Review: CSI: Miami–‘Last Stand’

When the Mala Noche gang strikes out against Miami, Horatio must track down the elusive Memmo Fierro.

Synopsis:

The Miami-Dade Police Department raids a house in the suburbs and discovers a fully-operational drug lab. This is only the latest strike against the Mala Noche gang. Newly-elected State Attorney Nicholas Chandler is giving a press conference when a car crashes through the police barrier and a man opens fire on the crowd in front of the drug house. Chandler gets hit, and Sergeant Jennifer Swanson takes out the shooter. The man falls out of the car, and the driver speeds away. Swanson tries to save Chandler, but it’s too late. Horatio and Frank arrive in time for the shooter to deliver a message to Horatio before he dies: Mala Noche says this is only the beginning.

Ryan and Walter collect shards of tinted glass and a pair of sunglass frames from the crime scene. The shooter wasn’t wearing glasses, so these belong to the driver. The glass is clear when Ryan removes it from the evidence envelope at the lab, revealing that it is photo-chromatic glass and these are the shooter’s regular prescription glasses. This information is enough to get them the name of their driver, Felix Medina. They confirm that the glasses belong to Felix, but he demands a lawyer. Meanwhile, Natalia speaks to Swanson and learns the MDPD has been getting calls to the tip line from disposable cellphones. These calls have helped the police with the recent raids. The new leader of Mala Noche, Armando Salazar, runs the gang like a business and doesn’t like to get his hands dirty. Eric and Horatio go to speak to Salazar, but they can’t find any evidence of gunshot residue and are forced to leave.

Felix speaks to his public defender, Sharon Kirby, and she promises that anything he says will stay between them. Felix tells her there’s something he needs to say, but he doesn’t want it to remain a secret. Sharon calls Horatio as soon as she leaves the courthouse, and she says she must speak with him immediately. An old man walks by and turns to slit Sharon’s throat before she can say anything else, grabbing her folders from the ground and walking away.

Reporter Grant Boyer was filming a clip for the news while the murder took place, so Natalia and Walter analyze his footage to get a glimpse of the killer. They see tattoos on his hands, and Walter rushes into the adjacent lab to test a substance found in Sharon’s hair. It’s glue from a prosthetic mask, and Cesar Soto makes masks for the Mala Noche. The killer isn’t an old man at all, and Horatio recognizes the tattoos on his hands: it’s Memmo Fierro. Horatio speaks to Felix, but Felix refuses to talk—he doesn’t want to end up dead too.

A new call comes into the tip line. It sounds like a kid. The Mala Noche is planning another attack against the city. Eric and Ryan go to Salazar’s office and find shredded paper from a bus tour ticket. Ryan poses as a tour guide and directs Salazar away from the bus. Two other man break away, and Salazar grabs a hostage. His two accomplices are shot (including Cesar Soto), and Eric runs after Salazar. Before Eric can get him, bullets come from another direction and strike Salazar down. Eric sees Memmo in the distance, but he gets away before Eric can catch him. Horatio, Eric and Ryan take Cesar behind a bus and press against his wound until he admits to making Memmo’s mask and what he’s up to—he’s going after the police next.

Eric and Natalia discover that the second call to the tip line is from Felix’s son Miguel. Felix doesn’t want to say anything for fear that Memmo will kill his son, but he doesn’t have a choice. The CSIs track Miguel’s cellphone to a hotel. Meanwhile, Memmo meets with the other members of Mala Noche and reclaims leadership of the gang. He always knew Salazar could never be a leader because he put money ahead of the brotherhood. Memmo shoots one of the members when he mouths off, but he forgives the others and vows to stand beside them as they retake Miami. Horatio, Tripp and Eric make their way into a hotel suite with a uniformed officer, and they find Miguel bound and gagged in the bedroom. Before they can get away, two men with guns rush in and start firing. The uniformed officer is killed, and Tripp and Eric dive for cover behind a couch. Horatio makes his way out of the bedroom and around to the entrance of the suite, taking out both men.

Now that Miguel is safe, Felix will do whatever Horatio asks of him. They send a message to the gang members telling them that Salazar is still alive, and Memmo demands to know where he will be hiding. Memmo makes his way to a boat and climbs on board. The only one there is Horatio, and he quickly gains the upper hand. Horatio points his gun at Memmo, but he doesn’t shoot him. He arrests him, and the pair sit in silence on the boat, staring off in opposite directions.


Analysis:

“Last Stand” once again pits Horatio against the man who killed his wife, Memmo Fierro. Horatio took Memmo down for the first time in season four’s “Rampage” after he shot Marisol. The character appeared in the second episode of that two-part finale, “One of Our Own”, before disappearing for more than four years. Memmo escaped from prison in “Manhunt” earlier this season and got away at the end of the episode. His re-emergence here sets up for one final showdown between Horatio and Memmo, and it gives Horatio the opportunity to make good on a promise he made to Memmo in “Manhunt”—when Memmo taunted Horatio about Marisol’s death, Horatio swore he would kill him. When Horatio finally gets Memmo alone on a boat at the end of “Last Stand”, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Horatio will shoot the person who killed his wife. After all, this is the man who flew to Brazil to take out the old Mala Noche leader Antonio Riaz, and Horatio has no less reason to want Memmo dead.

