CSI Cyber: Just Your Basic Gore Porn Forum Rollercoaster Slaughter

Hello my CyberHeads! Who wants to go to Six Flags? Not me. This episode has instilled a very deep and likely wholly unreasonable fear of Hacked Rollercoaster Murder in my heart.

Just kidding, this episode's villainy so conspicuously lacked any gossamer tether to human motivation that I think I actually feel safer now.

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Before launching into the Hacked Rollercoaster Murder plot, we get the full, ludicrous backstory about why Special Agent Avery Ryan (played, as always, by Oscar Winner™ Patricia Arquette) HATES cybercrime so so much, just in case some viewers missed the pilot: Someone hacked her computer and...murdered her psychology patient. Then she joined a crack team of neckbeards and gamer bros at the FBI to hunt down a new kind of criminal...on the deep web. I use ellipses because it's really the only punctuation appropriately melodramatic enough to convey the narrative hysteria here.

Then we have a refresher scene to get the audience up to speed on the dilemma of former black hat hacker and former Bow Wow and current vest enthusiast Nelson, who is having a dickens of a time "putting on the white hat." He is soured when Avery hacks his car (using an app she downloaded specifically for the occasion, apparently) and tells him he has to stop cybercriming or go to jail.

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The backstory summary does a good job encapsulating all that is great and horrible about this show within the first 30 seconds: astonishingly bad graphics, a boilerplate procedural premise, overt fear-mongering—the end of the summary is LITERALLY a whispered voiceover saying it can happen to youuuuuu re: horrific, violent, improbable cybercrimes.

In this episode, especially, it seems like the writers cranked the absurd plot twists to 11 because they were worried the techie premise would bore people. It opens with a rollercoaster crashing, though fails to take advantage of the obvious opportunity to play ominous carnival music. Turns out, the rogue 'coaster was HACKED.

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The first suspect is the fiancé of one of the victims. Don't worry, he's not the killer, that would be way too straightforward. (What do you think this is, CSI: Miami?) The sad fiance gets discounted because "pupillary constrictions indicate he's telling the truth," because in addition to being a cyber-sleuth, Avery still busts out her psychology tools to catch digi-criminals.

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After briefly talking with one suspect, Avery applies a logic I can only describe as "reverse Occam's Razor" and jumps to a very bold conclusion that obviously someone caused the rollercoaster crash because they are part of an online gore porn forum and they wanted to make a violent snuff video to impress the other members.

Avery decides the best way to catch this guy is to find him online, but apparently one of the FBI's leading cybercrime experts doesn't know how to do that. "I need you to get me onto a black hat forum on the deep web," she says to Nelson, apparently unaware that she probably just needs to download Tor and search for like five minutes.

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Browsing the deep web sounds scary in CSI: Cyber. Nelson says it's "like a bad neighborhood...you need to know where you're going, and you need to get there fast."

This is very confusing. In the world of this show, is there a way to get, like, cyber-mugged if you keep a tab open for too long? And then Peter MacNicol's boss character—supposedly the HEAD OF CYBERCRIME—is absolutely incredulous that Nelson was able to log into a deep web forum in a matter of hours.

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But moving on from this fictional FBI's complete ignorance about the deep web, the team learns that the suspect plans to crash subway cars for his next gore porn massacre.

This is where things go really off the rails. Instead of, um, just immediately closing the subway due to the the large-scale imminent public safety threat the FBI now knows about, the team waits until the suspect has already hacked a subway car and is ready to mass murder.

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Then James van der Beek's flamboyantly named Special Agent Elijah Mundo ends up getting on the hacked train car, and has to manually crawl underneath the car (which is still full of regular people because again, for some reason they didn't bother evacuating the subways even though they knew something like this would happen) to remove the computer board that allowed the hacker to control the train.

Somehow Mundo ends up crushing a Bluetooth radio (?) and that conveniently stops the runaway train directly at a station. The suspect is some generic creepy white dude whose truly fascinating pathology remains unexplored.

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Cheeselights:

  • Nelson successfully signs up for the gore porn forum as "Naughty99" but only after his first choice, "KillerEyes81," was taken.
  • That montage of the team fiddling around with computer parts to figure out what happened, where the only words uttered are "Bluetooth radio?!" (Which, in retrospect, foreshadowing.)
  • Krumoltz, the show's stereotypical nerd, explains his discovery of how the crime was committed with an extended analogy about deli bacon because this show is really quite impressively dedicated to leaning in to stereotypes.
  • Nelson apparently just leaves his cell phone at work, without a password? No one in the world does that, let alone a tech expert/former hacker.
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