Review: CSI: New York — ‘Near Death’

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The eighth season of CSI: New York comes to an end, and Mac fights for his life as the team searches for the woman who shot him.

Synopsis:

The team arrests Hank Shelton, a sick old man who took part in a series of bank robberies because he needed the money to be able to to live with his family until he died. Mac offers to head to the nearby pharmacy to pick up a prescription for the man, but he arrives in the middle of a robbery. Darius Cole fires at Mac, but Mac is able to take him down. A woman walks into the pharmacy, and Mac tells her to call 911. He turns his back, and the woman pulls out a gun and shoots him before killing the pharmacist.

The team is distraught, but they must focus on searching for the killer as the doctors work to save Mac’s life in the hospital. They discover that the woman who shot Mac is named Teena Milford, and she was dating Darius Cole. They head to her apartment to arrest her. Flack chases her down the street, and she ducks into a school bus parking lot. The team rushes in, and Flack is able to catch her and put her under arrest.


Analysis:

For the second year in a row, the CSI: New York writers crafted a season finale that could also serve as a series finale as the fate of the show remained up in the air. Fortunately for fans of Mac Taylor and the rest of the team, New York was renewed for a ninth season. The series has successfully cheated death for the second time, so it’s a good thing the show’s leading man will also live to fight crime another day.

During “Near Death”, Mac is stuck in limbo. He is fighting for his life after being shot, and the episode features personal moments between Mac and each member of the team as well as his late wife Claire, whom fans first saw during flashbacks to September 11 during the season eight premiere, “Indelible”. The scenes are affecting, especially from the point of view of a longtime viewer who knew this might be the end of the line for CSI: NY. Last season’s finale, “Exit Strategy”, was perhaps a better potential series finale, but this year’s finale is much more personal. It does deviate from the usual CSI formula by featuring scenes that might be considered supernatural, but it’s an interesting way to let Mac share a moment with each member of the family he has created at the lab.

The first and last “limbo” scenes feature Mac and Claire, and Gary Sinise and Jaime Ray Newman are great together. As with “Indelible”, the pair has a comfortable, believable chemistry that makes Claire’s death even more poignant. During her first scene this week, Claire explains to Mac that he’s dying. He isn’t ready, but she tells him it will all be okay. He wants to know why she is keeping her distance, so she comes closer and reaches out to touch him for the first time in more than a decade. Their second encounter at the end of the episode is very different. By then, Mac has come to terms with his situation and is ready to move on. Claire, however, tells him that he has to continue living. It isn’t like him to give up.

During the final scene with Mac and Claire, Mac confesses that he has met someone. He and Christine Whitney have embarked on a tentative relationship, and it’s clear that he has been struggling with what this budding love might mean for his past with Claire. Claire gives Mac and Christine her blessing, which symbolizes Mac forgiving himself for falling in love again and allowing himself to move on. What he shared with Claire will always be an important part of him, but he deserves to find new happiness. In fact, Claire’s final words to him are, “Be happy, Mac.”

While Mac deals with his internal struggles, Christine is waiting at the hospital to find out if Mac will live or die. Her brother Stan was Mac’s former partner, who died in the line of duty, and she is once again forced to face the reality of what it can mean to have a police officer in the family. However, she doesn’t run away. Instead, she stays at the hospital and waits, and she’s with Mac when he wakes up at the end of the hour. She has been praying over him, and she sheds tears of joy when he squeezes her hand and opens his eyes. The relationship between Mac and Christine has been a nice addition to season eight, allowing fans to see Mac in a different light as he makes an effort to have a personal life away from the lab. With season nine on the horizon, I hope we get to see more of their romance. The writers have mentioned wanting to focus on the team’s personal lives next season, so I have my fingers crossed that we haven’t seen the last of Christine.

Mac’s past and present loves are an important part of “Near Death”, but it’s his scenes with the rest of the CSI team that have the most meaning for me. He shares a few minutes with each of them in turn while he is stuck in limbo. Each scene is a manifestation of his innermost thoughts about the rest of the team, and he says things to each of them that he never got a chance to say in life. Now that Mac—and the show—have survived for another year, I hope we see similar real-life interactions between Mac and the team in the fall.

