the Great CSI Crossover Experiment That William Petersen Never Would Have Agreed To ended last night, with Laurence Fishburne’s “Dr. Ray,” as Horatio Caine insisted on calling him (really, are they writing that character to intentionally be a condescending irritant?), coming back to CSI and Las Vegas.
He’d been to Miami and New York, where they play other Who tunes for their theme songs, trying to solve the disappearance of a young woman, Madeline Briggs. She’d been a victim of an interstate human-traficking ring, in which women are forced into prostitutes and then their organs are harvested.
That’s a very nasty multiple crime, the sort that would inspire Fishburne’s Ray Langston to go the extra miles. As I wrote Monday, CSI: Miami‘s hour was a hardboiled fizzle as drama. CSI: NY benefitted from Langston’s visit: It scored its highest ratings since that series’ premiere. As far as the episode itself, well, it had a prettily-shot climactic scene at Citi Field to prove its geographical genuineness, and Gary Sinise impressed me once again as one of the least-showy of prime-time leading men. But his part of the franchise was just a bridge to the reward at the end.
Last night’s CSI demonstrated the way these stories should be told. Instead of the cornball tough-guy dialogue that typified the other two editions (“It’s not gonna end in Miami, is it?”; “Let’s go get this guy, Mac”), there were long periods of blessed silence on the mothership CSI. Storytelling was done through action — watching Langston, Willows, Stokes, and the gang conduct lab experiments on evidence, and share it in urgent murmurs.
As far as anchoring this trilogy sweeps-stunt, Fishburne’s Langston continues to lack any hint of humor (even dour Gil Grissom was wry). And for as much as the writers made this case “personal” for Langston (he’d made a promise to Madeline’s mother that he’d find her), he remains a closed-off, rather shut-down character.
If the idea was to boost viewership, the CSI crossover can probably be deemed a success. As far as deepening our connection to Langston, it probably made many viewers admire the good doctor, but I’m not sure if anyone felt much increased warmth toward him.