The conversation between Horatio and Memmo on the boat is interesting. Memmo suggests that he and Horatio aren’t that different. They both do what needs to be done in order to keep their people safe. Killing Marisol wasn’t personal for him, but it was certainly personal for Horatio. The gang leader wonders if Horatio’s pursuit of him has gotten personal, and he asks if Horatio is a “righteous man”. Horatio says that killing Memmo would be a righteous act, but he opts to arrest him instead. It’s a surprising choice, especially when you consider Horatio’s actions so far this season. We’ve seen him cross the line multiple times. Intimidating suspects with Eric in “Fallen” and “See No Evil” was just the beginning. He shot out the ceiling of a restaurant doubling as a drug lab in “Reality Kills”, and he threw a corrupt probation officer through a window in “On the Hook”. In “Happy Birthday”, Horatio applied pressure—literally and figuratively—to a wounded suspect and threatened to kill him if he didn’t provide answers. Natalia looked on nervously during that exchange, and this week Ryan is the one providing the literal pressure while Horatio demands to know what Cesar Soto can tell him about Memmo’s plans. In the last episode, “Wheels Up”, Horatio locked the door and closed the blinds so he could be alone with the victim’s abusive ex-boyfriend, presumably to beat him up for his role in her death. The abusive man in question, Jake, told Horatio that he’d “lost it”, and after a season of inappropriate conduct, it’s hard not to agree with him at least a little bit.

When Horatio is skulking around the boat and finally pistol-whips Memmo, kicking him several times while he points a gun at his head, it seems obvious that Horatio will continue the trend and get rid of Memmo himself. To be fair, this is one case where the audience can understand why Horatio might want to cross the line, and that makes it even more surprising when he chooses to let Memmo live. I get the feeling Memmo might be alive right now simply because a dead Memmo can’t come back at a later date to continue the cat and mouse game. I would like to see the storyline end here—dredging it back up again a season or two down the road would be overkill. Robert LaSardo is a talented actor, but I feel like it’s time to close the book on Memmo’s character for good. As for Horatio, I hope his decision to arrest Memmo instead of killing him is a sign that he will stop going to extremes when he’s chasing suspects. He must uphold the law, not take it into his own hands.

Memmo wasn’t the only character from previous seasons brought back for this episode. Nicholas Chandler was first seen as the prosecuting attorney in “Rampage” when former Mala Noche members Antonio Riaz and Rafael Sifuentes escaped from the courtroom, and he returned as a prosecutor in “Backstabbers” the next season. It is a nice touch for longtime fans to see him back again (assuming they remember him from four years ago), but the character only appeared in a single scene in each episode. If David Starzyk had guest-starred in an episode or two this season leading up to Chandler’s death this week, it would have created a connection with the audience. As it is, we meet him only a few minutes before he dies. It’s sad to see a character get gunned down by gang members, but there’s no real emotional investment for the viewers.

“Last Stand” introduced a few plot elements I thought would be relevant later in the episode, but they never resurfaced. The decision to bring back Nicholas Chandler was one of them. Why bother to use a character who hasn’t been around for four years for a role that only lasts five minutes? I kept expecting the team to uncover some sort of detail connecting Chandler to the Mala Noche, but it didn’t happen. Swanson reveals that they have been getting tips on the tip line, and the State Attorney wanted to keep it quiet, but that wasn’t what I had in mind. I also thought the detective who stepped on the glass at the beginning seemed suspicious—what self-respecting detective just stomps all over a crime scene? It’s for the best that nobody from the MDPD is responsible for the shooting, but I really felt like the beginning was setting up for more than just ‘Salazar goes after the new State Attorney to prove himself to the gang’. I can’t help but wonder if elements of the plot might have been shaved away to make room for that five-minute pursuit at the end of the episode. A bit of suspense is nice, even if you know Horatio will get his man sooner rather than later, but that final scene lasts far too long. Another wasted scene was the first visit to Salazar’s office. It seemed like a pointless excuse for the dynamic duo of Horatio and Eric to hassle the gang leader (and introduce him to the viewers). The shooter was dead, and even if Salazar had been driving, that wouldn’t have gotten gunshot residue on his hands. Bursting into his office to check him for gunshot residue doesn’t make any sense.

Since the team is after Memmo Fierro once again, Horatio and Eric are the main ones involved with the action. I expected that, but it is nice to see Ryan in the thick of things as well. I had to chuckle at the sight of him pretending to be a cheerful tour guide. The scene earlier in the episode where he and Natalia confront Felix about his glasses is slightly corny, especially Ryan’s last line, but it’s still fun to watch. However, I have to say the scene at the beginning with Ryan and Walter makes me miss their banter. Walter became one of my favorite characters last season, and his interaction with Ryan and Jesse was a real highlight of season eight. Jesse may be gone now, but I hope we haven’t seen the last of Ryan and Walter’s friendship.


See also: “Last Stand” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

Author

Rachel Trongo

Up Next