Jo is the newest CSI on the team, but she’s the first who shares a scene with Mac in limbo. The friendship that has developed between them over the past two seasons has been wonderful, and Sinise and Sela Ward do a great job of showing how much these two mean to each other and how much they rely on each other on the job. In the hospital, Jo is distressed as she waits to find out if Mac will be okay, and she seems upset to realize how little she really knows about Mac outside of work. In limbo, however, we are reminded that their work relationship is a strong one. Jo asks Mac what he will miss the most, and he replies, “The team. Danny’s stubbornness, Lindsay’s conviction, Hawkes’ brain, Flack’s sarcasm, Sid’s quirkiness, Adam’s…Adam.” He ends with Jo, stating that what he’ll miss the most about her is “your friendship—and your Post-it notes.” Jo laughs, and she tells him that it isn’t fair that he’s being taken away from them. Mac seems to be coming to terms with his fate, pointing out that this is simply his time. Jo may be able to do the job without him, but she doesn’t want to lose him. Hopefully season nine will allow Jo to get to know Mac more personally so that their friendship becomes even stronger.

Adam is the next person Mac interacts with in limbo. It’s a perfect scene for the character, who is dancing around with a dummy when Mac approaches him in the dim, static-filled lab. Mac is amused, and he asks if he can cut in. Adam tosses the dummy aside, but Mac teases that he was hoping he could dance with the dummy instead. Adam asks about dying, and Mac says that he feels peaceful now that he has come to terms with the inevitable. However, he does wish he had taken a leaf out of Adam’s book and had more fun. Adam offers Mac a drink, and they share a quiet moment together. Adam has always been the ‘kid’ of the lab, and it’s nice to see how much Mac admires his personality and humor—and also how much he respects him and considers him a valuable member of the team. He says that Adam will make a good CSI, and I wonder if he’ll make that career change during season nine. We’ve seen Adam in the field from time to time, but he’s always been a lab tech first and foremost.

Sid is next, and this is the only limbo scene that really gives me pause. Mac knows about Sid’s successful invention of the Hammerback Sleeper, which is believable—even if Sid (or Jo) never told the man about it, it’s easy to believe Mac would have found out somehow. However, Mac asks Sid what he’s planning to do with his millions, and Sid responds that he made a donation to Chelsea University for the Hammerback Research and Forensic Development Center. This isn’t something that Mac could instinctively know, so it does pull me out of the scene a little bit, but I’m more than willing to suspend my disbelief since Sinise and Robert Joy are really fantastic together, and I always love any interaction between Mac and Sid. Joy is great in this scene, as Sid describes how glad he is to become a millionaire when he’s old enough to appreciate the opportunity—rather than being a young man who might squander the money on frivolous things. Donating money to start a research center is very in-character for Sid, and this is the scene where my emotions started to get the better of me. I was doing well through the scenes with Claire, Jo and Adam, but Joy’s understated delivery really brings home that Mac’s life—and the show I’ve been watching for eight years—could be coming to an end. Sid tells Mac that his facility will break ground next year, and he implores Mac to be there. We know now that he will be, and I hope we get to see the the project come to fruition during season nine.

If Sid’s scene made me choke up, Flack’s scene turned me into a big mess. Eddie Cahill delivers a powerful performance, and it’s a satisfying scene for longtime fans. Flack brings up Jessica Angell, his girlfriend who was killed in the line of duty during the season five finale “Pay Up”. Angell has barely been mentioned over the past few seasons, but Flack let’s Mac—and the audience—know that the pain is still fresh in his mind. He never got to tell her that he loved her before she died, and he expresses similar regret that he left so many things unsaid between himself and Mac. Flack tracked down Angell’s killer and shot him, and he tried to tell Mac during season six after a slow spiral left Flack bereft and his career in danger. Mac refused to listen to Flack’s confession back then, but they’re able to talk about it now in Mac’s mind. More than that, Mac admits that he knew about Simon Cade, but he didn’t arrest Flack because he couldn’t see the benefit of taking down a good cop—and a good man. Mac may understand why Flack went after Cade, but he implores Flack not to repeat history when he finds the woman who shot him. Even if Flack wants revenge for what happened to his friend and colleague, it’s better to let the law handle Teena. This is obviously not a conversation that Flack hears in real life, but he seems to have drawn the same conclusion on his own. When he corners Teena, she tells him to shoot her, but he just waits for Danny to jump in and handcuff her. Flack knows that killing Simon Cade didn’t make up for Angell’s death, and it’s good to see that he isn’t willing to go to that place again, even if he’s in pain.

