The latest episode of “CSI: NY,” somewhat appropriately entitled “Unspoken,” was what I tend to think of as a “stunt” episode, by which I mean an episode of a show that seeks to set itself apart from typical episodes of the show at hand in some significant and noticeable way. More often than not, it involves a name guest star, but a “stunt” episode can also indicate a change in format that differs from the usual approach.
For instance, when it comes to crime procedurals, think an episode told from the victim’s point of view or the POV of the victim’s loved one(s) or even the perpetrator themselves. Perhaps the most notable of this sort of approach was found in the much beloved- and missed- series “Cold Case,” which made a habit of featuring period-appropriate music for its copious flashbacks, but would also sometimes feature one artist in particular throughout the show, such as Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, and even an episode revolving around the music from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
In “Unspoken,” the artist in question was Green Day and the show practically doubled as a promo for their latest album, “Uno,” not in the least because all of the music hailed exclusively from said album (as opposed to tackling their entire oeuvre as “Cold Case” might have done). Now don’t get me wrong, I like Green Day, and even if they don’t sound much like they used to when I was a kid- they used to be punk, for those keeping score at home who have no idea who they are- at least they actually play and sing music that is recognizably rock-oriented, which is rare in these auto-tune happy times we live in.
No, the problem I have is that “Cold Case” actually used their soundtrack to enhance the story itself, oftentimes directly serving as commentary on what was going on in the show. Sure, it didn’t always, but there was a method to the madness for the most part, at least. Such cannot be said for “Unspoken” for the most part, though occasionally a line or two in a song would reflect what was going on action-wise. As such, it came off like one big commercial for Green Day’s latest, which is too bad, since there was a kernel of an intriguing story in there, and one that didn’t need not one, but in fact two, distinct “stunt” elements to distract from it.
For, you see the buck didn’t stop there, I’m afraid. As if the Green Day element wasn’t enough, for the first half of the show, nary a word was spoken, bringing to mind the opening scenes of “The Walking Dead” premiere. Granted, that was likely a coincidence, seeing as both shows aired within a week of another, and I’m quite sure I’ve seen another show do it before, but it was still pretty gimmicky, and between that and the soundtrack, it was hard not to be distracted from the main story at hand.
Don’t get me wrong, this is at least the third show in a matter of months I’ve seen with a similar plotline- two others being “Major Crimes” and “Homeland”- in which someone tried to shoot a politician at a rally or event of some kind and they turned out to be shooting at someone other than the main politician that everyone thought was the target. So, it’s not as if the story was that original, mind you.
Still, the teacher angle was interesting at least, especially in light of what ended up happening as a result of his actions, when a child was inadvertently killed- the last thing a teacher would ever want, least of all one who had good intentions and was essentially a good guy that ran afoul of a bad deal in life. As someone who has done a bit of teaching in their time, I can tell you that the rules these days can often be frustrating in the extreme, albeit understandable in a time in which predators run rampant. This was not an evil guy; it was an unfairly maligned one that had the misfortune to ruffle the feathers of someone he shouldn’t have, when all he was trying to do was comfort a hurt child.
How heartbreaking then that his actions led to another child’s death. “Unspoken” could have been more powerful than it was, if it weren’t for all the gimmicky stuff going on for most of the episode. I did like how the wordless section of the episode was clearly meant to parallel the struggles of Mac with his aphasia. It was truly sad to discover that his condition wasn’t going away, all but necessitating his telling everyone, which should make for some good drama on down the line.
Still, I can’t in good faith say it was ultimately a successful episode overall, what with the needlessly distracting elements diluting the action too much for its own good. I think if they had chosen one or the other, it might not have been so bad, but as it stands, it’s too late to un-ring that bell.
What did you think? Did you think the music enhanced the action? Did you like the whole wordless aspect of the first half or was it distracting in a negative way? Let me know in the comments!