Tuesday 17 March 2009

The Love of Grissom and Sara- A True Romance

Like many people in this dull little island, I tuned into Channel Five at nine PM tonight to see the swansong of a TV character who has been a kind of inspiration to me over the last few years.
A character who has grown on me and I have come to admire.

I don't usually take much interest in TV, let alone rigidly follow TV drama series.

But CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has always been a class apart. It is unmissable television drama.
And Gil Grissom is a hero, or perhaps a post-modernist anti-hero for our times.

The spin off series are good in their own way, don't get me wrong. CSI Miami and CSI New York are each of them worthy efforts who have maintained the value of the franchise, much like the Law and Order franchise. These are strong TV dramas, flagships TV dramas of our time.

But CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is possibly the greatest thing to hit global TV since...
Columbo, perhaps.

I hope that Gil Grissom's departure doesn't kill it. It has much to commend it, even without him.

I suppose the tendency is to see it merely as being about forensics and pathology. Partly this is so. It's certainly a great programme for picking up 'CSI facts'. Interesting statistical scientific titbits. But where the original excels- in a way the spin offs do not so much- is in it's weaving in of social and political themes. CSI Miami can irritate with its focus on gang warfare and organised crime. The strongest episodes are those where the motive is the interesting point, the crux on which the plotline is built.

It has never pulled its punches. It can be gruesome, it can be disconcerting. It often tackles uncomfortable issues. But I think it has always succeeded because it has allowed the human factor to show. I can think of several episodes where one finds it impossible to judge any of the people involved and one sees the whole series of events uncovered as a sad human tragedy. And others where one shakes ones heads at human greed or human malice.

Of course, it isn't real. But the fact that one comes across so many things in real life where one thinks 'reminds me of a CSI episode' shows how deep into analysing some of the forces at work within our culture the programme goes.

But perhaps the real strength of the original series has been in the actual members of the team. It has focused more on the actual characters than perhaps the spin offs do. I find I LIKE the staff at Las Vegas more than I do those at Miami. One see into them far more.
And partly because it has always had my favourite male CSI and my favourite female CSI, in terms of character.

I guess I find Grissom to be the sort of character whose company I'd enjoy, in the sense that he's interesting. And calm and level headed. And deeply principled. He stands up for what he believes in. As against the forces of departmental politics, career nesting and back stabbing represented by the loathsome Conrad Eckley. Grissom is not a team player, not prone to following the rules. But he knows why he does what he does.
He isn't the typical TV hero. He is often characterised as being a science nerd, a kind of gifted loner. I wonder about that, because the character as depicted certainly seems to be quirkily eccentric, but by no means the sort who would put people off. Certainly the sort who COULD socialise and perhaps be the life and soul of the party. Yet it seems to be made clear that Grissom doesn't.

OK, perhaps Grissom might not be the best guy to go clubbing with. I guess we'd overlap in more academic topics, but we would have differing tastes in social lives.

The point is, Grissom is a lead character with many admirable qualities. There is something about him that is enlightened and refined. Where Horatio Kane is an Elrond and Mac Taylor is an Aragorn, Gil Grissom is a kind of Gandalf, but with the innocence and humanity of Frodo.

Modern TV culture doesn't offer many good role models for men today, but Gil Grissom is one. The world would be a better place with more Gil Grissoms about.

And this brings me to what for me has been one of the more compelling aspects of the drama.

It takes a lot to get me to care about a romantic subplot. Usually I don't much care for them. A pointless distraction. But just for once...

Lindsay Monroe in CSI New York is possibly the most obviously cute in the franchise as a whole. Catherine Willows, well, she has obvious sex appeal, or certainly did so in the early days. None of the female characters are unattractive, surprisingly. Maybe I should have paid more attention at school and done a scientific subject at degree level.

But in terms of character, well...

There's just something about Sara Sidle. No, she's not the most stunning. In terms of raw sexuality, Catherine Willows will always defeat her there, not to mention the brazen good natured, eternal sunshine of Calleigh Duchesne.
It's her.

The character portrayed.

She is the sort of woman you watch walking away till she's finally passed out of view. The sort of woman you want to hold close and kiss it all better.

She is distant, awkward, uncertain, she never lets go of the burden she is carrying. The way only a woman who has been deeply hurt in life can feel. Only a woman whose scars are so tender that she will not let anyone close enough to even brush against them. And yet for a woman to be like that in the first place, she must have great reserves of love, huge reserves of caring locked inside her. Inside, she is an amazing, beautiful woman. Far more so than most people can ever be.

And full credit has to go to Jorja Fox for being able to convey that persona. You really do feel it. You can FEEL the character of Sara Sidle and see her tremendous worth as a human being behind that cold and hard face she puts across. It's brilliantly acted.

It's in the rather inelegant, face in file of papers marching round the CSI lab, in the rather dull, unflattering clothes she wears, the semi frown, which manages to hang even when her face breaks into a smile.
It's in her voice, slightly terse and uncertain, brisk, matter of a fact, generally devoid of emotion, yet also seeming almost ready to break. And yet- moving. Is it Jorja's voice that is beautiful, or Sara's? I don't know.

