Shane Saunders reviews the Season Fourteen premiere of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, “The Devil and DB Russell.” Read Rachel Trongo’s take next week.
Everything you think you know about the this season’s premiere can go out the window.
The kick off to CSI’s fourteenth season, premiering this Wednesday, is a fast-paced tale which reinforces the show’s Season Four theme “assume nothing.” After a summer of online discussion as to who will make it out of the premiere alive, the question everyone will be asking after “The Devil and DB Russell” will be centered on those that survive the events and the long term ramifications going forward.
Following a brief three-day time jump, the series resumes following the events from Season Thirteen’s finale, “Skin in the Game”: Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann) is on the hunt for Oliver Tate (Tim Matheson), DB (Ted Danson) and Finlay (Elisabeth Shue) tracking surveillance footage, and Nick (George Eads) and Greg (Eric Szmanda) hot on the trail to a possible location where Morgan (Elisabeth Harnois) is being held captive. It’s when Greg stumbles upon a gruesome discovery that we’re taken into the show’s opening credits, and left to ponder over the commercial break whether the imagery just displayed is someone from the series meeting his or her demise.
Going into this premiere, I had some initial hesitation and concern that this would be a full-fledged action-packed hour, a direction the show has taken more often as of late. For the most part it is, but the payoff at the end of the hour is rewarding. Though the online communities have been agasp as to who lives or dies, criticizing a potential predictable outcome, I can attest that it’s the journey that matters and what transpires truly is shocking. The show’s history proves that when a CSI or significant person is kidnapped or held hostage–Catherine in “The Finger,” Nick in “Grave Danger,” Lindsey Willows in “Built to Kill,” Sara in “Living Doll,” Morgan in “CSI Down,” Russell’s granddaughter in “Karma to Burn,” Mac Taylor’s girlfriend in “In Vino Veritas,” etc.–that it’s a positive outcome. This installment, however, doesn’t offer the same sense of hope heading into the future. Regardless of who survives there’s still emotional turmoil and an inevitable fallout to occur.
As different as this kidnapping story may be, my desire for the future is that this is it; you can only put someone through the ringer so many times without it feeling redundant and repetitive. While I think what happens here can illicit some new emotional arcs in future installments, I also realize that this is CSI and the science should be first and foremost. Season Thirteen was somewhat of a mixed bag for CSI–while I appreciated the energy to try new things and integrate more personal storylines, I don’t necessarily feel like they worked. One of the appeals of the Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois) character during her inception was her similarity to William Petersen‘s Gil Grissom character: her enthusiasm and vivaciousness driven by the forensic science profession. When thrown into the Hodges/Elisabetta love-triangle the character lost some footing. Harnois is a terrific addition to the series and I love how her involvement has warranted more scenes featuring Morgan’s father, Conrad Ecklie. Marc Vann’s portrayal of the once prickly Ecklie is an evolution that’s a treat to watch. Humanizing the character by introducing us to his family world is a nice parallel to DB Russell’s–one is managing to come together while the other is surprisingly falling apart. I’m intrigued by what this episode does for Ecklie, and what his presence will be like in upcoming episodes.
The one to watch for in this episode, however, is Captain Brass. Paul Guilfoyle gives his best performance since “A Bullet Runs Through It” and it delivers on every level. While “The Devil and DB Russell” doesn’t offer much fodder for originals like Sara (her marriage, or lack thereof, is not mentioned and her time in San Francisco is brushed off), Nick, or Greg, it’s nice to have Brass in the spotlight once again. When faced with the obstacle of potentially losing his daughter for good Brass’ anguish and guilt is palpable, and Guilfoyle’s plays it with aplomb. In what is most certainly an engaging and shocking opener, Guilfoyle’s Brass steals the show and takes viewers on an incredible emotional journey.