The original Las Vegas-based CSI is commonly regarded as being superior to its spin-off shows, Miami and New York. Although they do their best to follow the same formula, introducing more action and more bleakness, respectively, the first CSI generally does it all better. At the heart of CSI: Vegas is Gil Grissom (William Petersen) the head of the CSI unit, who commands at team of four key investigators. Grissom is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, an eccentric, someone geeky scientist who uses his intelligence and powers of forensic deduction to solve even the most obscure crimes. He is a very unusual detective and a very unusual hero and is probably the single best element of this TV crime drama.
Over the past four seasons we have seen many of the characters evolve, although none as much as the supervisor, Grissom. In much the same way as his Miami counterpart, Horatio Caine (played by the excellent David Caruso) although a little more subtly, Grissom has undergone some significant developments, undergoing problems with his hearing, overcoming his fear of guns and blurring the lines in his intangible relationship with one of his team members, Sarah Sidel. Thus far things have taken quite some time to develop, but in this season we see his biggest challenge yet (Season 5 Part 1 Spoiler Alert) the disbanding of his team.
I would say that otherwise the episodes are what we have come to expect but, to be honest, how could it ever be the same? On the run-up to the fateful day where Grissom faces off against his political adversary and superior, Eckley, the team solves some pretty tough crimes in some pretty strange settings, whether in the world of transsexuals, pest exterminators, underground or even in Area 51. After everything gets shaken up, the stories still remain captivating, even when the team start investigating a rather strange Sherlock Holmes club.
Aside from the major change that takes place, there are a few other smaller - but still significant - character developments: Warrick and Catherine share a 'moment', Greg takes his final few proficiency tests under Grissom's supervision, a couple of new characters appear - most importantly the new team member, Sophia Curtis (played by Brit actress Louise Lombard) - and finally we get to the bottom of the relationship (or lack thereof) between Grissom and Sarah.
But is the season as good as the previous four? Well, I was highly sceptical about the changes they made in this season - one of the many reasons why I skipped several of the episodes in favour of watching Tarantino's double-bill series finale, where he fixes all of the 'problems' that occur across the season, but this first part of the fifth run of CSI, which includes twelve episodes, is actually very good. Despite William Petersen (the vastly underrated star of the best Hannibal Lector movie, Manhunter) getting less screen time and the heavily plasticized Marg Helgenberger (Species) getting too much - I dislike her smarmy detective, Catherine the most - it is just as watchable as ever. I'm not saying that it is quite as good as some of the previous seasons, but if you like your CSI, you are not going to be disappointed. Despite my reservations, I wasn't.
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