Paramount Studios presents
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation—The Complete Second Season (2001)
Captain Jim Brass: Can you get a print off those balloons?
Warrick Brown: I can get a print off of air.- Paul Guilfoyle, Gary Dourdan
Stars: William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, George Eads, Paul Guilfoyle, Gary Dourdan
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (grisly images, mild language)
Run Time: approx. 17 hours
Release Date: 2003-09-02
DVD ReviewNever having seen CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, I entered Season Two with fairly high expectations based on the overwhelming level of praise I had heard for the series. While I feel that the show is often somewhat quirky, I still find it to be one of the better television programs I have seen. Though my preferred form of entertainment is and always will be feature films, CSI nevertheless provided a pleasantly suitable alternative.
The series revolves around the investigations of the Las Vegas Police Department's Crime Scene Investigation Unit, a crack team of experts led by the eccentric but brilliant Gil Grissom (William Petersen). Grissom has a propensity for "thinking outside the box," an unusual style of rationalizing a crime that leads to many arrests. Grissom is joined on his crime solving quests by his captain, Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle); protégés Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) and Nick Stokes (George Eads); and two female masterminds, Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox). Each episode follows a rather tightly knit pattern of events—a murder is committed, CSI investigates the murder, and CSI solves the murder. While the monotony of the series does prove tedious after a short while, the individual episodes are intelligently crafted and wholly engaging mysteries.
The most disappointing factor of CSI is poorly scripted dialogue. While the writers hold no reservations in entrusting the audience to understand complicated terminology related to forensic technology and medical science, they repeatedly insist on diminishing more simplistic elements to the lowest common denominator. Particularly, when the CSI team elaborates on their discoveries amongst one another it is dreadfully unnatural and merely an unnecessary method of ensuring that the audience is capable of understanding.
Thankfully, the show is also ripe with fascinating elements, earning my wholehearted appreciation. Most noteworthy are the avant-garde visual effects used to demonstrate fascinating forensic and medical techniques. I do not believe I have ever seen such interesting methods of showing how a bullet enters the body, nor have I ever seen a shot of a drowning victim from the esophagus' point of view. Each episode is like a lesson in forensic science, simultaneously proving both entertaining and educational.
At the end of my 23-episode viewing stint, I found myself pleasantly entertained by Season Two of CSI. I had my doubts in the beginning, but I found that the episodes proved much more enjoyable as the season progressed. I suppose that could simply mean that I was becoming used to the style of the series, but I will base my recommendation on the lasting sense of gratification that I am left with at the close of the season.
The CSI team investigates the death of Tony Braun, a drug addicted Las Vegas casino manager who died of a supposed overdose. Of course, evidence of foul play is detected and Grissom begins to believe that Braun is the victim of a homicide. As my first introduction to the television series, this episode greatly worried me. The acting is weak, the story dull, and the cheap attempts at comic relief fall flat.
Burked rates 2.5 out of a possible five fingerprints:
When a homebound college student disappears without a trace, Grissom and company work their magic to discover the cause of her vanishing act. Chaos Theory has a much tighter narrative and a better flow than the first episode. It is a treat to watch CSI work together as a team and Grissom utilize his unique methods of philosophy.
A construction worker who plummets to his death is believed to be a routine suicide, but Grissom knows better than to doubt foul play. Meanwhile, Nick and Sara investigate the death of Dylan Buckley, a teen epileptic. I was impressed with the forensic practices and medical terminology used in Overload. A wealth of information is thrown at the audience, making this both an entertaining and educational affair. Furthermore, the ordinarily forced attempts at humor feel more natural this time around. Despite the fact that the closure to the Dylan Buckley case is absurd, I sincerely enjoyed Overload.
Bully for You
When a bully is shot and killed in a high school restroom, the evidence points to a classmate who was the main victim of the bully's torment. The preachy messages here regarding the pressures of high school youth are awkward and easily forgotten. The humor fails, the attempts at profundity fail, and the subplot investigation of a body dumped in a gully is nothing more than irrelevant filler. This is the most disappointing episode of the season.
A duo of outlandish cases baffles the CSI team in this awkwardly titled episode. The first is an unusual crime scene involving blood-spattered walls in a vacant apartment. The second pays homage to a classic urban myth where a scuba diver is found dead high atop a tree. Scuba Doobie-Doo contains fascinating forensic work, but the weak acting and generic dialogue undermine what could have been a much better episode. The story was intriguing enough to hold my attention, but it did not grab me like it should have.
