Paramount // 2008 // 864 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 21st, 2009
Follow the Evidence. Again and Again.
After eight years, something apparently had to give over in CSI-land. Season Eight saw the departure of one of the core characters and the point-blank shooting of another. Part of this change-up was motivated by non-narrative factors: both the aforementioned characters were notoriously unhappy with their contracts during the show's run. Part of their departure was necessitated by the simple fact that the show was threatening to stagnate after almost two hundred episodes. After dealing with all manner of freaks and their crimes the team needed a shakeup to stay fresh, so the creative team decided to inject some new blood into the show. Although the early signs show that the transfusion has been successful, the long-term prognosis for the patient doesn't look good. For now, we've got a technically strong presentation of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Ninth Season (Blu-ray) to tide us over until we can see if the show's changes will keep it alive.
This review assumes you're at least passingly familiar with the lineup changes necessitated by last season's goings-on, as well as the arrival and departure of two major stars. If not, then this review will contain some spoilers (also, I'd love to know how you avoid hearing about this stuff, since it seems like the major news outlets delight in spoiling this kind of stuff for viewers).
When we last left the team, Warrick had been shot, setting off many of the changes that occur this season. We get to meet his replacement (Lauren Lee Smith, The L Word), and his death brings Sara back temporarily. This puts Grissom in a bind until he meets prospective CSI Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne, Othello). All twenty-four episodes of Season Nine are presented on six discs:
* "For Warrick"
* "The Happy Place"
* "Art Imitates Life"
* "Let It Bleed"
* "Leave Out All the Rest"
* "Say Uncles"
* "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda"
* "Young Man with a Horn"
* "19 Down..."
* "One to Go"
* "The Grave Shift"
* "Disarmed and Dangerous"
* "Deep Fried and Minty Fresh"
* "Miscarriage of Justice"
* "Kill Me If You Can"
* "Turn, Turn, Turn"
* "No Way Out"
* "The Descent of Man"
* "A Space Oddity"
* "If I Had a Hammer"
* "The Gone Dead Train"
* "Hog Heaven"
* "All In"
As with all the previous seasons of CSI, these twenty-four episodes are made up of a funky mix of very compelling to only mildly interesting crimes that shine a pretty bright light on the dark side of humanity. Also, like the other season, this one is primarily compelling because of the changes in the interpersonal relationships: the crimes are fun, but the characters are what keep the show interesting. With that said, here's how the major character changes work out this season:
* Warrick's replacement. CSI Level 2 Riley Adams is brought on board in the third episode to fill out the team. Considering that we're talking about a very close-knit cast of characters the introduction of any new players is fraught with danger, but in this case it works very well. She's obviously being presented as a spunky foil/love interest for Greg, and she's written differently enough from Sara and Catherine that she doesn't need to suffer in comparison.
* Grissom's departure. For me, it's hard to imagine CSI without Grissom, and I'm still not sure the episodes without him refute me, but his departure makes sense and is handled with great care. The show hasn't been quiet in pointing out that Grissom would eventually outgrow running the department, and his relationship with Sara gives him the perfect reason to bow out. Personally, I still wish he was around, but I think his departure is handled better than either Warrick's or Sara's. Which brings us to...
* Dr. Raymond Langston. I remember the news being all a flutter with the introduction of Laurence Fishburne, and whether or not he was going to be able to bring the kind of star power necessary to offset the loss of William Petersen. I don't know if he's going to be able to do that in the long run, but Langston is an interesting character, and Fishburne brings his tremendous talents to bear in portraying him on screen.
All these changes leave the show in a holding pattern by the end of the season, and only time will tell if this was the show's last gasp, or just the beginning of a second wind.
On the Blu-ray front, CSI: The Ninth Season looks tremendous. I remember being blown away by the look of the first season in hi-def, but this season blows it out of the water, mainly because the source is so much cleaner. That means that the noise and some of the questionable artefacting is gone this time out. Colors are strong, and blacks are nice and inky. The show's commitment to sound design is also still present, with an effective balance between dialogue, effects, and the show's interesting musical choices. Also, we get some subtitles for these episodes, which is a nice change.
Extras are also impressive this time out, with the vast majority of the supplements in hi-def. We get featurettes on major aspects of the show, like Grissom's departure, as well as the continuing adventures of the lab rats. We're also treated to some deleted scenes on five out of the six discs. There are also two different "modes" accessible on some episodes that allow either a picture-in-picture commentary by key cast and crew, or a trivia track with info about the show. Finally, there are two audio commentaries on "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "A Space Oddity."
I've got to say that while there are moments in this season as strong as any before, the overall feel seems to be missing. After much contemplation I'm convinced it's because there isn't really any drama left in the show. Once we've assimilated Warrick's death, everyone else is actually in a pretty good place. Nick is good at his job, Catherine has settled in as boss, the lab rats are still the lab rats, and there's no significant interpersonal tension. I assume that the introduction of new characters was supposed to accomplish that, but it really doesn't. Riley fits right in as a female Greg but without any significant sexual tension or personal issues, and Dr. Langston is eerily perfect as a newly minted CSI. The individual crimes in each episode have to provide most of the drive for this season, and they just aren't interesting enough to carry the show. Hopefully once the writers have settled into the new characters some more issues will crop up, but for now it feels like the show is coasting.
It's not time to abandon ship yet, but Season Ten is going to have a lot to prove. As it is, Season Nine has some interesting moments but it feels like a letdown in the overall arc of the show. For the intrepid fans, however, this Blu-ray release is a surefire winner with a strong audiovisual presentation and the usually excellent supplements.
There's enough reasonable doubt to find CSI not guilty for now.
Review content copyright © 2009 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 864 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site