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Things You Only Notice When You Rewatch CSI: NY Season 1

A lot has changed since "CSI: NY," the third installment in the "CSI" television franchise, which first aired in 2004. There have been four presidential elections, pashminas are no longer in fashion, and a grand total of seven films about the wall-crawling superhero have hit theaters since "Spider-Man 2." Yet with "CSI: Vegas" getting a 2nd season renewal, there's still a "CSI" series on air. The evergreen success of a procedural proves that some things do stay the same.

Like the other shows in the franchise, "CSI: NY" depicts the cases of a police department's crime lab, except instead of Miami or Las Vegas, the team investigates wrongdoings and murders in the Big Apple. The lab is led by Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise), a veteran cop and competent leader nevertheless haunted by his past. Partnered with him until the end of Season 6 is Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes), a determined if hotheaded detective who is deeply loyal to Mac. Together, Mac and Stella lead the investigators as they work to find the culprits in crimes all across the city.

It's been nearly 18 years since the 1st season of "CSI: NY," so it's easy to forget certain episodes. But there are also details and major insights viewers can easily pick up on when they watch them again.

The first episode of the show depicted a truly disturbing crime

While several "CSI: NY" characters first debuted in a backdoor pilot on sister series "CSI: Miami," the actual first episode was "Blink," which aired on September 22, 2004.

"Blink" is a truly dark piece of television even for the "CSI" franchise, which usually specialized in grisly crime scenes and body horror. The case involves three young women attacked by the same killer, two of whom have been strangled. The only survivor, Zoya (Ana K. Alexander), unfortunately, has developed locked-in syndrome, and can only communicate with the team about what happened by blinking her eyes.

"Blink" is such a solid introduction to the show because the plotline never goes where the audience expects it to. In fact, unlike most killers in the "CSI" universe, the attacker here never even intended to kill his victims. Zoya is his greatest "success" because he was able to induce catatonia in her. It's a particularly ghoulish Case of the Week whose only positive note is when Mac is able to confide in Zoya about his wife, who perished in the September 11th attacks.

CSI: NY's tone in the first season is different

Debut seasons of television shows are usually a bit rougher because the production team needs time to figure out what works for the series and what doesn't. Both "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "The Shield" were promising from the start, but they didn't really become classics until the sophomore season.

Similarly, the 1st season of "CSI: NY" doesn't go quite as deep into the lives of other characters as the later seasons would.  u/wordyshipmates is correct that "the show did a lot of character work and development for a crime procedural," but that would come later on in the series. Mac's friendship with Stella was already there, and so was his grief over the loss of his wife, but the team's dynamic hadn't been worked out as thoroughly. As the same user pointed out to another Redditor, "from s2 forward the show changes a bit and i [sic] think for the better." Like "Buffy" then, "CSI: NY" tried different things in the debut season and recognized what fit the series well, including the tone and the chemistry of the characters.

Mac and Stella truly feel like close friends

"CSI: NY" still had to develop the chemistry between cast members, but even in the 1st season, one of the things which made the series stand out from its other "CSI" shows was the warm dynamic between Mac and Stella. It's clear early on that the CSI supervisors have a close working relationship and platonic friendship. Stella often looks out for Mac, especially after his wife's death, while he admits to her at one point in the 1st season that he wouldn't do the job without her being there. Mac and Stella are also both friends with fellow CSI member Donald Flack (Eddie Cahill) and with medical examiner Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper).

And while several team members on "CSI" and "CSI: Miami" get into relationships, like Gil Grissom (William Petersen) and Sarah Sidle (Jorja Fox), or have longstanding friendships, "CSI: NY" is better at depicting the ease and intimacy the team members have with one another. Redditor u/Nowork_morestitching noticed that compared to the other "CSI" procedurals, "CSI: NY" seemed to focus more on different types of relationships. "”NY' to me seems more interactive, one of the characters has a baby and Mac Taylor is chosen as godfather," they wrote. "You can see the friendship they have as a team."

Compared to CSI: Miami, CSI: NY goes for realism

This might be in keeping with the big differences between Miami and New York as cities, but something u/DarkMatterLuigi noticed when comparing "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: NY" is that the latter show has more grounded cases each week. The user noticed, for example, that in the "CSI: Miami" episode "Sex and Taxes," which involves a young delinquent killing a government agent, "it just seems far fetched that the younger kid would know how to shoot that IRS guy." For u/DarkMatterLuigi, "CSI: NY" appears to be more realistic than "CSI: Miami."

The stories on each "CSI" series usually try to reflect the culture and specificity of their locale, so it makes sense that "CSI: Miami" would focus on more outsized crimes, like high-profile murders or yacht crashes, while "CSI: NY" tried to focus on situations New Yorkers might actively encounter every day. This is also reflected in the differences between the brooding, intense Mac and Horatio Caine's (David Caruso) often memed sense of cool. Ultimately, it may just come down to the kind of network crime drama people prefer to watch.

Danny does reveal part of his past with Tanglewood

While Mac does get the lion's share of character development in the 1st season, the show does give Detective Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo) some background shading on the 13th episode "Tanglewood," when his neighborhood knowledge proves invaluable to a case.

The main plot of "Tanglewood" involves a young man, Paul Montenassi, who was beaten to death and then left out in the snow. Mac notices that his body had been tattooed, but the art was forcibly removed. Hawkes finds that his tattoo formerly read "Tanglewood." Danny is himself working a hit and run but is consulted because he grew up in a New York neighborhood where the Tanglewood Boys were a popular gang. Danny notices that Paul was never a real recruit because there were no dates on the ink. He also reveals to Mac that he was himself asked to join them. The future detective turned the gang down, but he sympathizes with Paul's need for acceptance.

In a twist ending, Paul's killer, Tanglewood Boy Sonny Sassone (Michael DeLuise), is caught, but he tells Mac and Stella that the gang and Danny know each other well, to their shock and dismay. The greater implications of Sonny's words, as with a lot of character development on the show, are ultimately explored more in Season 2 of "CSI: NY."