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I watched the series finale of CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION on Sunday evening when it aired, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since. I’ve been thinking about the episode, the series, and why I’m so sad the series has ended.

To begin with the episode itself: I liked the story. I liked that they didn’t entirely introduce all-new villains and suspects, and I liked that since they were bringing back Grissom, they brought back Lady Heather. And unlike a lot of the professional reviewers out there, I did not recognize the actor playing the character eventually revealed to be the source of the bombings, so I wasn’t able to predict the whodunnit of the episode. I thought the reunion between Grissom and Sara was plausibly awkward and complicated on both sides, I liked the return of Catherine and Brass and the reintroduction of Catherine’s daughter Lindsey. I even liked the climactic scene in the parking garage in which Morgan, Greg, and Catherine have to defuse a daisy-chain bomb simultaneously – Morgan’s trembling and post-defusing reaction were completely plausible to me instead of just needless tension-building.

There have been some show finales that left me angry – HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is probably the prime example of that, but I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the finale of WAREHOUSE 13, either. I don’t like it when shows feel like they need to force a romantic conclusion in characters at the finale – not everyone who works together ends up in a relationship, after all. With HIMYM I was one of the many people left yelling at the television, while with WAREHOUSE 13 I saw the whole Myka/Pete thing coming all through the final season, so I wasn’t surprised by it. I didn’t find it believable, though.

CSI didn’t leave me angry, but it left me disappointed. I never found the relationship between Sara and Grissom particularly interesting or compelling, and I was a little disappointed in Sara for apparently abandoning a totally deserved promotion that she was happy about in order to sail into the sunset (literally) with her ex-husband. More than that, though, I was sad that the show didn’t give us a chance to say goodbye to the other characters.

The CSI franchise, in all its incarnations, has always been about the ensembles. There is someone who is nominally leading the show (this tends to be the person in charge of the lab/division) but it’s always been an ensemble-driven production. Looking back at the CSI finale, I realize that our farewell to Julie Finlay was a very quick glimpse of her memorial plaque. Jim Brass’ last scene was after the Heather-decoy’s car blew up and he had burns on his back. Hodges and Henry appeared for the last time very briefly about halfway through the episode. Morgan and Greg were last seen trembling and crying after defusing the bombs in the parking garage. Doc Robbins and Dave were also last seen briefly in the morgue, about halfway through the episode. We got to say farewell to Russell (though not really, as Ted Danson and his character DB Russell are switching over to the surviving CSI show, CSI: CYBER this fall), Grissom, and Sara. We sort of got to say goodbye to Catherine as she indicated an interest in leaving the FBI in order to lead the Las Vegas Crime Lab again.

I am disappointed that the production staff of the final episode thought we all had so much resting on Grissom and Sara that we wouldn’t care to say a proper goodbye to the rest of the main cast. I was never a Grissom/Sara shipper. If anything, I wanted to see Morgan and Hodges finally doing something about the whatever-it-is that’s been simmering beneath the surface for years.

It’s an ensemble show. I wish it had ended with the ensemble.

To turn now to the show as a whole – you may be wondering why I’m putting so much thought into a show that may have been groundbreaking initially, but has been little more than a “reliable performer” in recent years. I know it comes in for a lot of mocking. And no, it’s not at the level of a MAD MEN. Though it was groundbreaking when it began, and it fundamentally changed the crime procedural genre.

I started watching CSI a few years ago, when I was in Vancouver for library school. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post or two, a few months into my two academic years in Vancouver, I started struggling with the physical symptoms of a uterine fibroid, which made getting out and about frequently difficult and uncomfortable. Pop culture “comfort food” can be good, but when you’re looking for as much distraction as possible, it can be better to turn to something new.

I watched a handful of new shows during that time – CRIMINAL MINDS, CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, CSI: NY, CSI: MIAMI, EUREKA, and WAREHOUSE 13. All of them have stuck with me. I think it’s because I was looking for distraction from great physical and psychological discomfort – I didn’t just watch the shows casually, I focused on them in an intentional effort to lose myself in the stories and the characters. I didn’t just return the dvds to the library when I was done watching; I kept them as long as I could and watched them over and over. When I couldn’t sleep for one reason or another, I watched them. For better or for worse, I clung to these shows in an effort to forget my own pain and fear for a while. Losing them – and mostly they are all now gone – creates the same ache as the end of a series of novels you love, or the death of an artist whose work you always enjoyed. What’s been created can always be revisited, but there will be nothing new to keep fleshing out that world.

The only one of the shows I listed there that’s still running is CRIMINAL MINDS. Someday, and probably someday within the next couple years, that one will go off the air, too. That’ll be a hard day.

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