CSI: Cyber “Kidnapping 2.0” Review Season 1 Episode 1

CSI Cyber Kidnapping 20 Episode 1 02

On the premiere of the latest iteration of CBS’ long-running series, “CSI: Cyber,” the show wisely forwent the typical new locale in favor of an altogether new approach: cyber crimes. Now, those of you familiar with the new series “Scorpion”- also on CBS, I might add- may ask, haven’t they done that already? And you wouldn’t be completely wrong, obviously, but this show does have a few things going for it that “Scorpion” does not that should hopefully set it apart from that show- if not its “CSI” predecessors.

For one, it has newly-minted Oscar winner Patricia Arquette in the lead, which makes it the first time a female has headlined one of these shows. Further, despite her Oscar win, this is not Arquette’s first TV rodeo, having also headlined the much-beloved “Medium” series previously, which was rescued by CBS after its initial run on NBC ended. Clearly, the network enjoyed working with Arquette, because here she is again, leading up one of their signature shows, with a part obviously tailor-made to play to her strengths. I suppose she can also claim some bragging rights, given her speech at the Oscars, as I’m guessing the position warranted her a significant pay raise in the process.

Arquette plays Avery Ryan, a tough-but-fair FBI agent that heads up the Cyber Division, which features a number of agents that specialize in specific areas of cyber-crime. (For “Scorpion” watchers, that would make Arquette the “Cabe” of the show, aka Robert Patrick’s role.) Like any good “CSI” character, she has an involved back-story that includes a background as a behavioral psychiatrist, whose career ended prematurely and tragically when someone hacked into her files in the early days of the internet, and leaked them online, leading directly to one of her patients getting killed. As the hacker in question is still on the loose, expect that case to come up at some point in the series, presuming it does well for CBS.

The team includes: Simon Sifter (Peter MacNicol, “Ally McBeal”), Avery’s boss and the overseer of the Cyber Division- he’s the one who gives the Cyber team the go-ahead on a particular case, then lets Avery run with it; Special Agent Elijah Mundo (James Van Der Beek, “Dawson’s Creek”), Avery’s right-hand man and her go-to action guy, with a specialty in battlefield forensics, weaponry, vehicles, bombs, and, um, videogames (!); Agent Daniel Grummitz (Charley Koontz, “Community”), the resident tech genius and introvert, who rarely leaves the Division offices- even when off the clock- and is the one responsible for bringing down hacker Brody “Baby Face” Nelson (Shad Moss, aka rapper Bow Wow, “Entourage”), who is given a second chance to redeem himself by working with the team, but one slip, and it’s off to prison; and Raven Ramirez (Hayley Kiyoko, “The Fosters”), a young tech expert who keeps a watchful eye on Nelson while assisting the team with the more youth-culture oriented cases and who also specializes in international relations.

The first case revolves around baby traffickers (!), which I didn’t realize was a thing, but I’m guessing freaked a whole lot of parents out when they saw the main way in to kidnapping said children involved hacking into so-called “nanny cams,” which are the fixtures of most parents’ children’s bedrooms. Basically, the masterminds hack into the cameras, observe the parents’ habits for a solid timeline on when they leave the room unattended the longest, then send in kidnappers to nab the babies, while also using the cameras to let the people who are bidding on the babies all over the world take a look at the merchandise at hand so that they can immediately put a bid in, auction-style.

Pretty freak-inducing stuff, assuming this sort of thing is actually going on, which I’m not sure whether is the case, although a lot of crime procedural cases tend to be grounded in real-life events. For instance, Avery Ryan is based on real-life forensic cyber-psychologist Mary Aiken, so there really is such a thing as that position in the FBI, at the very least. Nanny-cam hacking child traffickers, I’m not so sure about.

On the negative side, as with most shows of this ilk, the case was solved tidily over the course of some forty-five minutes, sans commercials, which I’m guessing is not typically the case with scenarios such as this, regardless of how likely it is this sort of thing is happening. Not only that, but the team did an awful lot of city hopping in a seemingly short amount of time, which is a bit unbelievable as well. Granted, it wasn’t entirely clear how much time had passed over the course of the episode, but the show made it seem like a matter of days at best, so, like I said, a bit hard to believe.

Of course, this is only the pilot episode, so one would expect the show to bring the thunder in the first show. Even “Scorpion” started out a little bit on the unbelievable side, and that’s definitely inspired by a real person and events, as they say at the beginning of every show. Of course, TV wouldn’t be TV if they didn’t amp things up a bit for your viewing pleasure, so that’s par for the course. Still, they might want to dial it back a bit for the future, as people are only willing to buy so much, even in this day of overblown blockbusters with ridiculously over-the-top stunts in the likes of the “Fast & Furious” and “Transformers” series. One could argue that those franchises aren’t exactly striving for realism, and one would be right, but that doesn’t mean that something like “CSI” can get away with it, necessarily, either, as it is striving for just that.

So, as with most crime procedurals, there’s good and there’s bad. Here, the good is a seemingly solid cast, and a unique take on the time-worn subgenre. It was admittedly fun seeing “Dawson” himself, hot off the viral hit “Power/Rangers” fan film, kicking ass and taking names, saving babies from drowning and so forth, and I’ve liked Arquette since I saw her back in the cult classic “True Romance,” and I watched “Medium” as well, so I’m fine with her as the lead, and it’s nice to see a woman in the power position on one of these shows for once.

The bad is the overblown nature of the way the team solves the case, and the likelihood of the case itself, but, as I said, that’s to be expected the first time out. What will really make or break the show, ratings notwithstanding, is whether or not it finds a way to maintain believability and credulity while still keeping things interesting, as “Scorpion” has over time. The very presence of “Scorpion” may well be a problem as well, as some viewers may feel they don’t need another similar show of its ilk. But Arquette is an undeniable catch, and the timing is perfect in landing her as a leading lady, so she may well counteract that factor by bringing people in who wouldn’t normally watch this type of show. The question is, will they keep watching, once they see what it’s all about? That, of course, remains to be seen.

What did you think of the “CSI: Cyber” premiere? Are you a fan of Arquette? Or even of Van Der Beek’s? Was that what brought you to the show? Or was it the “CSI” brand? If so, how do you think this “CSI” stands up to the other installments of the franchise? What did you think of the cast, aside from the better-known leads? Will you keep watching, or were you disappointed enough not to keep watching? Would you rather this show continue, or the one it took the place of, “Stalker”? (As of this time, “Stalker” has yet to be cancelled or renewed.) Sound off below, and see you next week- if you’re still watching, that is!