CSI: NY Season 9 Review “Today is Life”

CSI: NY Season Finale 2013 "Today Is Life" (Season 9 Episode 17) (4)

On the season finale of “CSI: NY,” there was a riot going on: in the streets, even in the police department. In “Today is Life,” we hit the ground running, with cop car cam-footage of an officer in hot pursuit. As the cop jumped out of his car, the scene alternated between on-camera and off-camera footage, as he and his partner attempted to corral a pair of young African-American jewelry thieves, dressed in telltale hoodies. We hear a shot ring out, off-screen- but we don’t see who was on the receiving end, if anyone.

If you were thinking this sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because this is one of those ripped-from-the-headlines type stories that shows like “CSI” and “Law & Order” do on a semi-regular basis. In this case, it’s the sad true story of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black youth shot down in what may or may not have been racially-motivated circumstances.

In the “CSI: NY” version, the aforementioned above scenario ends up with a likewise seemingly unarmed young black man in a hoodie, Timothy Brown, getting gunned down by one of the cops. The cop in question, Kevin Hopkins, is white; while his partner, Trey Jensen, is black. The latter didn’t see the former actually get shot at, as he claims, by the victim- if indeed he is a victim.

Though jewelry was indeed found on the gentleman, no gun was, nor any gunshot residue on his hands. The only thing found besides the jewelry was a black cell phone, which could have easily been mistaken for a gun by a panicked officer during something as intense as a chase. So, is that what transpired here- an awful mistake that cost someone their life who didn’t really deserve it?

Well, this is “CSI,” after all, so you know there’s gonna be a little more to it than that. In the meantime, tensions are mounting, as the locals, fed up with this all-too-common occurrence, have clearly had it. Rising up in a pack and gathering at the police station where Hopkins is being held for questioning, everyone is determined to have some answers for what happened, and right now.

I found myself thinking of some of Spike Lee’s work, like Do the Right Thing,” where you just know things are eventually going to spiral out of control, and when they do, you just know it isn’t going to be pretty. In fact, someone else could even end up dead.

That comes very near to being a reality not once but twice. The first, a tense scene in which the angry mob actually does jump the fence, metaphorically speaking, and rushes into the police station comes close to being a total disaster, as several fights break out at once, with both Mac and Flack (can you believe I never noticed their names rhymed until tonight?) in on the action. Yep, folks, it’s a big Mac-Flack Attack! (Sorry, I had to do it. It might be my last chance!)

Convinced it’s destined to happen again, the police try to sneak Hopkins out via ambulance, which does not go well, to say the least. The ambulance holding Jensen just makes it, but the one holding Hopkins is besieged and several men break into the back of the vehicle, dragging him out of it and beating the tar out of the poor guy. I say poor guy in retrospect, admittedly- not that I believe in vigilante justice or anything, but at the same time: I get it. Shooting an unarmed man, even one who committed a crime, is not cool under any circumstances.

In this case, though, by looking at the scene via a virtual recreation- with Hopkins looking on as Sheldon and Adam, with cameras mounted on them, scope out the area in which the crime at hand took place- he’s able to map out the route he took through the tight alleyways and pinpoint just where the alleged shot fired at the officer took place, and guess what? There’s a dinged pipe, and what do you know: expended shells.

And yet, still no gun to be found. What’s more, the picture of the fallen young man that’s coming to light doesn’t jibe with criminal behavior. Turns out that Timothy had a valid reason to be carrying jewelry- he was going to pawn it for a ring for his girlfriend, to whom he intended to propose. In fact, it was verified by the pawn shop in question that he had been there for precisely that reason before. Why would he then turn around and rob a jewelry store? It didn’t make sense.

After the accused officer and his partner provide a rough description of the offenders, combined with the evidence that shows the weapon in question has been used in several other, seemingly unrelated crimes, the cops are able to track down both the suspects. In an admittedly convenient twist, the cops were trolling the neighborhood which the suspects were suspected to be from when, what do you know? There they are, and Jensen is able to identify them both.

Another chase ensues, with one of the men caught, while another is shot after reaching into a mailbox at a nearby apartment by our own Jo. There was a breathless moment where you couldn’t see whether or not this youth had a gun, either, and we were left to wonder if Jo had…well, jumped the gun, as it were. Fortunately for her, she hadn’t, as the young man was indeed reaching for a gun in that mailbox, as Jo had suspected.

The gun in question was communal, in the sense that certain people in the area knew about it and “borrowed” it as it was needed, which is a scary premise in and of itself. So, that explained that part of the mystery, but it also meant that Hopkins had indeed shot the wrong man. As it was, it seemed that poor Timothy genuinely was in the wrong place at the absolute worst time.

When the cop gave chase to the perp and he fired upon him, it gave the real culprit just enough time to escape. Cue Timothy, dreams of marriage in his head, who entered the scene just as one man wearing a similar outfit disappeared, running past him in the process. Cue the cop, who thought Timothy was the same man that had just fired at him moments before, and you have a recipe for disaster, with a complete innocent dead, under all-too-unfortunate circumstances.

The knowledge of this unexpected turn of events that no one could have possibly predicted doesn’t exactly help matters with his poor, semi-widowed girlfriend. Nor does the knowledge that Timothy was going to propose. She even refuses the ring when it’s presented to her, perhaps understandably. She steps outside and makes a statement to the press- and, by extension, the crowd- that was a little stagey and preachy, to be honest, but the sentiment is sound. When are we going to stop prejudging people based on stereotypes? When something like this happens, where does the blame truly lie?

The girlfriend lands firmly on the criminals that caused this unfortunate turn of events in the first place, also understandably, but she’s also careful to note that it might be a while before she can truly forgive the cop, either. She also at one point quotes what was Timothy’s signature sign-off on the letters he wrote to her: “Today is life” (hence the title). In this case, that life was tragically cut short, and it didn’t have to be that way, which is the real heartbreaker of it all.

So, I liked this episode a great deal, even while I’ll allow that it was a bit contrived at times. I mean don’t get me wrong, it was fair to everyone’s point-of-view nearly to a fault. At the same time, it was definitely a bit cloying in the end. I mean, I get that this may well be the final season of the show, so they wanted to have some semblance of an ending, but maybe Mac proposing to Christine was a bit much. I’m not sure it entirely made sense under the circumstances, but I get it- they wanted a vaguely satisfying ending, just in case. Hence the sort of nod to everyone’s well-being with that scene with everybody gathered around hanging out and all.

If “CSI: NY” were to close up shop, I’d miss it to an extent, but let’s face it: nine seasons is nothing to be ashamed of. Better to go out strongly than with a whimper, and this finale got the job done for most of its running time. The main plot was strong and thought-provoking, everything you want a good episode of the show to be. The bare-knuckled action was gripping and intense- you really did get the sense that things were about to really go sideways at any moement, and that there would be no stopping it, if it did in earnest, and it came pretty close to doing just that. If the fiinal scenes were a bit maudlin, well then, it might be the last episode ever, so can you blame them for wanting to going out on a positive note?

I’m good with this as an ending, if need be. How about you? What did you think of the “CSI: NY” finale? Would you welcome the show back for another season, or do you think they’re better off quitting while they’re ahead? Let me know in the comments section, and I’ll see you for the next season…if there is one.