The scene with Hawkes is, unfortunately, very brief. Hill Harper is a talented actor who is often underutilized on CSI: NY, but Hawkes and Mac still share a really interesting moment in limbo that could offer a look at what’s in store during season nine. It starts with Mac looking down at himself in the operating room, and he turns to see Hawkes standing nearby. Mac asks about Hawkes’ girlfriend Camille, who was last seen in the season seven episode “Food for Thought”. Mac tells Hawkes that he should get married and start a family, and Hawkes laughs and reminds Mac that he could do the same. Both men compare each other to Jo during this exchange, and it brings to mind Jo’s words to Mac in “Identity Crisis”, when she told him he’d be a good father. It’s a distinct possibility for both men, and I’d be curious to see if the show heads in that direction next season.

Danny and Lindsay share a limbo scene with Mac, and fans get a glimpse of their daughter Lucy. The little girl comes running through the lab, and Mac has a big smile on his face as he kneels down to embrace his goddaughter. She immediately runs off again, but it’s a nice moment, and it gives Mac a chance to talk to Danny and Lindsay alone. They discuss a big change that has, no doubt, been in Mac’s mind—and theirs—for some time. They wonder if it might be best to raise Lucy away from the city, which is something I’ve waited to hear since the little girl was born. Even if they decide to stay in New York, I’m glad we have proof that they’ve considered other options. Life in a big city isn’t for everyone, and I would expect Lindsay, at least, to think about raising Lucy elsewhere. I can’t see them leaving to go to Montana (the most obvious choice) until the show is finally ending, but I’ll be curious to see if this is a life change that they struggle with next year.

Lindsay heads down the hall after Lucy, leaving Mac and Danny to have a moment alone. I’m glad we get to see just them, especially since their relationship was one of the most interesting to watch in the early days of the series. Danny is a different man today than he was back then, but he and Mac remain close. It’s a very simple conversation, just an exchange of ‘I love yous’ between them, but it’s a really beautiful moment that shows how much they care for each other.

While Mac has been stuck in limbo, interacting with each member of the team in turn, the rest of the CSIs have been struggling to solve the crime while waiting to find out what would happen to their boss and friend. Jo and Flack are the ones who rush to the hospital, and Jo is frantic as she tries to get someone to tell her what’s going on. Flack has to hold her back, and they embrace as Mac is wheeled into surgery. Flack, Mac and Jo have been an awesome combination since she joined the team, and I always look forward to their scenes. Seeing Flack and Jo supporting each other this week is perfect, and it illustrates the close friendship that has developed between them over the past two seasons.

Flack is seething with anger as they try to find the woman responsible for Mac’s wounds, and he watches the surveillance footage over and over again as he tries to see anything that will identify her. She has her back to the camera, and he rewinds and watches Mac get shot time and time again while he stares at the screen. Adam approaches him and reaches out to stop him from rewinding the tape again, and he promises that he’ll take it back to the lab and do anything he can to identify the woman. It’s a nice little moment between Flack and Adam, who haven’t interacted nearly as much as I would like since Adam joined the show during season two.

Adam also has a moment with Hawkes and Lindsay as the three of them process the scene. Mac’s blood is on the floor only a few feet away from them, and they know his life is hanging in the balance. Adam tries to reassure the others, telling them that they’ll find the person responsible, but Lindsay points out how hollow those words sound. The dialogue is a bit clunky, but the sentiment comes through. Every day, they tell victims’ families that they’ll bring the killers to justice, but those words mean nothing when a person is grieving. Lindsay swears she’ll never say that to another survivor, and the brief scene does a lot to show how this self-made family reacts when their father figure is in danger.

At the very end of the hour, fans get a glimpse of Mac returning to work six months after his brush with death. The entire team moves to embrace him, glad to have him back, and I will be glad to have the entire New York crew back on my TV screen in the fall. “Near Death” sets up some interesting possibilities for season nine, and I can’t wait to see what sort of personal storylines are in store for Mac and the rest of the team.


See also: “Near Death” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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