Out of Place
Season Seven of CSI: Miami picks up where last May’s cliffhanger left off: with Horatio Caine (David Caruso) lying face down on an airstrip tarmac in a pool of his own quickly spreading blood. The camera pans back to reveal his trademark Silhouette Titanium Model 8568 sunglasses on the ground near his head, and we catch sight of his face framed by the hole in the shattered lens. It’s an apt metaphor, suggesting our last view of Caine might be through the very same glasses through which he saw the world in such stark binaries.
Those sunglasses stand in for everything that is just a little bit ridiculous about CSI: Miami. They are so obviously “cool,” so affected and self-consciously deployed by the show’s resident bad-ass, they seem a commentary on Miami as all affect and self-consciousness. At the same time, Horatio’s sunglasses have become an index of Caruso’s wooden acting, a kind of in-joke. Check out how centrally they figure in the snarky wiki, “How to Be Just Like Horatio Caine.” I can imagine a drinking game for CSI: Miami: take a shot every time Horatio takes off or puts on his sunglasses in a dramatic fashion. You’ll be plenty drunk before the first half hour of any given episode is over.
Those sunglasses also mark deeper anxieties on Horatio’s part about his own class positioning. He is, after all, a more or less working-class version of the original CSI‘s Gil Grissom (William Petersen, who will be replaced in the coming season by Laurence Fishburne). Grissom is intellectually aloof, suggesting he’s had access to certain kinds of privilege, and his demeanor has long been rather finicky. Caine, on the other hand, follows a beat cop’s intuition (his “gut”) rather than an academic background or rigorous logic, and he always appears more than a little out of place, both among the suits of the CSI world and the wealthy denizens of Miami. Those sunglasses are the medium through which Caine negotiates his position in discomforting territory, which explains his incessant fidgeting with them.
Caine’s uneasiness underscores the difference between CSI: Miami and its predecessor. CSI is typically focused on the individual greed and vice associated with its Sin City locale, but CSI: Miami foregrounds, in its best episodes, the effects of transnational capitalism. Last season’s “Guerillas in the Mist” (12 December 2007), focused on international arms dealing and the activities of a Blackwater-esque mercenary army in order to consider the problems of globalization and greed as systems.
The Season Seven premiere follows suit. The CSI crew is unraveling the connections between Horatio’s shooting and the introduction into Miami’s underworld of new high-tech alloy bullets capable of penetrating armor of all kinds; personal or vehicular. The immediate implications of this arming up of local gangs is made clear when Sgt. Frank Tripp (Rex Linn) and CSI Erik Delko (Adam Rodriguez) run into dire trouble. The two cops are driving gang honcho Juan Ortega (José Zuñiga) around the ‘hood in the front of a cruiser, hoping his fear of being seen as a snitch will shake loose information he might have about the hit on Caine.
Before this can happen, however, the cruiser is caught in the crossfire of another gang’s armored car robbery. The thugs and their shiny new bullets shred the vehicle and the guards inside. The cause and effect are clear: R+D in the military industry creates new weaponry, which makes its way into the hands of criminals willing to pay top dollar, and the military industry must develop new weapons to fight back against their own weapons, ostensibly for use by law enforcement officers and soldiers.
This argument—that police are “outgunned” by criminals—was explicitly used to arm Washington, DC metropolitan police officers with assault rifles in May of this year. Here CSI: Miami makes the connections among U.S. corporations, domestic gangs, and South American narco-politics and organizations clear, in order to argue that all elements are directly invested in transnational flows of global capital that affects all of us on very local levels.