William Petersen is yet another highly underrated actor who has carved out a successful career for himself on the small screen. Star of my personal favourite Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter and of the William Friedkin thriller To Live and Die in L.A. he found little subsequent success until returning in CSI. Here he has provided us with one of the most memorable TV detectives of all-time, Gil Grissom, a veritable Sherlock Holmes, perhaps slightly less enigmatic but just as eccentric and with all of the same powers of deduction.
There are several other important characters in CSI, but it is clear that Grissom is the one who makes this show superior to its counterparts. Over the course of the last five seasons, we have seen plenty of changes to his character, not least his hearing problems, his understated relationship with his co-worker Sarah, his ongoing feud with one particular serial killer nemesis and his eventual demotion to co-commander of the team. Grave Danger is the concluding two-parter to Season Five of CSI and picks up with Grissom and Catherine Willows (who formerly worked under him) commanding two members of the team each, Sarah and Greg with Grissom and Nick and Warrick under Catherine. However when one of the team members goes missing, the whole unit have to band together to work on the case, with Grissom once again at the helm.
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, these are two of the best episodes of CSI that I have ever seen. Tarantino himself is a bit of an enigma but when all is said and done I generally enjoy his movies and was happy to see him return to the limelight with Kill Bill. Indisputably talented both as a director and writer, here his biggest advantage is really his fondness for the show itself. It seems that he too keenly follows the plight of the central protagonist, Grissom, clearly wanting to use these two episodes to make some pretty drastic changes and set things right (Grissom's demotion was one of the worst decisions they made, vastly reducing his on-screen presence and thus diminishing the value of the show). Over the course of these eighty-odd minutes we see William Petersen return to form and Gil Grissom reclaim his rightful position as the leader of this team.
Of course, this is clearly Tarantino's work. Right from the outset he shows his colours, getting his characters to sing along to songs playing on the radio, spinning cameras around a table-full of people, juggling the story chronology, giving the characters random anecdotes to tell one another and even getting in some characteristic gore with a gruesome black and white autopsy sequence. There are a few cameos as well, with Enter The Dragon's John Saxon, Moonraker's Bond girl Lois Chiles and Some Like It Hot's Tony Curtis popping up for a couple of brief lines each. Tarantino has fashioned a quality two-parter here and potentially saved a superior TV series by returning it to its roots. I can't wait for season six.
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