Well, the bad news is that CSI is over.
The good news is also that CSI is over.
After a fifteen season run, CBS' most iconic crime-solving show went off the air last night with a two-hour event film titled "Immortality". During its time on the airwaves, CSI single-handedly changed not only the TV procedural landscape, but real-life law enforcement itself. "The CSI Effect" became a very real thing (and problem) within the justice system. CSI-type courses were integrated into universities. For better or for worse, CSI has unequivocally changed not only the approach to law, but to real-world science.
So, naturally, the send-off to one of the most influential shows of the last two decades was not centred around the science and innovation that spun off three more shows, but on petty relationship drama.
TV is always about character. One of the first rules taught in film and television writing classes is character first, story second. CSI threw that rule out of the book from day 1, choosing to focus on the flashy science and gruesome visuals that became icons of its entire run, and thus placing its characters' development and progress second. This started a worrying trend in television where characters were often used as props for a story, and the development given to them could be erased to aid any casual viewer in understanding the world they'd randomly tuned into. Luckily, with today's TV the way it is, serialized drama is more prevalent and popular (perhaps not to a network, but it really is the age of the consumer), and thus frustrating storytelling like CSI's is harder to find. More demand is placed on writers to grow and develop their characters both in a serialized program, and a procedural one (Castle is a great example of this). However, CSI never strayed from its formula, and those small moments were still too sparse to ever be emotionally satisfying to the viewer.
As the show progressed, some relationships between the characters were forgotten (Catherine and Grissom, once described as best friends, had so few interactions in William Petersen's final season on the show that Petersen and Helgenberger, who plays Catherine, commented on the inconsistency to TV Guide), while others took the forefront (Grissom and Sara). The team dynamics often ebbed and flowed depending on which cast members were in any given season, and continuity between them was often forgotten amongst the rote of the crime of the week formula CSI perfected and then exhausted.
The finale, however, threw much of that out the window. It chose instead to focus on the frankly tumultuous relationship between Grissom and Sara (now divorced) and used the backdrop of a casino bombing to carry that story through the finale's frankly empty two hours. The idea of finally focusing on characters certainly would have been a welcome one--if it hadn't focused on the most tired and done story in CSI's entire run; once again revisiting Grissom and Sara's bland relationship felt like beating a dead horse (or a dead pig, as Grissom once iconically did). Every other character fell to the wayside as the show took one final shot at exploring one of the most boring dynamics in its history.
The episode opened with the aforementioned bombing, which drew casino owner (and FBI agent) Catherine back to Vegas after Helgenberger exited the show in season 12. Along with Catherine came Brass, beloved LVPD cop played by Paul Guilfoyle, who himself exited the show in season 14. And, of course, with the implication that fan-favourite Lady Heather may be connected to the bombing, along came Grissom, unseen since Petersen's exit in season 8.
The next two hours were filled with a frankly uninspiring whodunnit and an indulgence into Sara Sidle's psyche, including a truly torturous interrogation scene with Lady Heather, where Sara's petty jealousy towards Heather's former relationship with Grissom was more befitting a tantrum-throwing toddler than a grown professional. The show took pains to have other characters remind Sara of her feelings for Grissom, rather than showing Sara herself exploring those feelings--or, perhaps more importantly, Grissom exploring his own towards her; one bizarrely long scene involved Grissom staring strangely at Sara while they sat waiting for a hive of bees to return with the evidence they needed.
The bees, red herrings, and bombings all culminated in a bizarre speech from Grissom to one of Lady Heather's former (and jilted) BDSM clients about a mythical whale whose love song resonated at a frequency unable to be heard by female whales. (Are there gay whales? Couldn't that poor whale find love with a fellow dude whale? Was that whole speech a strange metaphor for men who can't take no for an answer? The answer to the last one is yes.) Grissom successfully talked down the bomber, whose jealousy towards Grissom and Heather's relationship that impressively mirrored Sara's own (thankfully, hers did not come with a bomb vest). The day was also saved by Catherine, Greg, and Morgan, who all managed to disarm a series of car bombs that would have levelled a building. Another shout-out must be given to DB, who spent almost all of the second half of the movie staring at a computer screen and waiting for it to reveal the fingerprint of their culprit, and who did not complain once about Grissom sweeping in to take over his job with no explanation at all.
A series of confusing wrap-up scenes followed the conclusion of the mundane case: Catherine declared her intent to DB to apply for his position (Ted Danson is set to head to CSI: Cyber), which was then given to Sara. No goodbyes from Grissom were given to any of his old team--or, in fact, to the audience, leaving characters like Doc Robbins, Brass, David, Greg, Morgan, and Hodges in some strange eternal limbo where their stories and relationships were not addressed or acknowledged at all, but who all presumably went on with their lives. No one was given a proper closure, or even a send off. Which, really, is entirely in line with the way CSI treated its characters for fifteen seasons. Still, one would hope that the ending to the entire show would attempt to wrap up characters the audience grew attached to over fifteen years.
Instead, viewers were treated to a goodbye from Grissom to Sara, and then given whiplash three minutes later when Sara appeared at Grissom's boat to run away with him on his ocean vigilante adventures. Indeed, the only characters to get any sort of ending were those two as they quite literally sailed off into the sunset.
Here's hoping Sara handed that position over to Catherine (apparently there was no room in those two hours to take five seconds to give Catherine some closure, either), and that she's running the LVPD crime lab with her Level 1 CSI daughter by her side.
See you never, CSI. After fifteen seasons, viewers can finally rest easy: it's really, really over.