NCIS: LA differs in several ways from NCIS or JAG. While LA is still a military show, that angle is downplayed here. The atmosphere for the team is more civilian-looking all the way around. There are seldom folks walking around in uniforms. The operations utilize more of the standard surveillance and undercover work. There’s a lot more street work to be found here. That means car chases and lots of shootouts. The cases often deal with terrorists, so these guys break a lot of the rules. They don’t let any silly Constitution stand in their way. The show is about to enter its eighth year. In this seven-season release, the show reaches its 150th episode landmark. The franchise has passed 500.
The role of head honcho is Linda Hunt as Hetty. You might remember her as one of the prominent judges from The Practice. She plays a character with a rich back story. She appears to have once been a Hollywood costume designer and has plenty of stories about the big celebrities she knew, and hints at having slept with. She’s a strong mother hen for the group, both nurturing and demanding. The lead undercover officer is Callen, played by former Batman sidekick Robin, Chris O’Donnell. He doesn’t know his first name, only that it starts with a G. He’s a little bit Jason Bourne. He knows little of his own past but has those mad instincts and ability to think on his feet. He was orphaned and has some security issues. He’s a natural undercover with great instincts that allow him to blend into any situation. His partner is Sam Hanna, played by rapper LL Cool J. He’s a former Navy Seal with the brains to go with all of that bulk. The team also includes Kensi Bly, played by Daniela Ruah, who was born in the US but spent most of her acting career on Portuguese television shows. She’s the prerequisite supermodel that it seems every cop show has to have. Fortunately, she also has solid acting chops. The character is the CSI-styled forensic expert on the team. She’s the one who combs the crime scenes for those hidden clues. Her partner and now love interest is Marty Deeks, played by Eric Christian Olsen. The two have better chemistry than Kensi had with Nate. There’s the expected sexual tension and a lot of banter that keeps the partnership interesting. Eric Beal, played by Barrett Foa, is the tech guy of the group. He does all of that computer hacking that every show does these days. He also has a partner of sorts. Nell Jones is played by Renee Felice Smith. She’s a bright young rising star who has a lot of the same tech knowledge that Eric has. Hetty appears to be grooming her for bigger things. Another leader arrived a couple of seasons ago in Owen Granger, played by Miguel Ferrer, who has somewhat of a complicated history with Hetty. We’re never sure if they were friends or enemies… likely both.
It’s not just the explosive action that defines this show. Like the original series, the characters are everything. Each of them gets to have their moments in the spotlight that will challenge and change them as the season progresses. Perhaps the big news on that front is that G finally finds out what his name is. It’s… That would be telling. He starts the season living up to the Bourne comparisons by going rogue. It’s up to his own team to bring him in. In the family department Deeks and Kensi take the next move and move in. So we get to meet Deeks’s Mom, played by Pamela Reed. But Hetty has a lesson in store for them first. She assigns them a witness protection gig where the subject just so happens to be Kensi’s ex-fiancé. Eric gets to go out in the field for the first time. He’s the last member of the team to be placed under fire, and he pulls out OK. Looks like he’d rather stay safe in the lab.
Granger finally gets some background, and we get to find out much more about him. It has taken a bit of time to get him comfortably in the team. I think the character hits his stride this season, and there’s finally chemistry with everyone else. He’s always had a good on-screen thing going with Hetty, but I finally feel like he’s a part of the show now. I like Miguel Ferrer, and I’m not sure why he didn’t seem to fit until now. It must be that the writers have really worked harder to round him out this season.
This year was the final season for Michael Weatherly and Tony in the NCIS franchise. It was nice of him to make a little bit of a farewell tour and show up for an episode of this show. In Blame It On Rio, Tony comes to the LA team for help. He has arrested the wrong suspect. Turns out the guy has a double. Now he needs help to get the real guy. It’s typical Tony charm and trouble, and he mixes well with the LA team.
Kensi and Deeks go undercover with a cult that the feds think are up to more than just brainwashing followers. They try to extract the couple before they can fall under the cult’s spell. And, of course, the episode puts you in a position to consider that possibility. For Deeks he is once again thought to be guilty of a crime and must prove he is not guilty. I feel like they’ve played this one out too many times before with internal affairs investigations and such. I know it’s a staple on shows like this, but it goes against the often unique stories these shows usually provide.
The highlight of the season is the two-part Matryoshka, which takes the team to Russia and gives us a return of Arkady. It turns into a jailbreak and one of the better suspense episodes of the season. The season ends with Sam finding out his son is in trouble with terrorists. Look for an explosive season finale and an even more powerful Season 8 debut.
You get all 24 episodes, a gag reel, and the usual season summary. There’s also a celebration of the 150th episode. When the spinoff began, I saw a lot of attacks out there. There were accusations of playing the Law & Order or CSI game. Now the show is working toward its own 200th episode with a solid pick-up commitment from the network to get there. “I bet you did not see that coming, did you?”