Grissom believes that a teen caught burying dead bodies is not a murderer, while Catherine and Nick investigate the death of a woman in a hotel sauna. Alter Boys is a needed improvement to the series, lacking the awkward behavior and ludicrous dialogue seen in the previous two episodes. While the sauna investigation proves tiresome, Grissom's story is captivating and adds much needed depth to his character.
Naturally, Grissom expects murder when a woman is found dead on the job and the only witness is an autistic co-worker. Catherine and Sara discover that the collision of an SUV and a freight train may not have been an accident. My hopes for this season were shattered by this lackluster episode. The story and acting are weak, and the predictability and inanity of the railroad investigation appalled me.
Slaves of Las Vegas
The discovery of a woman buried in a playground sandbox leads Grissom to an underground proprietor of sadomasochistic sex. Additionally, the shooting of a currency exchange owner raises questions of foul play. Slaves of Las Vegas is a good but not great episode, made more frustrating by the fact that every good element is counteracted by something bad. While we are given more insight into Grissom's introverted soul through several interesting conversations, the whole currency exchange story line is a dreadful waste of time.
And Then There Were None
Armed assailants strip a Las Vegas casino of $250,000, a crime that leads Sara and Catherine to discover the seemingly connected shooting of a convenience store clerk outside the city limits. And Then There Were None is perhaps the best Season Two episode thus far. Though plagued by the typically irritating dialogue, the flow of the story is more polished than any other episode thus far. The clever way in which the two stories relate is a refreshing change for the series.
With Grissom and Catherine out of town, Warrick is promoted to acting supervisor. Under his reluctant command, the remaining CSI team investigates the death of a con man outside a Las Vegas casino. The victim is linked to a woman named Ellie, who turns out to be Captain Brass' estranged daughter. Even with the inimitable Gil Grissom out of the picture, Ellie is a well-paced, thoroughly entertaining episode that adds depth to the Warrick and Brass characters.
CSI examines the demise of a businessman found in a casino elevator that initially seems to stem from natural causes. However, Grissom suspects murder when he discovers that the body was dressed and moved into the elevator after his death. Organ Grinder is another tightly paced episode that is pieced together well and kept me guessing. Nevertheless, while I would typically welcome any kind of character development in this series, Greg's infatuation for Sara was not necessarily what I had in mind.
You've Got Male
Grissom and Sara's investigation of a double homicide leads them to a recently paroled inmate, while Nick and Catherine struggle to solve the mystery behind an apparent hunting accident. Though not quite as taught as Organ Grinder, You've Got Male benefits from a good story with shrewd character development.
A slippery criminal from Grissom's past named Paul Millander reappears to claim his third victim. Millander's new murder fits his previous MO, which involves him recreating the murder of his father that he witnessed at a young age. Identity Crisis is a creepy and atmospheric episode that found its way deeply beneath my skin. It is as good as CSI gets.
Catherine escorts a man who claims that he has been ordered by a kidnapper to pay one million dollars in ransom for his girlfriend. His possession of a severed finger tells Catherine that the kidnappers mean business. The Finger is another stimulating episode. I enjoyed the mounting tension, yet my enjoyment was slightly undermined by its predictability.
Burden of Proof
A dead body is found dumped on a farm where CSI team members study corpses. As the investigation of the man's unusual death progresses, CSI discovers that the deceased may have been involved in child molestation. Burden of Proof is a superb episode that tackles difficult subject matter with admirable results.
Primum Non Nocere
A physically brutal hockey game provides the perfect scenario for murder to appear like an accident. After a detested team member is found dead with a giant gash in his neck from another player's skate, CSI must prove that his death was not merely a mishap. Elsewhere, Nick and Warrick find themselves investigating the apparent drug overdose of a casino musician. While fairly interesting, Primum Non Nocere is an unfortunate step back for the season, plagued by the poor dialogue that undermines so many potentially decent CSI episodes. The lack of substance, however, is counteracted with technical bravado.
The peace of a Las Vegas Buddhist monastery is disrupted when four monks are shot and killed. Elsewhere, Catherine re-opens an old case that may prove the guilt of her esteemed mentor. While the monk story arc feels strained, Catherine's story provides compelling entertainment with one of the most impressive conversational scenes that Season Two has to offer.
Chasing the Bus
A bus mysteriously crashes outside the city limits, killing many passengers and injuring others. Foul play becomes apparent when CSI discovers evidence that someone has tampered with the axle of the vehicle. Chasing the Bus is a tightly paced, intelligently scripted story, yet it feels rushed to a quick and convenient resolution.
