Three episodes of the first season of “CSI: Cyber” were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
Perhaps to distract from tired dialogue and convenient plot holes, or simply in attempt to suck as much entertainment from the world as possible, the latest iteration of the timeworn CSI franchise wastes no time in trying to scare the audience. Yes, from baby kidnapping to murderous car services to dysfunctional roller coasters and subways, CSI: Cyber will try and unnerve. That is, however, only if you buy into the more ridiculous elements of this CBS drama that deals with a ‘new type of criminal” dabbling in nefarious, murderous acts that can happen to anyone, even you.
Add in what we’ve come to expect from CSI – an attractive, diverse group of agents, lots of quick cuts, impeccable (and unreal) timing, and of course a song by The Who – and you’ve basically got Cyber. However, the third spinoff of what truly is a remarkable franchise is different from the previous entries in one big way: Instead of being set specifically in a city that allows for unique and exotic crimes, here we venture to the amorphous and ubiquitous web.
It’s not really Crime Scene Investigation, either. Our group of diverse heroes make up a new cyber division of the FBI which based out of a lab in Baltimore that is more spacious and technologically advanced than the deck on the Starship Enterprise. It’s here where the stories develop, yet it seems in an instant our agents can be anywhere in the country, chasing down criminals in a car or running through gridlock on a highway.
This time around, the agents that we’ll be following include the cerebral and motherly Avery Ryan, played by recently honoured Patricia Arquette, and the geeky yet macho Elijah Mundo, portrayed by the very likeable James Van Der Beek. He feels the most natural out of anyone in the FBI sextet, and maybe the most layered – though that’s not saying much. Of course, when he dives into a lake or jumps onto a moving subway, or shows off his combat skills to disarm a thief, well, things move from the ridiculous to the outright absurd. It does provide some mindless, laughable fun, though. And sometimes that’s ok.
Arquette is tasked with being the level-headed leader with her own long-standing grudge. She, of course, got into the field of work after herself being a victim of cyber crime. Thus, she is out for revenge, and ready for her season, maybe series-long, storyline. She’s also a psychologist, which means she can interpret the way you bite your lip and cross your arms, but isn’t the least bit subtle about it.
Making this duo into a merry band of misfits are a trio of obligatory youngsters. There is the proud, 28-year-old noble hacker Daniel (Charley Koontz), who doesn’t take too kindly to a new recruit. The neophyte is a former criminal tasked with using his skills for good (Shad Moss, also know by his stage name as Bow Wow, formerly Lil Bow Wow). Then we need someone more exotic, of course, so we’ve got a young hipster with streaks in her hair named Raven (Hayley Kiyoko), who is both smart and sexy. Finally, rounding out the group is their head and FBI liaison Simon (Peter MacNicol), playing the part of man who doesn’t understand new technology, but accepts that others do.
Regardless, the obstacle Cyber must overcome is finding a way to make the electronic exciting; that is, making reading emails and scanning databases something televisual. The show sees that and raises you sweeping cameras, quick cuts, and lots of techno music. We also don’t have quite the wit of the predecessors, and these characters are far more cookie-cutter than the other CSI offerings. Then again, we do get some gems, like when one agent spouts the monetary savings of an Uber-like rental car agency and Mundo retorts,”Is murder extra?”
Thus, this procedural, a sort of spinoff of spinoffs, follows a familiar pattern across rather self-contained 42 minutes capsules, with plenty of exposition and little nuance. It stands to reason that some of that which they are talking about is true, but it doesn’t matter anyway. Under any other name, this series does not work whatsoever. With CSI: Cyber though, you get exactly what you expect, and not a tad more. The show provides stories about forums, hackers, electronics, and ‘the deep web,’ explained in the simplest of turns and easily played out with the requisite commercial breaks and cheesy one-liners.
The characters definitely need to be more fun to make this watchable, but that can happen with time, especially with Van Der Beek leading the way. As it stands now, however, CSI: Cyber is some absurd guilty pleasure, conveniently and unbelievably brought together for thrills and action in a way that only this series can pull off.
CSI: Cyber tweaks the series for the better, but still occupies realms of the convenient and absurd. It’s a simple, formulaic self-contained series that occasionally offers entertainment, but seems built from a machine that churns out hit series and can do no wrong.