Such women, of course, are real. They do exist. And so often they are, in fact, the ones that really do deserve to find happiness. I guess if I'm honest, it's a Sara Sidle and not a Catherine Willows I want to find, though certainly a night of passion with Catherine isn't something I'd turn down.

The real nature of Sara and women like Sara shines through in the empathy and genuine concern she shows to victims when she bonds with them. A woman who truly understands what love is by looking at the hole in her own heart.

My favourite Grissom and Sara moment, this next clip.

So I guess, as a viewer, one feels quite protective towards Sara. You don't want to see her get hurt. Only the best for our Sara- a man who truly understands her and can make her happy.

On the rare occasions when we see Grissom's romantic side, we can see he isn't shallow. Grissom is only really attracted by two women, and both of them stand out from the crowd. Grissom sees the real person, not the act they show the world. One is Lady Heather, the other is Sara Sidle. Both are deserving of being loved by men who truly understand them. Both have special qualities above and beyond the average woman, but qualities the average man doesn't bother to notice. The close, platonic friendship that Grissom shared with Lady Heather had many of the qualities of romantic love, it had a fairy tale quality and I found it profoundly touching. The dominatrix and the bookish professor, crossing their barriers to learn from eachother. Not just eachothers worldly knowledge, but from and as the people they are.

Grissom is the true romantic.

I guess the way I've come to feel about these two characters is simple. If Sara had ended up having a fling with Greg or Nick, I'd have been concerned. Because though I'd happily go for a beer with those guys, I don't think they deserve Sara. And Gil, had he settled for anyone other than Sara, even the lovely Catherine, I'd have been disappointed in him. Because Sara needs him. Men that good, should be reserved only for women like Sara. Girls like Catherine can take care of themselves.

Sometimes one says 'They deserve eachother' about couples composed of two rather crappy people. Bickering, arguing people. Loud, nasty people. It is rare one says it the other way. That two characters are so good that they do deserve only the best, and they have it, eachother.

It's hard for TV to make us feel that way. Because so often the 'boy gets girl' will piss off at least one half of the audience. Girls may want Tom Cruse to win Elizabeth Shue in Cocktail, but all the men in the audience want to see him get his head kicked in. To actually make us feel; 'Here are two really good people who have been looking for eachother all their lives, please let them fulfill eachother', that takes some doing.

And CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has succeeded in doing that.

Because even cynical old me, who doesn't believe in love everlasting, yes, even me, jaded and cynical at thirty one and accepting of the fact that my late forties will be a period of microwave pizzas and fourpacks of Tetleys in front of the TV, even I found myself smiling with pure bliss this evening.

Sad to see Grissom go, a little hesitant as to how this great drama will continue without him.
But over the moon to see him walk along that jungle path to see her standing there photographing Capuchin Monkeys.

And put down his rucksack and walk towards her, arms open wide. So heartfelt. So UNGrissomlike.

And I was happy for them both.

Gil, I'll miss you, but I'm so glad you're happy. And Sara too, you both deserve it.
You deserve eachother.

I guess I'm often highly critical of TV as a medium. Critical at it's bombarding of our senses with messages of control, outright lies, misrepresentations, etc.

But if Gil Grissom can find love in Sara Sidle, then I'll allow it some virtues.
It's not all bad. For once, it offers hope.

A toast!

To Gil and Sara!


Judith said...

That final scene in the jungle was perfect, even for a non-romantic like me. I think I even gasped in delight and clapped my hands together. Then snorted in derision at myself

I hate CSI Miami. David Caruso lets his sunglasses do all the acting and the dialogue is atrocious. I can't watch it anymore.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Aww Crushed. You can be quite romantic, thoughtful, idealistic on relationships when you choose. It was a nice post and made some thoughtful points. But it was weirdly the opposite of a lot of the stuff you say on your blog.

So am I getting it right that you don't think Grissom should be sleeping around? That you figure that might hurt Sara? That you figure they should be a couple?

I could recommend some good Chick Lit that goes well with good wine and a box of tissues ^_^

Reeny's Ramblin' said...

Many ladies that I know have found themselves attracted to Grissom for many of the reasons you have touched upon. I missed the last episode, but after this post I think I'll go home and try and find it.

My absolute favorite episode was the one directed by Tarantino. For the record I completely agree with the person above me...David Caruso makes my skin crawl.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post and tribute.

Darn it Moggs...you beat me to saying Crushed is a romantic...

I liked Grissom and Sara.


CalamityJane said...

Crush- I think I might have a bit of a crush on you right now!

I've followed CSI for over seven years for the relationship between Grissom and Sara and everything you wrote, every observation you made was just dead on right.

Thank you for such a refreshing, open hearted opinion; really lovely and moving insights, I can't help but feel that one day you'll find your own 'Sara' one day soon.


Danielle said...

What a nice tribute to the characters of Grissom and Sara, my favorite TV couple of all times, and Sara, my favorite TV character of all times for several of the traits that you mentioned. Where my opinion differs from yours is that I don't think Sara needs a man to look after her. She proved her independence to the end.

I believe that Sara was with Grissom for one reason only: love.

I also disagree somewhat on your assessment of Lady Heather. I believe she was far more manipulative than Grissom ever realized. And she, on a couple of occasions, brought out a behavior in Grissom that male viewers may take in stride, but that as a female viewer, I found distasteful and out of character.