Nick finds that he may somehow be connected to a woman who is murdered by her psychotic stalker. This effectively creepy episode made me feel unsafe even in the assumed comfort of my own home. Though the premise of a psychotic cable installer is somewhat silly and all too reminiscent of The Cable Guy, Doug Hutchison from The Green Mile delivers a wonderful performance as the lonely lunatic.
Cats in the Cradle...
An elderly woman's dead body is found surrounded by twenty feline friends in her dilapidated home. Also, Nick and Sara investigate the mystery behind a car bomb. While the car bomb story proved interesting, the cat story, particularly its dreadful resolution, is a bit hairy.
Anatomy of a Lye
An amateur lawyer is accused of dousing a murder victim with lye, while the apparent drowning of a woman found in the desert baffles Nick. This creepy episode features a nice pair of stories, my only complaint being a somewhat abrupt ending.
After the death of a renowned detective, Catherine and Warrick travel to Miami to investigate the disappearance of his wife and daughter. Cross-Jurisdictions is a crossover episode, mating the CSI characters with those from CSI: Miami. While this may seem like nothing more than a method to boost ratings, it does provide a good story and a slight change of pace for this somewhat routine series.
The Hunger Artist
The fashion world is given a facelift when a famous model is found mutilated. Though the graphic subject matter makes The Hunger Artist somewhat difficult to watch at times, it is nevertheless a compelling episode and a worthy close to Season Two. As I expected, it ends with a cliffhanger that all but assures viewers will be eager to discover what is in store for Season Three.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image transfers vary drastically from one episode to the next. Many episodes are highly detailed, boasting vibrant colors and a smooth overall appearance, while others are plagued by overt graininess and video noise. Though the grain is intentional, its presence adds an offensively harsh characteristic to the picture. Black level is solid on all episodes, adding a rich sense of depth to the visuals, yet shadow detail often suffers. Fortunately, edge enhancement is minimal and rarely obtrusive. Though somewhat of a mixed bag, this collection of image transfers is generally pleasing.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack greatly exceeded my expectations for a television production. Fidelity is excellent, proving exceptionally clean at both whisper quiet and peak dynamic levels. Dialogue is consistently smooth and natural, with spoken words that are always clear and intelligible. The most impressive aspect is the sense of spacious imaging across the entire soundstage. Particularly satisfying is the utilization of the rear channels, with effective split surrounds that convey everything from subtle ambiance to aggressive sound effects. While not as remarkable as many major motion picture soundtracks, this tasteful sound design greatly enhances the story of each episode.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu
Scene Access with 138 cues and remote access
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony Zuiker, and Danny Cannon on Burked; Ann Donahue and Danny Cannon on Alter Boys; Anthony Zuiker and Gary Dourdan on Ellie
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Extras Review: A small but worthwhile collection of special features begins with three feature-length audio commentaries on Burked, Alter Boys, and Ellie. While I always appreciate audio commentaries, I was a bit disappointed by the choice of episodes to discuss.
Also included are five brief featurettes. The first covers the arts of makeup, music, and visual effects. Although much too brief, this is a fascinating look at the hard work that goes behind these underrated elements of creating CSI. I particularly enjoyed the music section, which features a comparison of a pre-scored version of a scene to the finished scored version.
Less entertaining is the second featurette, CSI Shooting Locations. I was a bit confused as to what this would entail, seeing as the show always takes place in Las Vegas, but they focused on the small details of areas within the city, such as neighborhoods and alleyways.
Production designer Richard Berg guides us through The CSI Tour, an interesting look at the various areas of the CSI building, including Grissom's office, the ballistics lab, DNA lab, and even the garage. The tour is brief, but abundant with interesting information.
Tools of the Trade is the featurette that I was hoping for. Broken down into three subsections, each area offers an animated tour of the selected location. The tour features forensic equipment icons that offer a brief description on how the equipment works and what exactly each piece is used for. This is the perfect complement to CSI.
The Making of a Hit is a somewhat self-congratulatory yet entertaining featurette that discusses the goals and intentions to keep CSI firmly rooted in the reality of forensic science. While many dramatic liberties are obviously taken, it is interesting to hear how the creators strive to keep the events grounded within scientific fact. This is a worthwhile featurette, if a bit indulgent.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsWhile not my usual form of entertainment, CSI is one of the better programming choices television has to offer these days. Fans of the series should be thrilled with this comprehensive Season Two boxed set, complete with anamorphic widescreen image transfers, thrilling 5.1 audio, and a generous collection of special features.
Brian Calhoun 2003-11-03