Tropes: CSI Miami and Character Derailment

Dear CSI: Miami franchise,

I've been watching you since your debut episode, so I remember when Horatio Caine was a calm, quiet, gentle individual who looked unblinkingly into the cruel world because he wanted to be a living record for its victims. One of your weekly characters even pointed out that his name, Horatio, comes from a Shakespearean character whose job it is to remain alive after a brutal tragedy so that he can tell the story and keep its principle actors alive through the retelling.

Knowing all this, I'm curious as to what made you decide that the character needed to change into a blood-thirsty monster driven by a lust for violence and revenge? I kind of wrote a post on this, but somehow I don't get the impression that you are doing this as a clever deconstruction -- I kind of get the uncomfortable impression that you expect me to cheer every time Horatio tries to torture someone. Would it be at all possible for us to declare the last few seasons non-canon and start over?

Something I would really like, actually. Yours,
~ Ana


Aspermoth said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed that Horatio has started to become... well. A bit evil, really. Hopefully they're building to something rather than saying it's how he should be, or I'll cry. Or can't we just say it's post-traumatic stress disorder, put him through Hollywood Therapy and forget it ever happened? Please?

Launcifer said...

Wait, David Caruso developed the range to portray something other a than soulless, wooden plot cipher with sunglasses? When did that happen?


Snarking aside, this is a problem I've noticed across the entire franchise, even though I've long since stopped watching any of them with regularity. It might be that a lot of the actors have simply stopped giving a toss and merely pick up the paycheques but, from what I've seen of the more recent seasons, few of the characters make much sense compared to how they were originally presented and portrayed. I can appreciate that at least one of the shows had actors with real life problems that ended up getting written into the show without much thought to to the logic of doing so but, giiven that it seems to be most of the characters suffering from derailment and/or decay (with the possible exception of Mr. Fishburne, bless him, who's never managed to look anything but lost on CSI), I'd start glaring at the writing teams' choices when it came to character development. 'Course, because it seems to be all three series, to me at least, I'd also start to wonder if it was some kind of executive decision from on high.

Patrick Knipe said...

I wonder if they aren't trying to appeal to a larger audience with this. I mean, when I read...

'I kind of get the uncomfortable impression that you expect me to cheer every time Horatio tries to torture someone. '

My mind immediately springs to Jack Bauer of 24 and the eponymous lead of Dexter, honestly. Sadly, Caine isn't Jack Bauer -or- Dexter, and whether he's underacted or the like, I always kind of had a fondness for the stoic and enduring character (at least in theory) that Caine was. I sort of liked the idea that he was someone who could, as Ana says, stare into the cruel world because he wanted to be a living record- and he did this because he could do it without being corrupted by what he saw.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Patrick Knipe, alas, I think the same thing: that it's a cash-in on the Jack Bauer / Dexter revenge fantasy. :(

I've always had a fondness for Caine. In my admittedly spotty viewing history (I always watch the re-runs out of order, so I have little context for continuity over the series), he seemed attractive without being sexualized, kind and understanding without reserve, loyal to his people, and (until lately) by-the-book. Such a rare thing for a male character in law enforcement.

And! He was a redhead who seemed (until lately) to find violence abhorrent. Yay for tearing down stereotypes. So there's a cavalcade of reasons why I find his derailment to be utterly heart-breaking.

Launcifer said...

I've been pondering this for a couple of days since my rather snarky comment a few nights ago and, well, I can kind of see where you guys are coming from with Caine. I genuinely believe that Caruso lacks range as an actor, but I also came to the conclusion that this was a deliberate casting choice to make the show's structure the real star. His low-key approach - for whatever reason - made it clear that the how and the why and wherefore of each crime was the real reason to watch the series and, I have to say, I much prefer programmes like that.

So, I get to wondering... is the changing nature of the character an attempt by the production team or the suits or whomever to ignore - as American tv shows often try to ignore - the fact that television series tend to have a finite lifespan? The idea's good and all, but after five or six years it's been done to death, so go and make something else, please. Instead of doing that, most shows tend to go in weird directions if they've survived that long and I can only imagine that it's less an attempt to grab a specific aurience and more an attempt to stave off the natural decline in viewing figures by grabbing any audience.

Ana Mardoll said...

Makes a certain degree of sense. Maybe the writers ran out of new and interesting ways to have dead bodies drive the plot and decided that a Jack Bauer character-driven show was in order. But... if so, way to derail a character, guys. Bleh.

Launcifer said...

I think that the weird thing for me is that I can almost see how the writers could end up in a similar place, but I think they've taken the wrong track. I can see how you can get from the original character to someone who is either so detached, inured or else downright cynical about the things he says and what that says about the human condition that it *could* be a relatively short leap to placing little or no value on the life of an individual in an abstract sense. That way, the writers might feasibly be able to wander into some of the mechanics and attitudes of vengeance and the like - if not some of the overarching themes - without having to utterly knacker the character to do so, though I doubt they'd want the idea of the character remaining so utterly detached on that score as well as "the day job".

Cupcakedoll said...

Sigh. I love Dexter to bits but the idea of taking ANYTHING from that character and trying to use it in a CSI type show just feels like a bad idea. I always get the vibe that CSI aims for more mentally healthy characters than Dexter aims for, if that makes any sense.

I also don't watch CSI with any regularity, though I've seen a lot of reruns, but it's sad to hear Horatio is headed downhill. He always seemed like a gentle character and I liked that. And he wielded sunglasses to dramatic effect, which was only dramatic the first few times, after that it was just snicker-worthy.

Miss Ana, if you have not yet, track down some Sherlock. It's a tremendously fun little show.

Brin Bellway said...

Miss Ana, if you have not yet, track down some Sherlock. It's a tremendously fun little show.

