Question: Watching last week's CSI finale, I couldn't help comparing it to the best show on TV today, The Shield. CSI wanted desperately to provide its audience with a "shocking" ending. They were able to succeed moderately on that level. (Though I don't think too many of us were surprised that they were going to kill Warrick after having spared the life of the incredibly annoying Sara from last season's "shocking" finale.) At any rate, I thought of the truly shocking finale from Season 5 of The Shield, when Shane dropped the grenade in Lem's car. That scene worked because both characters were rich, fully developed, three-dimensional people who were behaving as real people would behave in extraordinary circumstances. If Lem was going to die, Shane had to be the one to do it. The "shock" wasn't so much in Lem dying — it was in who killed him and why. With CSI, the lazy screenwriters simply wanted to kill off Warrick, and everything that went on in the episode was done to serve that one purpose. The eventual killer exposed in the final scene was arbitrary and contrived. Any member of the cast could have been plucked to shoot Warrick with whatever feeble motive the writers wanted to conjure. Furthermore, the sudden proclamation that there was a mole in the department felt stolen from 24 (a show that has even bigger credibility issues, but at least is consistently suspenseful and entertaining). CSI is still a decent, watchable program. But it aspires to be so much more and never seems to reach its own lofty goals.
Answer: From my mail and reading other comments, it seems to me that a lot of CSI fans were plenty shocked by Warrick's death — although it was pretty clear toward the end of the episode when the story wrapped with so much time left on the clock, something bad was likely to happen. But the comparison to The Shield is interesting, if not entirely fair, because it points out the difference between a classic procedural that occasionally breaks formula by doing something extreme — with the result that it often feels contrived, awkward and unsatisfying — and a truly groundbreaking show like The Shield, which is so much more suspensefully intense and darkly disturbing in its moral ambiguities on a week-to-week basis. Comparing the death of Warrick to Shane's murder of Lem (both as they sat in a car, hardly expecting to die) didn't occur to me, probably because I look at these shows as operating on such distinctly separate playing fields. But which death rattled me more and haunts me still? Lem's, for sure, even after all this time.