Showrunner Jason Tracey looks ahead to a possible second season and whether OG 'CSI' stars are on the shortlist for a return.
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Wednesday's season finale of CSI: Vegas.
CSI: Vegas is ready for the next chapter -- if the stars align. CBS' revival of the blockbuster forensics procedural closed out its freshman season on Wednesday, wrapping up a serialized mystery concerning the legacy of the Crime Lab and served as the catalyst for the returns of Gil Grissom (William Petersen) and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox). With the David Hodges case finally resolved after a topsy-turvy season, the team -- led by Grissom and Sara -- marked the end of one journey and potentially left the door open for another with an intriguing cliffhanger revealing the presence of a formidable serial killer on the loose.
"We knew going in that this limited run of 10 episodes was going to have one serialized arc, a through line that took us into the world of the lab and the stakes that had to do with all the past cases that the audience got to watch over the years. And really from the moment of origination with this launch point for this season of teed up to get the snowball rolling," executive producer and showrunner Jason Tracey tells ET. "And with Hodges in the crosshairs, step two, once we knew what the launch was to know where we were skating to it was great to finally get to write this finale because a couple of the moving pieces -- the way that the ball that we've thrown up in the air -- had to land in a certain way for me from the early days."
"With COVID, it was a very delayed, drawn out writing process, but this is where the story always had to terminate. I was excited to have our season-long bad guy toe-to-toe with our returning champs, with all the new folks in support," he adds. "But I think that all the folks that were helping us tell the story were really excited to bring this one in for landing."
Following the finale, Tracey breaks down what's next for the CSI: Vegas team, what the final scene may be teasing for the franchise's future and if any original CSI cast members will be popping by in a possible second season.
ET: The Hodges case wraps up in a relatively neat and tidy bow. Can you talk a little bit about wrapping that mystery up and teeing up a potential new case for season 2, should that be greenlit?
Jason Tracey: The stakes of the show are huge, but always turn on the smallest evidence and on razor thin margins. We wanted Hodges to be saved by the skin of his teeth, if at all. And that felt right. He didn't do anything wrong. We didn't want to punish him unduly. And that felt like the biggest win that we could deliver for our heroes. It just seemed like the right emotional payoff for all the hard work that they've done. That it's not just an esoteric or high-minded ideal of the lab being defended, but our favorite people also being protected. So that is how we chose to bring the Hodges storyline in for landing.
And then the images that you see at the very end of the episode, teasing where we might go in season 2 if there is a season 2, were something that me and Craig O'Neil, who we've been writing together for 15 years, have had kicking around in our mind for a long time. It's a story that would be sprinkled in and lightly serialized -- probably not as intensely, not as every week as this season. But there's a big, complicated web of plot that can spin out from just those few seconds that you see at the end of the finale.
Is there anything you can hint to in terms of what you're aiming to accomplish with this new serialized story? Have you planted seeds throughout this season that we may have missed?
This is a whole new launch for season 2 and I don't want to give too much away because we'll get to roll out those toys and build with those blocks in the early days of season 2, should we get that far. We had a lot of fun telling a serialized story this year, and that was because of the stakes and because it was our entry point and the reason for the season. It was an investment in time and storytelling capital that I don't know that we would go quite that serialized again. I think that you'll probably see a little bit more in the way of standards CSIs that are what have been the bread and butter of the franchise all along, and the fans love, is our case of the week stuff. But I do think that we found a fun formula and a winning recipe for some serialization. You'll see more, probably less than season 1, but more than the original mothership.
We also see the team turning over a new leaf by the end of the season. For instance, Maxine is back as team leader at the Crime Lab. Where are you aiming to go with the team seemingly establishing themselves and cementing their place by the end of the finale?
Yeah. I think cementing their place is a great way to put it. Because it was a topsy-turvy season, and you were meant to feel from the moment Grissom and Sara got back off the boat frankly, everything was on this wavy motion. You couldn't get your sea legs, literally and figuratively. And I think it felt right, if the team was really going to win, to finally steady the ship and make it feel like we have found our footing. We've got a nice launchpad for season 2 with the folks that have been established, some new faces and be able to cleanly turn the page. Not that there won't be murder and mayhem and interesting stuff ahead of them. But the challenges of this season we lay to rest, conquering heroes and all that.
There must have been challenges securing familiar guest stars amid the pandemic. Obviously, there is a wealth of original cast members you can still go to in the CSI universe for a potential season 2. Are you chomping at the bit to get some of those people back, possibly more realistic of a shot to appear in season 2?
I hope that some of the great faces, the incredible character work that was done by such talented actors all across the CSI universe, will be game to try to come visit and have a good time with us. There's not one narrative through line that requires any one component. It more just feels like an enormous gift to be able to make that invitation. I think so many actors had a great time in the original run of a very well-produced, iconic show. I hope we'll find some folks that'll get to come. And when we can cook up in the writers' room, and I get my writers back, we can craft some new story that always feels fitting and worthy of those characters.
When I spoke with CSI creator Anthony Zuiker at the start of the season, he mentioned that he had ideas for one or two CSI originals he'd liked to see swing by.
He's an idea machine. Anthony has got a million great ideas and a heck of a Rolodex. It's pretty awesome to have him helping to produce the show and craft these stories. I trust that he'll be a bridge to connect the old and the new. And yeah. I definitely see it as something that we would be foolish not to try to indulge in, in that it's not all brand new. I would hope to have new new characters and new returning characters. I think you keep innovating or you get stale, and it's way too early in this new chapter to get stale. So we're going to keep mixing it up.
This new iteration of also balanced the personal with the professional very well, more so than the original. Is that something that you are keen on continuing to do moving forward?
The show's always been primarily driven -- and the audience connected to these characters and grew to love them -- because they saw them at the job, this most incredibly important work that they did. And the professionalism that they brought to it. But you get peeks of their life in an eyedropper fashion. I would say that there's still a spirit of that. We did not want to flood the show with an entirely different equation than has ever been presented before. We just wanted to up the dose. We wanted to have more of those little eyedropper moments. Audiences change over time, and it's been 20 years since the launch of the original. Certainly there's, I think, a more feverish desire that you hear on social media for a little bit more taste of what's going on in the home lives and the personal lives of these characters. And for the writers, that's what we hope to do. We want to spend more time with them. It's definitely something that, for as long as I get to be involved with this franchise, I want to keep pushing that ball forward. And we'll keep finding ways. It will never cast a shadow over the bedrock of what the show's really all about, which is them on the job. But we want to round out the characters and have these three-dimensional people because they're fascinating folks. And we've got a really talented cast. They can pull it off. So when the writers come back, it'll be a huge talking point before we probably launch into what exactly our histories are and what do we want to do with these characters.
What is one story or relationship development that you were very happy to include or made sure to dig into?
We've all seen a new boss come in and a culture clash. You've seen it on different shows. Sometimes there are great stories to be told that way, but I was really keen to tell a story with Max, and I would say Sara in particular, because she was there from the pilot episode onward, where you saw two women that were united in common purpose and had a mutual respect for each other. Because that's how professionals are in the world every day. The folks that really are out there in the Crime Lab in Las Vegas would not let any jealousies or differences of opinion necessarily get in the way of the job that they have to do together. And I was just really proud of Paula [Newsome] and Jorja [Fox] for, I think, forging on screen in real time a new professional bond. I was really proud of the way that they executed the story that our writers had worked on. It was a simple thing because it wasn't massively dramatic. It wasn't crazy topsy-turvy, but they supported each other and put their necks out on the line for each other at different points in the season. And I got a little bit of a kick out of that.
For more on CSI: Vegas, watch below.
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