Who hasn't? I gave in to (what seemed like) the whole universe demanding "Go watch Sherlock! Now!*" last Saturday. (I watched "A Scandal in Belgravia" this evening.)

*It was probably just a mixture of people getting excited about series 2 and the orange Volkswagen effect, but still.

chris the cynic said...

[Miss Ana, if you have not yet, track down some Sherlock. It's a tremendously fun little show.]

Who hasn't? I gave in to (what seemed like) the whole universe demanding "Go watch Sherlock! Now!*" last Saturday. (I watched "A Scandal in Belgravia" this evening.)

I have never heard of this thing of which you speak.

Launcifer said...

It's a new modernised version of the Sherlock Holmes stories, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson. The second trio just finished airing in the United Kingdom last sunday.

YMMV, for a whole host of reasons.

Cupcakedoll said...

The Sherlock Borg Effect strikes again! Once you are assimilated you must assimilate others. Luckily it is a benevolent borg of enjoyable entertainment rather than universal enslavement.

Brin Bellway said...

Luckily it is a benevolent borg of enjoyable entertainment rather than universal enslavement.

Well of course you'd say that, you're a drone.

(I haven't been feeling nearly as assimilated as I'd hoped. I (used to? I hope not) be prone to obsessing over books and TV shows and such, but I haven't had any since the Band Obsession Quota over four years ago. I miss it. I thought I wouldn't have to miss it anymore. There were signs: frequent dreams (an unheard-of three nights in a row), and that peculiar sort of mental ache, yet they've stopped.

I'd consider doubling up (for best results, the material should be read/watched/whatever in as large chunks as possible, and it must be new; you only get one chance), but after this evening I've only one left...fuck it, I'll go watch it now. It'll be bedtime by the time I'm done, but maybe it'll be worth it.)

hidden_urchin said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who noticed this. I remember turning on "CSI: Miami" after having not watched it for some time and saying to a friend in disbelief, "What have they done to Horatio? He's gone all Jack Bauer on us!" It just made no sense in the context of the story and how the character had been set up. Now we don't even get the dramatic sunglasses + one-liners. *sigh* It's no fun anymore.

I do like shows where the hero takes a darker turn and starts making moral compromises because it leaves me wondering whether that character will become what zie is fighting against or find a way out of it. It also makes the character seem a lot more human. One show that started to do that was "The Bridge" and then it didn't get renewed for a second season. Of course. (I'll grant that the first couple of episodes were really rough and pretty darn confusing which probably drove a bunch of viewers away at the start. If there had been a second season, though, and it had follwed in the style of the last half of the first, it would have really been something.) Unlike "CSI: Miami," though, the characters' actions make sense within the story arc.

And while I'm complaining, Gibbs on "NCIS" is now officially annoying me. Seriously, can that character please get called out in story for his behavior and have the consequences stick? I really hope (ROT13 for possible spoilers) gung gur zheqre va Zrkvpb cybgyvar vf trggvat ernql gb tb fbzrjurer ovt orpnhfr vg'f nobhg gvzr sbe Tvoof gb trg anvyrq sbe fbzrguvat.

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. I am *so* uncomfortable with NCIS that I don't know where to start. Tony is and always has been a completely toxic character for me. I get that the "Abby hugs Gibbs!" stuff is supposed to be sweet, but he's essentially her employer and it squicks me out because he's the only person on his team he doesn't physically abuse, which gives me the uncomfortable impression that if I don't want to be hit in the head by my employer all the time, I have to press my boobs against him on a regular basis. No, no, no, no.

And if the previous sentence didn't already elucidate, I find the "Gibbs smack" to be exceedingly distressing.

The only way I can watch the show is to sort of go into a zone where I see it as a parody of something. I'm not sure what, but as long as I keep reminding myself that IT IS NOT REAL, then I'm pretty good. :)

hidden_urchin said...

I'd never considered the parody aspect. I'd always figured it for some type of strange wish fulfillment. Clips like this one,, do seem to support one or the other (or both). You get the idea that the writers had to sit through one too many workplace sexual harassment avoidance seminars and were coming up with all of the things they wish they could have done to poke fun at the people from HR and their restrictive rules.

chris the cynic said...

NCIS I have found to have good moments and truly horrible moments and good moments can often be turned into truly horrible moments simply by taking them seriously.

It is a show that should never be examined too closely. If taken seriously then it's [possible spoilers, maybe] a team run by a murderer whose second in command is an extreme sexist, employing an assassin, rounding it out you have the guy who passes off fact for fiction in his drive to be a novelist, and that's before we get out of the main team.

And the assassin got her job after her brother murdered the last person to have that job, who had washed out of the Secret Service in account of having an affair in the workplace. Very nice.

And I'm probably being overly charitable.

Ana Mardoll said...

This makes sense. They're almost like movie characters or video game characters that you're not supposed to think to much about because to do so would distract from the story. She's an assassin! He's a prostitute! She kicks puppies for a living! Instant backstory, DO NOT QUESTION IT. LOL.

chris the cynic said...

It occurred to me while I was away from my computer that perhaps the best argument for not taking NCIS seriously is where it started. I've never actually seen the first episode but I know of it. A murder takes place on Air Force One which results in a massive jurisdictional conflict. Gibbs solves the problem by stealing the plane.

Either you're supposed to view the show without thinking about it too much, or Gibbs is the Antichrist. But if that were the case then the main character would be the pilot.


Also there was an early episode in which the team met their, more or less, exact duplicates (in terms of personality not appearance) in the form of another team (FBI perhaps?) they worked with. That's not something that ought to happen on a serious show.

Ana Mardoll said...

I've not seen that episode. That makes so much sense, actually. o.O

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