CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - 200th Episode
Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
TO MARK the occasion, the 200th episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the first and arguably the best of the CSI franchises, is directed by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner William Friedkin (The Exorcist). The question is: is Friedkin’s Mascara a match for Tarantino’s fifth season finale Grave Danger? I don’t think so.
With chilling echoes of the Scream series of films, a disorientated young woman is pursued and brutally murdered by a masked figure shortly after leaving a Mexican wrestling tornament. Langston (Laurence Fishburne) immediately recognises her as Sylvia Mallick (Aimee Deshayes), one of his students from WLVU.
Langston was, in fact, her thesis advisor until he joined the crime lab, so for him the investigation becomes personal. It also leads him to three unsolved murders that took place 11 years earlier – murders that Sylvia was close to solving.
It’s an episode that relies heavily on flashbacks but it’s through them that we learn more about Langston and Sylvia’s professional relationship. However, it does mean that the episode focuses almost entirely on Langston – virtually to the exclusion of the other CSIs. Which is a pity, particularly for Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) and Nick (George Eads) who have been with the show from the beginning. Only the diminutive and brusque Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) is afforded a respectable amount of screen time.
I can only assume that this is a misguided attempt to establish Fishburne as a worthy successor to Petersen. But why? Not only has Fishburne already proved his worth, he has also earned my admiration and respect for taking on the role in the first place. For he, more than anyone, must have known that Petersen, with his legions of adoring fans, was a hard act to follow.
Having said that, we do get to see (no, make that hear) a different side to Langston. Normally genial and even-tempered, he finally loses control during an interview with the killer, leaving Brass to pick up the pieces so to speak. A very human reaction and one I couldn’t help but applaud.
Sadly however, the storyline lacks any real drama. It begins promisingly enough but quickly descends into a somewhat mediocre who-dunnit, often leaving questions unanswered: why did the serial killer Sylvia was investigating stop after dispatching only three victims, what was the point of the voodoo ritual Nick and Brass witnessed, and why did no one suggest Langston was too closely involved with the case to do his job properly?
Nevertheless it does offer a fascinating insight into the colourful world of Mexican wrestling and here Friedkin excels, bringing the Lucha Libre matches and the luchadores with their colourful masks right into our sitting rooms. And the killer’s pursuit of the terrified Sylvia is tense and uncompromising. But why, I wonder, do potential victims always head for deserted streets or buildings?
Mascara isn’t exactly a bad episode but it certainly isn’t CSI at its best, which is disappointing to say the least, particularly as this is a landmark episode. Let’s just hope, for the sake of the show’s future, that this is just a blip.