CSI: Cyber





Paul Asay

TV Series Review


Hey, you.

See this thing you’re reading me on? Yeah, the thing with the glowing screen? Beware._
It could, without the least provocation, turn feral and attack. In just seconds it could start gnawing on your arm with its razor-sharp microchips.

Well, OK, maybe the gnawing part is a reach. But watch a few episodes CSI: Cyber and you’re liable to start sweating a little whenever your phone vibrates.

CBS’ latest CSI iteration plunges us deep into the murky digital underworld of hackerdom, where evildoers perpetrate villainy with ones and zeros, not knives are guns. They worm their way into our ever-present laptops and smartphones and Wi-Fi-connected fridges to create all manner of havoc that goes well beyond spoiling our milk. They can steal your money, your information … even your very life.

Avery Ryan knows all about the horrors of hackers. The one-time psychologist introduces herself as a victim, one who stored confidential files of her clients on her computer. Until it was hacked, that is. “As a result,” she says, “one of my patients was murdered.” That formative tragedy shaped Avery’s career trajectory. Now she heads up a crack team of FBI cyber sleuths, dedicated to stomping out online crime before things turn (too) bloody.

CSI: Cyber got a boost right out of the gate with Patricia Arquette starring as Avery, because the actress won an Oscar for her work in Boyhood just weeks before the show’s premier. Still, don’t expect award-winning acting here; the scripts just don’t allow for a lot of thespian scene-stealing.

Like the myriad CSI variants that have come before it, Cyber is predicated on teamwork. And Avery is just one of many characters who makes this team tick. Brody Nelson and Raven Ramirez are one-time hackers who’ve swapped black hats for white ones. Daniel Krumitz is the squad’s heavy-duty computer expert. Agent Elijah Mundo provides the muscle, while Simon Sifter runs interference with higher-ups. Together, they’re primed to solve every cybercrime that comes their way—in an hour-long timeframe, of course.

Because the show takes place in the realm of computer- and Internet-related crime, Cyber isn’t as dependent on forensic analysis as the original CSI and its bevy of crime-scene progeny have been. A motherboard is far more likely to be dissected here than a mother of three, and that, obviously, is good news.

But it doesn’t mean the show is as pristine as an Intel cleanroom. CBS knows that without some gratuitous content, most of CSI: Cyber would look just about as exciting as a Geek Squad workroom. Thus, sex crimes are committed, sordid blackmail schemes are uncovered, people die in horrific ways. Just like its predecessors, CSI: Cyber buys its body bags in bulk.

Then, layered on top of that tired and typical construct is the show’s desire to strike fear into us regarding our little bits of technology. One episode will make you fear that a hacker could disable the brake controls on the roller coaster you’re riding on, sending you to a bloody and not-thrilling-at-all demise. Another will allege that your baby monitor might be hacked, leading to the abduction of little Jimmy. In fact, Tim Surette of tv.com has even written an article titled “15 Lines of CSI: Cyber Dialogue That Will Scare Your Mom Off the Internet for Good.”

We all know that the devices we use are vulnerable to many awful things. But CSI: Cyber heightens that sense of paranoid vulnerability to extraordinary levels—so much so that sensitive viewers may only feel safe when sitting out in a tech-free cornfield somewhere (while still keeping a watchful eye peeled for those hacked combines that may come trundling toward them, of course).

Episode Reviews

CSI-Cyber: 3-11-2015

“CMND:/CRASH” A hacker disengages a roller coaster’s brakes, killing three passengers and injuring nearly 20 more. Avery theorizes the killer is turned on by gore—the bloodier, the better—then discovers the accident was meant as an “audition” for a gore-centric Internet forum. Viewers see various, abbreviated versions of the accident (both in real time and on smartphones), as well as its gruesome aftermath. People walk around in a daze, bleeding. One woman is zipped into a body bag. A law officer puts a bloody something into a container. While Brody tries to gain entrance to the online forum, he and we see dozens of bloody images flash on a computer screen. Brody wakes up in his underwear with a similarly under-clad woman. (He spent the night with her.) A man is tripped and handcuffed. People drive cars recklessly. Avery’s team breaks several rules, with Avery’s direct or tacit approval. Characters say “h—” twice and “d–n” once. We hear joking references to homosexuality as well as a conversation about pedophilia. Mundo is divorced, and he says he’s sad he can’t see as much of his daughter as he’d like.

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Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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